Chilly? Have some chili. Topped with chile (cornbread).


Is it time for the annual January thaw yet?

Not quite… but we’re getting close.

I’ve lived in northern New England for 35 years. Before that, I lived in southern New England. I guess, culturally speaking, that’s akin to saying I live in the Deep South, and before that I lived in the South.

It’s all below the Mason-Dixon line. Just as all of New England is in the North.

In fact, New England, for those of you a bit, shall we say, “geographically challenged,” is that jumble of little states in the upper right corner of the United State map.

Interesting fact: Not every New England state borders the ocean. I once met a Westerner who wanted to know what Vermont’s coastline was like, and I was forced to reveal that unless you count Lake Champlain as part of the Atlantic, Vermont is the only New England state without direct access to the open sea.

But back to northern New England: Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Where the winter’s long, spring is shoehorned in between mud season and black fly season, fall is merely a prelude to snow, and summer is – well, as they say up here, “tough sledding.”

January is mid-winter – not on the official calendar, where January 1 is only 10 days into the season. But in real terms: November and December are the beginning of winter; February and March are its end. And January is mid-winter.

And towards the end of January, by gorry, we expect the January thaw: 4 or 5 perfect days when the sky is blue, the sun shines brightly, and puddles – puddles! – replace ice on the sidewalks.

Happens every year, right around January 25. No joke. Here’s what Wiki says:

“The January thaw is an observed but unexplained temperature rise in mid-winter found in mid-latitude North America… For five days around January 25, temperatures are usually significantly warmer than predicted by the sinusoidal estimate, and also warmer than neighboring temperatures on both sides.

“During this ‘thaw’ period, usually lasting for about a week, temperatures are generally about 10°F (6°C) above normal. This varies from year to year, and temperatures fluctuate enough that such a rise in late-January temperature would be unremarkable; what is remarkable (and unexplained) is the tendency for such rises to occur more commonly in late January than in mid-January or early February, which sinusoidal estimates have to be slightly warmer.”

Translation: Sometime in the next couple of weeks, we’ll be doffing our down jackets and donning T-shirts, luxuriating in the feel of 30°F air on bare skin.

Call it Einstein’s Theory of Relativity: after weeks of 0°F, 30°F feels like a heat wave.

Speaking of heat waves, let’s comfort ourselves with a plateful of White Chili with Cornbread, just the ticket for a January (pre-thaw) night.

Let’s get started. First, the chili.

Combine the following:

1 large onion, peeled and chopped, about 3 1/4 cups chopped onion
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 1/2″ to 3/4″ pieces; about 1 1/2 cups chopped pepper
1 small jalapeño pepper, diced; remove and discard seeds for milder chili
1 to 4 cloves garlic (to taste), peeled and minced

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil in a large stock pot. Add the vegetables, and sauté until they’re until they’re soft and the onions are barely beginning to turn golden, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Next, open two 4.5-ounce cans of chopped green chiles. No need to drain them.

Add the chiles to the pot along with a 16-ounce bag frozen corn, thawed (or 3 cups fresh or frozen/thawed corn kernels);
and 5 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken or turkey meat, white and/or dark.

Stir to combine.

Now, the beans; you’ll need one 15- to 19-ounce can white beans of some sort; navy or cannellini are good choices.

Don’t like beans, you say? Trust me, you won’t notice these…

…once you’ve puréed them (with their liquid) in a food processor, and stirred them into the rest of the ingredients in the pot, where they’ll add satisfying thickness to the chile.

Stir to combine.

Add 1 tablespoon ground cumin, or to taste; and 3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste.

Simmer the chile slowly for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

While the chili simmers, make the cornbread topping, and start preheating the oven to 375°F.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

1 3/4 cups (7 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 1/2-ounce can chopped mild green chiles, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, optional

Stir to combine.

In another bowl, or in a large measuring cup, whisk together the following:

1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 large egg

Pour the liquid all at once into the flour mixture.

Stir quickly and gently, until just combined.

