This microwave “tamale” pie was created during Budget Eats Week. It was surprising good considering all the ingredients. The combination of the buttery, crushed Ritz and sweet, earthy cornflakes, cooked under charred corn leaves with a creamy, beany filling really sealed the deal. 

You don’t need half a box of cheese powder, but you can use any type of cheese you like, such as American, Velveeta or Cheez Whiz. Parm, Pecorino and mozzarella are all great in white cheese.

Budget Eats recipes follow the motto of “make do”. Feel free to experiment with the “recipe” below and let us know in the comments what you discover.


8Large corn leaves


4 c.Corn flakes, ground

21 Ritz crackers, crushed

2 tsp.taco seasoning

1 tbsp. adobo sauce

1 1/2 c.Corn stock or low-sodium vegetable soup

1/4 c.Peanut oil

1/2 tsp.Freshly ground black pepper


3 tbsp.Powdered cheese

1 tbsp.Ranch seasoning powder

2 tbsp.Evaporated milk

2 c.Pinto beans cooked

1/2 c.corn

2 Large cabbage leaves, dampened paper towels


  1. Tongs can be used to heat the corn leaves on a medium-high flame until they are lightly charred. Set aside.
  2. Make the masa: Heat corn flakes and Ritz in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add taco seasoning, adobo and broth. Stir until the corn flakes become softened. Stir in oil and pepper until well combined. The “masa” should pull away from the sides.
  3. Mix the cheese powder, ranch powder and milk together in a large bowl until smooth. Blend in the beans until smooth. Mix in the corn and stir until well combined.
  4. Place 4 toasted corn leaves on a plate that is microwave-safe. Half of the masa should be spread into an 8-inch round. Spread the bean filling over top. Leave a 1″ border. To form the top masa layer, press portions of masa remaining between your palms. To seal the masa, press edges together.
  5. Cover the tamale pie in the remaining corn leaves and then cover it with cabbage leaves or dampened papers towels.
  6. Transfer to the microwave. Cook until fragrant and masa cracks on top, approximately 10 minutes.