Slimmed down comfort food: Healthy Tamale Pie (only 6 WW Freestyle Points Per Serving!)

Food for Grownups
healthy tamale pie

If you’re old enough to remember life before one hundred and fifty channels of cable TV, chances are you remember the days of the big family movie specials – Hallmark Hall of Fame and the like. Remember?

And do you also remember how the big food manufacturers that sponsored those specials – Kraft Cheese, Hellman’s Mayonnaise, Campbell’s Soup, etc. – would have these beautifully filmed commercials featuring gooey, creamy, cheesey recipes that just happened to be made with their products?

A whole generation of kids grew up eating those recipes, including me. They were devastatingly delicious and utterly unhealthy.

Though I now understand the danger that those comfort food calorie bombs pose to my health and waistline, sometimes I still long for those good old days, back when Jello with cream cheese and miniature marshmallows was its own food group.

Since starting the Weight Watchers Freestyle Program (AND recently reaching my goal weight!) I’ve been busy in the kitchen, giving some of my favorite childhood recipes a much-needed healthy makeover.

Some of my experiments have been more successful than others (don’t worry, I only share the successes with you here) but my new slimmed down version of healthy tamale pie is really a winner!

A Healthy Break from Tradition (in more ways than one)

Having spent several years living in Mexico, I can assure you that tamale pie bears almost no resemblance to actual tamales. Real tamales are steamed, not baked, spicy, not sweet, and use ground masa, not a packaged cornbread mix. Also, no self-respecting, authentic Mexican chef would use cheddar cheese in a recipe. Ever.

But, however misleading the name, tamale pie can be really, really yummy! And thanks to super lean ground chicken or turkey, a generous helping of low-fat cheddar, and a satisfying slice of precooked polenta in place of the cornbread topping, my slimmed down version of the unhealthy original is just 6 WW Freestyle points!

If you’d like, you could feed a family or crowd by baking this tamale pie in a casserole dish but I love the way it looks served as an individual pie in a pretty ramekin.

Add a fresh green salad and dinner is served!



2 lbs 99% Fat Free ground chicken or turkey breast (0 Points)
1 onion, diced (0 Points)
1 green pepper, diced (0 Points)
15 oz. can black beans (drained) (0 Points)
16 oz. can of corn (drained) 0 points
15 oz. can tomato sauce 0 points
10 oz. can Rotel (diced tomatoes and chilies) 0 points
4 oz. can sliced black olives (drained) 8 points
8  1-inch slices of polenta (ready to eat, tube) 16 points
2 cups 50% reduced fat cheddar cheese, shredded 9 points
Spray olive oil – 2 spray 0 points
4 t olive oil 5 points
2 T sugar 6 points
1 T chili powder (Chipotle flavor optional) 0 points
1 T smoked paprika 0 points
2 t. dried oregano 0 points
1 t. ground cumin 0 points
Salt and pepper to taste 0 points
¼ cup chopped cilantro 0 points


Healthy Tamale Pie Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degree.

Spray very large skillet with 2 sprays of olive oil. Add 2 t. additional olive oil to pan and cook onions and green peppers over medium high heat until soft, about 5 minutes. When vegetables are cooked, add another 2 t. oil to pan along with ground turkey or chicken. Cook thoroughly, breaking up meat with spoon or spatula, until there is no pink color remaining in the meat.

Add beans, corn, tomato sauce, and Rotel to the pan, along with sugar and spices – chili powder, smoked paprika, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Turn heat to low and let the mixture to simmer for about fifteen minutes, allowing flavors to meld.  Add olives and 1 cup of low-fat cheddar, stir until cheese is melted.

Pour mixture into large ovenproof casserole dish (9×13). Place polenta slices evenly over top of mixture. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, place in oven, and bake for 10-15 minutes. Alternatively, divide mixture into 8 individual ovenproof casserole dishes or ramekins. Top each dish with a slice of polenta and sprinkle 1 T of cheese on top. Bake for ten minutes.

Remove casserole(s) from oven, sprinkle with chopped cilantro and serve.

Makes 8 servings. 6 Weight Watcher Freestyle Points per serving. 

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