Set the batter aside while you finish the chili.

Add one 3-ounce package cream cheese, cut into chunks, to the chili. Stir until it melts.

Adjust the salt, if necessary.

Spoon the chili into individual serving dishes. The entire recipe makes about 8 cups of chili; if you use 2-cup capacity ramekins or bakers, spoon 1 cup chili into each. Remember, you need to leave room for the cornbread topping.

Don’t have individual dishes? We’ve got you covered; scroll down for instructions for a 9” x 13” pan.

Top each dish of chili with 2 to 3 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese, if desired; then with the cornbread batter. For 8 individual ramekins or bakers, use 1/2 cup cornbread batter for each.

There. Did you remember to preheat your oven to 375°F?

Sprinkle with paprika, if desired. Hot or sweet, it doesn’t matter; this is strictly for looks.

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the cornbread is set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean.

Where are the other seven dishes? I was test-baking for time, so doing them one by one. Notice this one didn’t have its paprika topping, either…

Remove from the oven, and serve hot or warm.

Now, back to that 9” x 13” pan. Make sure you use a pan that’s at least 2” deep. You’ll need about 1″ clearance between the chili and the top of the pan, to ensure the cornbread topping doesn’t overflow. If your pan is shallower than 2″, fill with chili until it comes no closer than 1″ to the top.

Sprinkle the chili with 1  to 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, if desired.

Top with the cornbread batter.

Bake for about 25 minutes, until the top is set and a toothpick inserted into the cornbread comes out clean.

Remove the chili from the oven.

Cook’s prerogative to enjoy a spoonful first!

Serve hot or warm. Now, isn’t that a sight for sore eyes on a cold January night?

Read, rate, and review (please) our recipe for White Chili with Cornbread.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...


  1. samanthajanderson

    Would this work as a freezer meal? At what point would you freeze it?

    Samantha, I’d freeze it with the unbaked cornbread on top. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then bake. Should work just fine, though I wouldn’t freeze for longer than about a month. PJH

  2. Teresa

    Oh my. It looks like a warm golden snuggly hug in January. I’ve got poblanos in the fridge that can be used for this! Yum!!

    Poblanos would be VERY tasty, Teresa – great idea. “Warm golden snuggly hug” – I want one right now!! :) PJH

  3. bachaney

    PJ this looks fantastic!

    And I technically live below the Mason-Dixon line (in Maryland) but it’s not the South! In fact, my southern relatives call me “the northerner!”

    Yeah, I was trying to figure out a better line of demarcation – more like from NC down, but couldn’t figure anything out… :) PJH

  4. erie

    How spicy would you say this is going to be with 3 cans of green chilis in it? If it is on the spicy side where could I adjust?

    Not “hot” spicy at all – the chiles add flavor, not heat. But you can certainly leave any/all of them out – not a problem at all… PJH

  5. Chris

    Looks wonderful, how about a gluten free version?

    Believe it or not, we’re working on GF cornbread right now, Chris – stay tuned! PJH

  6. Cookerann

    This has got “Superbowl Sunday” written all over it! Kind of a Tex/Mex version of Chicken Pot Pie.

    Absolutely – easy to do ahead and dish up at halftime. Speaking of… Go Pats! :) PJH

  7. fran16250

    I LOVE it when you guys occasionally dive into recipes for things other than baked goods, the wonderful Italian wedding soup springs to mind. I get very little enthusiasm in my house for white chilli but I love it so I will make this anyway. They really love chicken pot pie so I might make them a pot pie with the cornbread on top instead of my usual flaky crust. I live in PA Dutch country and around here pot pie is more like soup.
    How about a few corn kernels in the cornbread?
    I have had cornbread with corn kernels in it and it was fabulous! I think it’s a great idea. Enjoy, and happy baking! ~ART

