Chili & Cornbread: hot stuff for cold days


I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried a zillion chili recipes in my life, and none of them has become The One.

You know, The One you immediately think of when you want to make chili.

I have The One brownie recipe. And The One fancy breakfast pastry.

The One Thanksgiving dinner rolls, which are SO good I make them every week.

But The One chili?

It’s been elusive.

Until I discovered this Oven-Baked Chili recipe on our site – and immediately changed it.

After all, “can’t leave well enough alone” is the banner we test kitchen bakers wave.

Our favorite mantra? “What if…”

And this chili recipe was no exception. It calls for a can of tomato paste – not something I usually stock.

It also lists a cup of water. Hmmmm… tomato paste + water = spaghetti sauce? Or even better, what if I use black bean salsa, more in keeping with the theme?

The recipe also calls for baking the chili in the oven. But why heat up my entire oven, when I can plug in my energy-friendly slow cooker?

Bottom line: follow the recipe as written. Or try what I’ve done here in this blog post. Or do your own thing.

Whatever path you choose, you’ll end up with a big pot of delicious chili, starring big chunks of beef (rather than hamburg), green pepper, sweet onion, and just the right spice.

As noted, I’ll be using a slow cooker here. But if you want to bake the stew in the oven, or simmer it slowly on the stove top, start with a large pot or Dutch oven – as opposed to the shallow skillet you’ll see in the photos below.

Did you know that by clicking anywhere on this block of pictures, you can enlarge them to full size? Go ahead, give it a try; it’ll work for any of our photos.

In a large skillet, brown 2 pounds cubed beef in oil, in batches if necessary, and drain it well. Use stew beef, or your own favorite cut.

Add 1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) chopped onion (about half a large sweet or Vidalia onion), and cook until the onion is soft.

(You might notice I forgot to sauté the onions while I was making this batch of chili, and simply added them to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients; no big deal.)

Transfer the beef and onions to your slow cooker. If you’re going to bake in the oven or simmer over a burner, just leave them in the large pot you’ve started with. Add the following:

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups (15 ounces) chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
6-ounce can tomato paste*
1 cup diced fresh green bell pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
2 tablespoons dried cilantro (optional, but good)
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons salt, to taste
up to 4 tablespoons sugar, to taste, optional; cuts the acidity of the tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper, cayenne pepper, or a few dashes hot sauce, optional
1 tablespoon cornmeal

*As previously mentioned, I’ve substituted an 8-ounce can of tomato sauce for the paste. I’ve also subbed a cup of black bean salsa – YUM.

Stir to combine. If you’re using a slow cooker, place the removable bowl of your slow cooker, with its stew, into the microwave. Heat for about 5 minutes, stirring midway through, until everything is somewhere between warm and hot.

Add enough hot water (or beef, chicken, or vegetable broth) to come close to covering the meat. You don’t need to cover it entirely, as the meat and vegetables will create their own juices as the chili cooks. Note: If you’ve used tomato sauce or salsa in place of tomato paste, you may not need to add much water at all.

Cover the slow cooker or pot. Simmer the chili until the meat is tender; the time for this will vary anywhere from 2 to 3 hours, depending on the cut of meat you’ve chosen, and how you’re cooking it. I find it takes about 3 hours in my slow cooker set on high; and about 2 hours in a preheated 275°F oven. I haven’t tried simmering the chili on the stove, but I imagine it would take a slightly shorter amount of time than cooking in a slow cooker.

Stir the chili after 1 hour, adding a bit of beef stock or water if it seems dry. Continue to simmer while you make the corn muffins.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup standard muffin pan; or line the pan with papers, and grease the papers.

If you like, substitute a 9″ square or round pan (a cast iron skillet will work fine, too); or a shallow 1 1/2-quart casserole dish.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the following:

1 3/4 cups (7 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

*For Southern-style cornbread, reduce the sugar; or eliminate it entirely.

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

1 1/4 cups milk
1 large egg

Add this all at once to the flour mixture, stirring quickly and gently just until combined.

Stir in 1/2 cup melted butter.

Scoop the batter into the prepared pan. For muffins, fill the cups about 3/4 full; a level to very slightly heaped muffin scoop is just the right amount.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the muffins are set, or the bread baked in a pan is starting to pull away from the sides. A toothpick inserted into the center of either a muffin, or the pan of bread, will come out clean.

Remove the muffins or bread from the oven. I like to tilt muffins in the pan as soon as I take them out of the oven, so their bottoms don’t steam and become soggy.

Half an hour before serving, stir in 1 can (15 ounces) dark red kidney beans or black beans, well-drained.

If the stew isn’t as thick as you like, thicken it with a bit of flour stirred with enough water to make it pourable.

At last! Hot chili, warm muffins… and a lovely fall day to enjoy them both.

Read, make, and review our recipes for Oven-Baked Chili and Cornbread.

Print the chili recipe; or print the cornbread 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. Brenda

    You are right, that one chili recipe did elude me ’til this one. My few changes so far–more cumin, and masa harina rather than corn meal. Thought I’d prefer ground beef to stew beef, and that chili needed lots of beans. Guess what, I was wrong! Used lousy canned beans my last batch and it would have been better without. Next one (hopefully today) will have freshly cooked ones, most likely Good Mother Stallards. Will also use the beans in Oozing Cheese & Bean Empanadas for food day at work tomorrow (if there’s power in NJ where our work servers are hosted by then–if not, they’re one of my favorites and freeze well).

