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Bear Tamale Pie (Tamale de Cazuela) Recipe

This baked tamale pie is a bear recipe for special occasions.

Bear Tamale Pie (Tamale de Cazuela) Recipe

This baked tamale pie is a bear recipe for special occasions. (Petersen's Hunting photo) 

Print Recipe

The rich taste of bear meat is perfect for tamale filling, and bear lard makes a fluffy, flavorful masa dough. Forming and steaming a pile of tamales, however, is a daylong process that I feel like doing only on special occasions. This baked tamale pie delivers a similar experience, but is much easier.

Serves: 6-8
Prep time: 20-30 minutes
Cook time: 3 hours

Step 1: Bear Meat Filling


  • 2 pounds bear meat, cut across the grain and cubed
  • 3-4 tablespoons bear lard (or vegetable oil)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-4 cups bear broth (or beef broth)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  1. Heat the lard/oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven until almost smoking. Brown bear meat in batches and remove from the pan. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
  2. Return the meat to the pan. Add chili powder, cumin, and salt and stir to combine. Pour in enough broth to barely cover the meat. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cover and cook for 90 minutes, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid has not boiled away. Remove the cover and cook until the meat is so tender that you can break it apart. Add more broth as needed.
  3. Simmer the liquid down until about ½ cup remains. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, shred the meat and combine with a bit of broth.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-inch cast-iron pan or a 9x13-inch casserole dish and set it aside. 

Step 2: Make the Tamale Dough


  • 3 cups Masa Harina
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 12 tablespoons bear lard (cold and cut into pieces)
  • 1 (4 1/2-ounce) can diced green chilis—or, if you're feeling frisky, 3 tablespoons roasted, chopped poblanos
  • 2 cups broth

Optional Ingredients: 

  • 3/4 cup grated cheese
  • 1/2 cup salsa or chile verde sauce
  1. In a food processor combine Masa Harina, salt, sugar, baking powder, lard, corn, and peppers.
  2. Pulse until it looks like coarse meal.
  3. Add broth and process until the mixture is thick but still spreadable (like peanut butter).
  4. Put half of the masa mixture on the bottom of your pan and about a ½ inch up the sides. I usually use the back of a metal spoon or a butter knife to spread it.
  5. Add bear meat filling and spread evenly.
  6. Cover with remaining dough. This can be tricky, so I put small dollops around the outer edge (reserve some masa for the middle). Dip a metal spoon in hot water and then slowly spread from outer edges in. Gently run the spoon around the edge, sealing the edges.
  7. Once the outer rim is done, fill in the middle with the reserved masa.
  8. Optional: Top with 1/2 cup to a cup of salsa and spread evenly and then sprinkle over a 1/2 cup of grated cheese.
  9. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes until gently set.
  10. Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes.
  11. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15 minutes to allow the masa to set.
  12. Slice and serve.
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