  8. bennettanneb

    Do you have any suggestions for altering the chili recipe to eliminate the corn? My husband and I have found we can’t tolerate whole kernel corn (although corn meal is fine) and there are a lot of wonderful chili recipes with corn in them!
    It is not necessary to use corn or any corn product in this chili. You can use another vegetable if you would like or omit it all together. Since corn is a starch, you could add in pasta or rice or bulgar wheat. I hope you enjoy your results. ~ART

  9. "Just One Donna"

    This looks like a perfect winter weekend dish. You can bet I will be trying this very soon. I want you to know I love this blog and have highlighted it as a favorite on my own very new blog. I look forward to every new post. Thanks so much.
    We hope you enjoy the recipe. Thank you for your kind comments and support. Happy Baking! ~ART

  10. milkwithknives

    Oh, dear. I think you may have just hijacked my weekend cooking plans with your gorgeous photos. I’ll have to make some substitutions (my chili will be a little more brown than white), but I love that the recipe is designed to go in little individual servings. Perfect! I always store my cooking in little tupperwares and take them for lunches during the week. This will be perfect for the new set of ramekins I got for Christmas. I also love the trick of using pureed vegetables to make soups creamier and thicker because they are quite a bit lower in calories and fat than cream.

    Also, I know what you mean about the balmy 30 degree weather. I think it was around 25 here in Salt Lake when I came in to work this morning and I felt like I was on vacation. (head shaking)

    Thanks for the neat recipe! I can’t wait to try it and report back.
    It’s great to hear that you are so inspired by this recipe. Be sure to share your thoughts and feedback soon. We look forward to hearing from you. ~ ART

  11. Paul from Ohio

    Hmmmmmmmm, I’ll have to figure the WW’s “Points” before I dive into this yummy looking winter warmer. January thaw? Here in Ohio we celebrated ours the week around the New Year – 58 degrees and all the accumulated snow departed! We are back under it now and ahhhhhhhhh Spring. We are working on our Sourdough (Johnny’s first 2 loaves yesterday!) and my Baguette’s. We have the starter and the French Lame – so hey, any day now we’ll perfect our techniques. Chilli is a big favorite of ours so this one gets a huge thumbs up from the looks of it. The taste of it will surely occur soon. Thanks always for wonderous words, photos and recipes!

  12. Ruth

    Could I make this the night before and refrigerate it for the next day’s supper?
    You absolutely can, in fact many claim that foods like chili become better the second day after the flavors have had a chance to mingle. I hope you enjoy it! ~ART

  13. debzvt3810

    Question about pureeing the can of beans in a food processor: Do I drain the can first, or puree with the liquid the beans are packed in?

    Don’t drain the beans – purée with their liquid. I said that in the recipe, but not the blog – thanks for alerting me, I’ll add the info. PJH

  14. luherbeck

    how long and at what temp should it be reheated?

    Not sure. Cover it, put it in a preheated 350°F oven, and if it’s direct from the fridge, it’ll probably take 45 minutes or so, for the 9″ x 13″ pan? Less for smaller pans… PJH

  15. lilia

    Can the sugar be omitted from the cornbread with no adverse effects? As a Texan, I have never been able to take cornbread made with sugar.


    Sure, Lilia, leave it out. Or go ahead and make your own favorite cornbread, instead of this one – stir in some cilantro if you like… PJH

  16. Joey

    Making a vegetarian version with a bag of Quorn “chicken” chunks in place of the chicken… I’m sure it’s going to be delicious!

  17. hlb4351

    Was very tempted to make this for our weekly potluck until I reread the directions. Can there really be enough liquid to simmer, even slowly, for 30 minutes? The processed beans and liquid will be thick and there isn’t much liquid in the canned chilies. I’m a little skeptical of that. Are my fears unfounded?

    Your fears are unfounded. Like you, I thought there couldn’t possibly be enough liquid; so I added chicken broth, and ended up with a watery mess. The next time, I did as the recipe directs; as the chili simmers, the corn gives off sufficient liquid to thin it enough that it doesn’t burn. Just keep the heat low, and the simmer slow; it should be fine. PJH

  18. kmjas1

    Gotta make this one. Thanks for posting.
    Now, it is request time. Would you please link the recipe to the blog? I cannot find the blog link on the recipe. I add the recipes to my recipe box and have the blog link for reference. I like the ability to have the two linked together. Thank you for reading my request.

