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Tamale Pie Casserole with Harissa Sauce: Low Carb

Tamale Pie Casserole with Harissa Sauce: Low Carb
Home » Low Carb Lifestyle » Low carb dinner ideas » Tamale Pie Casserole with Harissa Sauce: Low Carb

It’s true that not everyone in your family or friend circle will view a low carb diet as their lifestyle of choice, and if you are the cook it can sometimes be difficult to please the range of tastebuds.  Some recipes, like this tamale harissa pie, are readily adaptable to low carb cooking.  Just place the cornbread topping on half of the casserole and you’ve got two dishes in one pan, one which is low carb and one which isn’t. 🙂

Piece of tamale pie with cornbread topping
Piece of tamale pie with cornbread topping

Jump to: RECIPE | Modify to Low Carb | Homemade Harissa

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How to adapt Tamale Casserole to Low Carb

To adapt this tried and true family recipe for those on a low carb diet, I simply left out the can of corn in the filling and added the cornmeal topping to only half of the casserole. I had a brief twinge of carb-envy watching my mom eat the cornmeal-topped recipe, but it quickly disappeared as I finished off my “topless tamale harissa pie”

Tamale harissa pie, 1/2 with cornbread crust
Tamale harissa pie, 1/2 with cornbread crust

About Harissa Sauce

There are many versions of pre-made harissa sauce or harissa paste and they all taste quite different.  

I have found that many of the harissa pastes are extremely spicy and it masks the complexity of the unique flavor profile. I prefer one that is robust, but that uses a variety of chili peppers ranging from sweet and fruity to hot and pungent.

Slice of tamale pie with cornbread topping
Slice of tamale pie with cornbread topping

It’s simple enough to make a great homemade harissa sauce with some dried peppers, good spices and a blender. Or try this DIY harissa spice blend to use as a rub in your sheetpan dinner recipes.

Tamale Pie Casserole with Harrisa Sauce

Piece of tamale pie with cornbread topping
This casserole i modified to be compliant with a low carb diet, but gives the option of the cornbread crust on half of the casserole
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 521



  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups butternut squash peeled and cubed
  • about 1/2 tsp salt
  • about 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1 ½ cups diced sweet bell peppers any color
  • 1 lb Italian or Andouille sausage
  • 15 oz can of black beans rinsed & drained
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes fire roasted if possible
  • 2 Tbsp harissa spice blend or 1/4 cup harissa paste
  • 1 Tbsp smoked chile peppers or just ancho powder
  • 1 Tbsp chipotle spice
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese shredded
  • 1 box cornbread mix Jiffy corn muffin mix


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Add about 2 Tbsp oil to a large skillet or dutch oven and heat over medium-high until hot.
    2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • Add the cubed squash to the skillet, along with the salt and pepper. Saute the squash about 7-8 minutes, or until softened and lightly browned.
    2 cups butternut squash, about 1/2 tsp salt, about 1/4 tsp pepper
  • Add onion and bell peppers to skillet and saute until softened, about 3 minutes. Add sausage to pot or skillet and cook until no longer pink, breaking it up with the spatula to combine with the vegetables.
    1 large onion, 1 1/2 cups diced sweet bell peppers, 1 lb Italian or Andouille sausage
  • Add the black beans, tomatoes, harissa, and spices. Stir everything together thoroughly and cook for another 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle cheese on top and let it melt into the mixture.
    15 oz can of black beans, 15 oz can diced tomatoes, 2 Tbsp harissa spice blend, 1 Tbsp smoked chile peppers, 1 Tbsp chipotle spice, 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese
  • Pour the sausage-vegetable mixture into the casserole. For the half of the pie that is non low carb, prepare the cornbread mix according to the package instructions and then spread it over half of the casserole mixture, as evenly as possible. The cornbread mixture will be lumpy and difficult to spread evenly. Just do your best – it's rustic!
    1 box cornbread mix
  • Cool slightly before cutting into squares for serving.



** Note that the nutritional analysis is for the low carb version and does not include the cornbread topping.


Calories: 521kcalCarbohydrates: 30gProtein: 23gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 13gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 760mgPotassium: 871mgFiber: 9gSugar: 5gVitamin A: 6355IUVitamin C: 67mgCalcium: 226mgIron: 4mg
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  1. Beth Camero says:

    Don’t forget to leave the cheese out, too, if you’re being strict Slow-Carb. Love your harissa sauce, by the way!

    • Thank you Beth! It’s true, a strict 4-hour body approach would not allow the cheese. Low carb approaches in general can allow some cheese so I guess you could say this is a cross between slow carb and keto.

  2. Beth says:

    Good grief, my first comment is from 5 years ago! I think I’d better make this casserole again, it was very good and I have some harissa to use up.

    • Haha yes I saw that! I upgraded the recipe a bit (just finished eating the last bit of it). It is really filling so the servings are probably more like 8 than 6. Also mine ended up really spicy, which I liked, but just beware that all chipotle spices vary in their heat level. Mine vary year to year based on the summer soil conditions. Thanks for the comment Beth! Let me know how it turns out.

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