Although tacos are hard to beat, my favorite Mexican food will always be tamales, hands-down. I’ll tell you, though – it’s not easy to find vegetarian tamales at restaurants, and they’re time-consuming to make at home (though they’re totally worth it).
I thought to myself, “How can I get the taste of a tamale, but with less time and effort?” Aha! My secret weapon is polenta, which sets up quickly and provides a similar texture and flavor to masa.
You can have this casserole assembled in less than 30 minutes. Then it just takes 30 more minutes for the polenta to set, and you’re ready for a fiesta!
No-Bake Vegan Tamale Casserole
Servings: 6-8 servings
- 1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
- 3 TBL extra virgin olive oil, separated
- 1 can (7 oz) chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
- 1 cup cilantro (can include the stems)
- Juice from 1 lemon (about 3 TBL)
- 1/2 cup walnuts
- 5 cups water
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1/3 cup nutritional yeast (optional)
- Guacamole and fresh cilantro (for serving)
- Start by making the fillings. Heat 2 TBL olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapeno slices, and season with a healthy pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until caramelized, but still slightly crunchy. Remove from the heat.
- While the vegetables are cooking, combine the chipotle peppers (with the adobo sauce), cilantro, lemon juice, walnuts, and a pinch of salt in a food processor. Pulse until well-combined, but still slightly chunky. Taste and season with more salt, if desired.
- When both fillings are done, lightly spray an 8 x 8 dish with cooking spray.
- Time to make the “tamale” layers. Bring the 5 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Slowly pour in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to avoid clumps. Reduce the heat to medium/low (bringing the mixture to a gentle boil). Stir constantly until the mixture is very thick (about 3-5 minutes). Remove from the heat and stir in 1 TBL olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and the nutritional yeast (if using).
- Pour half of the cornmeal mixture into the 8 x 8 dish. Use a spoon or spatula to spread into an even layer.
- Spread the chipotle and walnut mixture evenly over the cornmeal layer, then top with the onions and jalapenos.
- Pour the rest of the cornmeal mixture on top, smoothing it out to create an even layer.
- Refrigerate (either uncovered or lightly covered with a clean towel) for about 30 minutes, or until set.
- Slice and serve with lots of guacamole and fresh cilantro. (Can be served hot or cold.)