    Thanks for the reminder – it’s now linked. PJH

  19. claralennox

    Hi! This is my first encounter with this recipe site, and I’m smitten! It makes me want to run right out in my jammies and buy ingredients. I’m not eating dairy currently – what could I substitute for the cream cheese? Thanks so much.
    It’s so good to hear that you are inspired! You can either use silken tofu and puree it for the chili, or use a non-dairy cream cheese (available at health food stores). Enjoy! ~ Amy @KAF

  20. nthompson

    That sounds awesome. I don’t mind spicy, but my kids are picky, so give me an idea of just how spicy this ends up being? Maybe if I just skip the chiles in the cornbread, they’d be happy enough, or is this so mild that even that wouldn’t be necessary?

    I live in Syracuse, I’m pretty sure we out-winter everyone else in the continental US (with the possible exception of remote areas of North Dakota) … We had a spate of warm temps in late Dec, early January, I’m wondering if that was our “January thaw” for this year.
    If you are at all concerned about the chiles, you could put them only in half, so that if it’s too spicy, your children have another option. The chiles definitely give the bread a good spicy kick, but not to the point of overwhelm. I hope you enjoy it. ~ Amy @KAF

    Hi – Syracuse definitely out-winters us! The chiles are strong-flavored, but not “hot” spicy – so, as Amy said, you might want to cut them back, and see how the kids do with that flavor… PJH

  21. avalon3

    We are in the midst of our Jan. heat wave. First snow usually arrives around Thanksgiving. Then off and on with the temp. ranging from below zero to the 20’s at night with mostly a nice 32 during the day. But this week…50’s! Yeah I’m talkin bikini weather if I could wear one. The golf course maintence guy was out early blowing the goose poop off the course cause once the ’50’s hit there are out there. Of course by Feb. we get the most snow!
    Even though it is in the 50’s I am making the chili tomorrow!


    Central Oregon gets that cold? Anna, I had no clue! I’m glad you’re enjoying your thaw – isn’t it great feeling fresh air on bare skin? :) PJH

  22. fran16250

    I just made this for dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I too thought it was too thick to simmer so I did add just a little chicken broth but it cooked out during the simmer. I made a chicken pot pie for the rest of the family and they were happy. I made a double batch of the cornbread so I could serve corn muffins with the pot pie. I put the cilantro in the chili at the very end instead of in the corn bread. I did not put the green chilis in the cornbread either, I used only one can in my chile with just a touch of cayenne pepper instead of the jalepeno. I liked the slight sweetness of the cornbread in contrast to the mild heat of the chile.
    I know it is not too critical but the recipe did not mention the sprinkle of paprika on top of the cornbread.
    Being that I am the only one who likes this I made two smaller casseroles and will freeze one for a busy day.
    Thanks for another great recipe. I will be making this again.

    You’re right, Fran – I included the paprika in the blog, but not the recipe. It’s totally optional, and I figure if a person reads the recipe, hopefully they’ll look at the blog, too. Your substitutions all make perfect sense, and I’m glad you’ve got some chili stowed in the freezer for another (cold) day… PJH

  23. milkwithknives

    HA! Goose poop! Didn’t expect to see that when I got here, and I laughed out loud.

    Okay, made it this afternoon. Guhhh, wonderful. Pinto beans are one of my favorite foods in the world, so I just cooked some up this morning (didn’t have any white beans), and also had to sub a few other ingredients (broccoli stems, plain yogurt, etc.), but the chili came out beautifully. I left out the jalapeno and just put a dab of green tabasco on each bite, and that was perfect. I used your cornbread recipe but put in a bit more coarse cornmeal and less flour, so my lid was gritty rather than bready, but it was a stellar counterpoint to the ultra-smooth, pureed bean filling. I can’t wait to eat some tomorrow, and I’m REALLY looking forward to the leftovers for lunches next week. Thanks a ton for this wonderful chili/pot pie hybrid, which I would never have thought of on my own.

