This article originally appeared in Food52.

A while back, I’d made “too much” barbacoa with goat and oxtails. I say “too much,” because I purposely made way more than we needed for one meal so that I could use the leftovers to make a tamale pie the next day. As I was getting ready to start building my tamale pie, my partner came into the kitchen, asking if we might have something vegetarian for dinner as a little break from the meat-heavy dinner from the night before.

Needless to say, I ended up making two tamale pies that night.

First, I scoured the pantry and freezer, looking for anything I could combine to make a vegetarian version of what I was already making. When we first started dating, we used to make a lot of vegetarian chili, so this was something I knew I could toss together quickly and, luckily enough, we still keep all the pantry staples around for it, eight years later. (Well, not the same ones from eight years ago…) I grabbed canned beans and frozen corn, mushrooms from the fridge, and the jar of guajillo paste I’d used to make the barbacoa.

That last ingredient is important—guajillo chiles make an appearance in almost all of my versions of enchiladas, chili, barbacoa, and yes, tamale pie. When dried, they take on this fruity, earthy, complex pepper flavor that I absolutely love. So you can imagine my delight when I found a jar of guajillo paste in my local spice shop.

If you don't have access to guajillo chile paste, and just have the dried chiles on hand, you can make the paste yourself: Add 2 to 3 dried guajillos, seeds and stems removed, into a bowl of boiling water, then cover the mixture and let it sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the chiles from the water, and puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth, adding a splash or two of the reserved water as needed. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, discard any remaining solids, and you’re good to go.

The end result, for something I tossed together after having to pivot from my original plan, was pretty great. Enough so that I wrote down everything I did, and then refined it later for this recipe you see here. Now, this mushroom tamale pie is in our regular rotation. It’s rich and flavorful without being terribly heavy, sure to please meat eaters and vegetarians alike. The secret, besides the guajillo paste, is the mushrooms. Use a blend of conventional and wild mushrooms for a variety of textures. I used shiitakes, maitakes, creminis, and oyster mushrooms, but any kind will do. Then take your time with the mushrooms. Let them expel all that water and start to sear and brown. —Jarrett Melendez

  • PREP TIME15 minutes
  • COOK TIME45 minutes
  • SERVES6 to 8
  • Filling
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound mixed mushrooms (oyster, shiitake, cremini, maitake, etc.), sliced
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels (or frozen and defrosted)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 3 jalapeños, quartered lengthwise and sliced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chile powder
  • 1/4 cup guajillo chile paste
  • 1 (14 oz.) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 6 ounces shredded cheddar, pepper Jack, Monterey-Jack, or a blend
  • Sour cream, for serving
  • Limey Cornbread Crust
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coarse-grind cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 2 limes, zested and juiced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled