This cornbread chili casserole takes a classic hearty chili to the next level by topping it with buttery, crumbly cornbread, all in one comforting dish. Chili and cornbread are each fantastic on their own, but they’re even better together… like Sunday mornings and overnight cinnamon rolls. This dish comes together easily, and if you have an oven-safe skillet, it can go from the stove to oven in 1 pan. It’s versatile, as well—use the chili as a base for your favorite add-ins and preferred spice level.
This dish is just what the doctor ordered when it’s cold outside and you’re craving something warm and nourishing. Thick, rich, and hearty, this cornbread chili casserole satisfies the taste buds and warms you from the inside out. It’s great reheated the next day, too!
I originally published this recipe in 2016, and I’ve made it several times every winter since. I now add a little chicken broth to help thin out the thick chili as it bakes, and a little more cumin and oregano. The recipe below reflects that.
You’ll Love This Cornbread Chili Casserole
- Cornbread + chili, the perfect combo, together in 1 pan. (Like biscuit vegetable pot pie!)
- Easy to make and ready in 1 hour.
- Hearty and filling chili, packed with protein, vegetables, and loads of flavor.
- Lightly sweet, crumbly cornbread topping.
- No skillet? No problem! You can bake it in a casserole dish or large dutch oven.
- Make-ahead friendly, perfect for busy weeknights.
- Makes enough to feed a hungry group, or gift yourself with leftovers (for even busier weeknights)!
- Versatile, customizable recipe. See below.
This dish has the hallmarks of traditional chili, but you can change it up to suit your preferences, desired spice/heat level, and/or dietary requirements. For example, replace the ground turkey with beef, chicken, a plant-based option, or use more beans; swap kidney beans for another type; and experiment with spices. But be sure to include the chili’s key flavor-makers: oregano, cumin, and chili powder.
I appreciate the versatility of a recipe that has so many options to suit many tastes (like this quiche, for example). Experiment a few times to discover your favorite version.
Key Chili Ingredients & Possible Substitutions
- Protein: I use lean ground turkey, but you can use ground chicken or beef instead. See recipe Note for a vegetarian option.
- Vegetables: Chopped onion, jalapeño, and green bell pepper give this chili a lot of flavor, and work together as the base of the dish. Feel free to use another color bell pepper and/or leave out the jalapeño. You can also add 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato, about 1 cup, when you cook these vegetables.
- Tomato Sauce & Canned Diced Tomatoes: You can use canned or homemade tomato sauce—if using canned, you need 2 8-ounce cans. You also need a can of diced tomatoes.
- Beans: I use classic red kidney beans in this recipe, but black beans, pinto beans, or cannellini beans work as well.
- Chicken Broth: Just 1/2 cup of broth keeps the chili from becoming too dry as it bakes in the oven. Feel free to use vegetable broth instead, and if you don’t have either, water works (but you’ll lose a little flavor).
- Herbs and Spices: Equal amounts of dried oregano, chili powder, and cumin create that classic chili flavor; I don’t recommend leaving any out. This recipe is perfect for those of us who enjoy a teeny kick of fire in chili. But if you like super-spicy chili, a little more jalapeño and chili powder will do the trick. Taste as you go and adjust if desired.
- Brown Sugar: This ingredient is a MUST. You don’t need much, but the small amount balances out the salty, spicy, savory flavors everywhere else.
This Is a 1-Pan Meal
You’ll cook the chili on the stove before topping with your cornbread batter and baking. An oven-safe skillet is ideal, because you can cook the chili, top it with cornbread batter, and transfer it to the oven. (Though you do need a mixing bowl to prep the cornbread topping.)
A 12-inch ovenproof skillet that holds about 3.5–4 quarts is the perfect size for this recipe. Here is the one I own and love. It’s solid, hefty, and has lasted years with regular use. If you don’t have a skillet this size, don’t worry. Simply cook the chili on the stove in a large pot or saucepan, and then transfer it to a lightly greased casserole dish that holds at least 3.5–4 quarts, such as a 9×13-inch baking dish.
You could also cook the chili on the stove in a large dutch oven, spread the cornbread topping on, and bake right in the dutch oven.
Start your chili on the stove. The full instructions are below, but here are some photos to guide you along. The chili takes only about 25 minutes on the stove.
Mix the Cornbread Topping Together in 1 Bowl
After cooking the chili on the stove (or while it’s simmering), whisk the ingredients for the cornbread topping together. Here’s what you need:
- Cornmeal & Flour: Just like in this cornbread recipe, equal parts fine cornmeal and flour makes the BEST cornbread—lots of flavor and a crunchy edge.
- Baking Powder: This gives the batter a little lift in the oven, so the cornbread bakes up nice and tender.
- Butter: Melted butter gives this cornbread topping the best flavor. While oil makes a tender cornbread, it can lack flavor. Since butter doesn’t make cornbread as moist as oil, I pair it with buttermilk.
- Salt & Brown Sugar: Flavor enhancers. I like a hint of sweetness in my cornbread—without turning it into cake.
- Egg: 1 egg binds the topping together.
- Buttermilk: You can just use whole milk if that’s what you have, but buttermilk makes cakes, muffins, and breads extra moist.
- Corn: Including corn in the topping is optional, but adds superb flavor and texture.
Bake until the cornbread is golden brown, about 30–35 minutes.
Reader Wendy commented: “This recipe is amazing and my family loves it! Before I bake it, I dot the cornbread mix with some chopped jalapeños and red peppers. It makes it look so pretty and gives the cornbread a slight bite. ★★★★★”
Reader Hannah commented: “Just wanted to comment and say I’ve successfully made this twice with gluten-free flour (cup4cup once and a homemade blend once) and both times it came out great! It’s such a good chili and cornbread recipe. ★★★★★”
This cornbread chili casserole is delicious served warm with your favorite chili toppings, such as shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, and/or chopped green onions. I usually serve it with a crunchy green salad on the side, and dinner is done!Print
In this hearty and satisfying dinner recipe, you can enjoy 2 in 1: cornbread served on top of turkey (or beef) chili. Everything is cooked in the same pan.
- 1 Tablespoon (15ml) olive oil
- 1 lb ground turkey (or ground chicken or beef)
- 1 cup (130g) chopped yellow onion (1 medium onion)
- 1 cup (130g) chopped bell pepper
- 1/2 of a jalapeño, finely chopped (seeds and ribs removed)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 (8-ounce/227g) cans tomato sauce (or use homemade)
- 1/2 cup (120ml) chicken broth (or vegetable or beef broth)
- 1 (14.5-ounce/411g) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 (15.5-ounce/439g) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 Tablespoon (12g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 1 cup (120g) fine cornmeal
- 1 cup (125g) all-purpose flour (spooned & leveled)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- 1/4 cup (50g) packed light or dark brown sugar
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
- optional: 1 cup (170g) corn (fresh, frozen, or canned & drained)
- optional toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapeños
- In a large ovenproof skillet that holds 3.5–4 quarts, such as this 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the ground turkey, onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and garlic. Sauté until meat has cooked through, breaking up with a spoon as it cooks, about 10 minutes. Stir in the rest of the chili ingredients, and then reduce to medium-low heat. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F (191°C).
- Whisk all of the cornbread ingredients together in a large bowl, including the optional corn. Remove the chili from heat and spread the cornbread batter on top.
- Bake, uncovered, for 30–35 minutes or until the cornbread is golden on top and cooked through.
- Spoon into bowls or onto plates and serve warm with optional toppings.
- Cover and store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. I usually spoon it all into a reusable container. Reheat in a skillet over medium heat, or in the microwave as desired.
- Make Ahead Instructions: If you want to get started ahead of time, prepare the chili up to 24 hours in advance, cover, and refrigerate. Then, set it out at room temperature as you preheat the oven and prepare the cornbread batter. Spread cornbread batter on top and bake as directed. Baked and cooled casserole freezes well up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature, then cover and bake at 300°F (149°C) for 15-20 minutes or until warmed through.
- Special Tools (affiliate links): 12-inch Skillet | Glass Mixing Bowl | Whisk
- Other Pan to Use: A 12-inch ovenproof skillet that holds about 3.5–4 quarts is the perfect size for this recipe. Here is the one I own and love. If you don’t have a skillet this size, simply cook the chili on the stove in a large pot or saucepan, and then transfer it to a lightly greased casserole dish that holds at least 3.5–4 quarts, such as a 9×13-inch baking dish. You could also cook the chili on the stove in a large dutch oven, spread the cornbread topping on, and bake right in the dutch oven.
- To Make Vegetarian: For a vegetarian option, replace the meat with a plant-based ground meat alternative, or skip this and add an extra can or two of beans when you add the kidney beans. And/or add 1 peeled and chopped sweet potato (about 1 cup) in step 1 when you add the bell pepper.
- Beans: I use red kidney beans in this recipe, but black beans, pinto beans, or cannellini beans work as well.
- Chicken Broth: Just 1/2 cup of broth keeps the chili from becoming too dry as it bakes in the oven. Feel free to use beef or vegetable broth instead, and if you don’t have either, water works (but you’ll lose a little flavor).
- Is This Spicy? Mildly spicy. But if you like super-spicy chili, a little more jalapeño and chili powder will do the trick. Taste as you go and adjust if desired.
- Inspired by Food Network
Keywords: cornbread chili casserole