    You’re making me hungry… and that’s not easy at 11 p.m.! Thanks for sharing- PJH

  24. wingboy

    I really like what the beans and the cream cheese did to the chili. The cream cheese added richness and the beans are a wonderful thickener along with adding fiber. The green chili cornbread topping is good, but I’d prefer less (thinner).

    It Needs More Heat.

    I added an Anaheim, and a Pasillo and a couple Serranos, and it was still too bland. I’d cut back on the corn, too. I cut the recipe in half and baked it in an 8×8. It’s really filling.

    Thanks PJ! I’m going to make a couple of adjustments and this is going to feed a dozen college kids next weekend!


    Your suggestions sound right on, Tom; I deliberately leave things “cool” expecting that people who like the heat will know how to add it. I’d like some smoky chile, myself… PJH

  25. kmjas1

    You all rock with these good recipes and blogs.
    A big Thank You for linking the recipe to the blog.
    Stay warm. I live in north central Iowa about 30 miles from the Minnesota border. We have had lots of snow. Expecting some zero and below temps for a few days coming up, so this chili will be a warm welcome home at supper.

  26. wingboy

    Oh! Some chipotles would be a perfect addition!

    I should have thought of that. Thanks!!

    Yeah, me too – I couldn’t for the life of me think of the word “chipotles” earlier… Don’t you love getting old? BTW, WHERE was your red jacket?! :) PJH

  27. nthompson

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was great – all four of us loved it (including the normally-non-chili-loving members of my family)! I used 2 lb ground turkey for the meat, and I grated an entire 8 oz of cheddar. I followed the directions pretty closely, only cutting back on the cumin (only 1 t) and not using the third can of chilies in the cornbread – it was not spicy at all. I was right to cut back on the cumin, but next time I’ll add a little more heat. I don’t have individual ramekins; I simmered the chili in a dutch oven, and then just put the cheese and cornbread on top and put the whole thing in the oven.

    To the poster who wondered about eliminating the corn: I think this would be great with some diced zucchini and/or yellow squash, and/or an extra bell pepper (depending on how much you like peppers) and maybe a little rice in place of the corn in the chili.

    Thanks for sharing your substitutions and suggestions – much appreciated! PJH

  28. wingboy

    The red jacket was hiding in plain sight. It’s a ‘packable’ jacket – it can be stuffed into one of it’s pockets. When packed, it resembles a black pillow. I wasn’t looking for a black pillow. Carol found it. It’ll take me a while to live that one down… ;)

    Oh, yeah… I know how that goes. We looked EVERYWHERE for a single shoe the other night – it was absolutely in plain sight, but the dog had picked it up and put it on a shelf – when do you ever look for shoes on a shelf?? PJH

  29. avalon3

    I followed the recipe to the letter because DH has noticed…huummm…when I try to not put as much of this or that or add something it doesn’t turn I followed the recipe and it turned out FANTASTIC! It is going to be one of my staples for my quilt retreats and us of course! lol


    Great to hear this was a success for you, Anna. And – your blog is sweet… :) PJH

  30. Alysha

    I wonder if you could substitute any chili?

    -Alysha from
    Yes, I think regular chili would work great, too. Let us know how it goes! Elisabeth

  31. philawriter

    I made this for dinner last night and it was fantastic. rave reviews all around. I fried up the veggies in a cast iron dutch oven, added the rest of the chili ingredients, let it simmer and then just poured the cornbread batter on top and baked it in the dutch oven in the oven. Less dishes, good rustic look!
    thanks for the recipe,

    Kristen, fabulous idea – one-pot chili. Thanks for the inspiration! PJH

  32. Disappointed

    Sorry I made this chili and my family really did not like it at all. The bread was tastey but the chili we will not be making again.

    Sorry this one wasn’t a success for you… PJH


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