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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tamale pie takes no lard, less work

 •  The great ginger chicken debate

By Elaine Magee

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Enjoy the taste of tamales in a cheesy chicken tamale pie that cuts fat, time and energy. The cornbread-like dough substitutes light margarine, ricotta cheese and sour cream for lard.

Elaine Magee

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Q. I absolutely LOVE tamales and I would really like to make them at home without lard and with all sorts of more healthful ingredients. I don't have a lot of time in the kitchen though. Your thoughts?

A. The fastest way to make homemade tamales is to make tamale pie. This is a recipe I developed a year ago using my traditional chicken tamale recipe as my guide.

Some tamale pie recipes use a cornbread-type batter but this recipe really uses the same tamale dough that you would be wrapping corn husks around if you were making traditional tamales (except I added a bit more chicken broth). I added some edamame (green soybeans) into the chicken filling for added nutrients and fiber. The tamale dough is made lighter with a mixture of light margarine, part-skim ricotta and nonfat sour cream instead of lard or another fat. Chicken broth powder contributes flavor and color to the margarine-ricotta-sour cream blend.

The quick chicken filling, made with shredded roasted chicken, chopped onion, a can of Mexican-style diced tomatoes, canned enchilada sauce, frozen edamame and seasonings, can be tossed together in about 5 minutes. A blanket of reduced fat cheese is added at the end of baking to finish off this savory and satisfying entree.

You can make this dish ahead of time and just keep it covered with foil in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake it.


• Canola oil cooking spray

• 3/4 cup light or diet margarine

• 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese

• 3/4 cup nonfat or light sour cream

• 2 teaspoons low-sodium chicken broth powder or bouillon

• 2 cups masa harina corn tortilla flour (available in most supermarkets)

• 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken or beef broth (regular broth can also be used)

Chicken filling:

• 3 cups shredded roasted or grilled skinless, boneless chicken

• 1 cup chopped onion

• 1 cup canned enchilada sauce

• 14-ounce can Mexican-style diced tomatoes

• 2 cups shelled frozen edamame (partially thawed)

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

• 1 teaspoon dried oregano flakes

• 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (add more to taste if desired)

• 2 tablespoons chopped black olives (optional)


• 1 1/4 cups shredded reduced-fat jack and cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with canola cooking spray.

With electric mixer in large bowl, combine margarine, ricotta cheese, sour cream and low-sodium chicken broth/bouillon powder, beating on medium speed until fluffy. On lowest speed, pour in the masa flour and the chicken broth and beat until combined; set aside.

To make the chicken filling, in large bowl combine all of the ingredients (chicken, onion, enchilada sauce, tomatoes, edamame, cumin, oregano, cayenne pepper and olives if desired.

Spread chicken filling evenly into the prepared baking dish. Spoon tamale batter over the top of the filling and spread out evenly with a spatula. Cover pan with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle shredded cheese over the top. Bake 10 minutes more.

Makes 9 servings.

Per serving: 399 calories, 31 g protein, 35 g protein, 36 g carbohydrate, 14.5 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 4 g monounsaturated fat, 3.5 g polyunsaturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 6 g fiber, 475 mg sodium. Calories from fat: 33 percent. Omega-3 fatty acids = .4 gram, Omega-6 fatty acids = 3 grams. Weight Watchers POINTS = 8

Elaine Magee is author of "The Recipe Doctor Cookbook" and "The Flax Cookbook." Readers may reach her through her Web site at www.recipedoctor.com. Personal responses can't be provided.