  2. larryvere

    When you say “dried cilantro”, do you mean dehydrated cilantro (which I’ve never seen; but on the other hand I’ve never looked for it, either) or do you mean coriander?

    Larry, they’re the same plant – use either one you can find; coriander is the seed, cilantro is the leaf, both are good. PJH

  3. "Mike Nolan"

    We always use my wife’s stepmother’s chili recipe, which starts with a big jug of V-8. And I put both beans and beef in chili, which in a chili contest classifies it as ‘exotic’. :-)

    For reasons passing understanding, Lincoln Public Schools has for years served cinnamon rolls with chili. So, of course, the kids dunk the roll in the chili.

    And nearly every restaurant in town that serves chili has to serve cinnamon rolls with it, because that’s what EVERYONE expects.

    Funny – though it does kind of dovetail with the sweet/salty/spicy trend. Actually, it sounds good to me – I’m going to try that next time, Mike. :) PJH

  4. mem2387m

    I’m surprised that you recommended ‘stew meat’ most cooking shows have advised against it since you really don’t know what you’re getting in the package.
    I’m sure you already know that ‘real’ chili doesn’t have beans. I have a very strong dislike for kidney beans even though that’s what most people use. I buy the can that says ‘chili beans’ they’re small tender brownish beans, never read the label to see what they’ve used.
    Lastly, what is the purpose of putting the slow cooker bowl in the microwave?
    P.S. I’m looking for a white chili recipe that uses bacon and has kind of a sweet & sour flavor.

    I recommend stew beef because it’s easy for people to obtain; and for those who find it hard to chop up beef, it’s an easy option. As for “real” chili – I say, no food police. To each his own, right? I’m sure we could have lots of people both for and against beans in “real” chili. I like to heat my chili (or any other ingredients) before putting them in the slow cooker; I feel it shortens the time the dish spends in that in-between “danger” zone, neither cold nor hot. Finally – I’ve never heard of white chili that’s sweet/sour – with bacon – but it sure sounds tasty! :) PJH

  5. Muniyrah

    OH MY GOODNESS! This looks so good! I will be making this this week. Thanks for sharing the other recipes as well.

    Yes, it’s pretty darned tasty. Enjoy! PJH

  6. mjdietz

    I normally put a roast into the crockpot with onions and a little water at bedtime, then in the morning, add bell peppers, spices, beans and V-8 juice. No need to cube and brown the meat; it will shred easily with this method.

  7. argentyne

    What have you got against the poor city of Hamburg? Or against my friend who’s last name is Hamburg? You’re not allowed to use them in chili. :) (check your paragraph about using chunks of beef instead of ground.)

    I may try this recipe. I have a The One chili recipe, but it makes a minimum of 20 quarts and every time I’ve tried to make a smaller batch I end up with nearly twice as much. (I mix and cook it to taste, and the smaller portions always taste wrong and by the time I find the balance point, there is way too much chili.

    But I’m wanting chili at the moment, so you have good timing.

  8. sanat52kumara

    PJ: Trying dumping that nondescript chili powder in the garbage can, that stuff only gives you heartburn. Instead try using chili varieties such as ancho, guajillo, hatch (red and green), santa cruz, and del arbol. It will make a tremendous difference in the flavor as these chili varieties have good flavor as well as a little heat. They can easily be found online with a little searching.
    Thanks for passing along the tip! ~ MaryJane

  9. "Thriving Vegetarian"

    I can tell a lot of love and joy goes into every recipe you develop. I’ve also spent a lot of time looking for “The One” but I don’t eat meat. Have you come up with a vegetarian variation? It doesn’t have to use veggie crumbles. Something that just lets the beans shine through would be great! Thanks.
    I love this 5 Grain Chili recipe, using crumbles instead of meat. So very hearty and delish! ~ MaryJane

  10. Chinchillalover

    I totally understand about the one recipe for everything you like to make. I continually find recipes that become “the one” pretty much every week. I will definitely try this chili, and maybe make cinnamon rolls for dessert(the one recipe I will never replace). :)

  11. meushaw

    To the Thriving Vegetarian and others, I just wanted to comment that I made this last week, and it was awesome! To make it vegetarian, instead of the cubed meat I bought a package of cubed seitan. It was my first time using seitan, and its texture, to me, really resembled cubed meat, but it wasn’t stringy. :-) You could also try using tofu instead of crumbles; take a block of tofu, freeze it, let it thaw, and pull it apart. Freezing it makes its texture more resemble meat, but it’s still obvious it’s not meat (I like it, though). I loved this recipe, and it went down on a card in the recipe box the next day!
    Thanks for letting us know! Elisabeth

  12. Jessica1911

    To those in search of a vegetarian chili: I have a great recipe that calls for boiling 1 cup tomato juice, and then soaking 1 cup of bulgur in it. You add the mixture with the last of the ingredients before cooking. The bulgur gives the chili some richness and totally gives the texture of ground beef.

    1. MaryJane Robbins

      This recipe does need the AP flour, but you can certainly use an all cornmeal recipe to replace this recipe and still get good results.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Black bean salsa can be found in most grocery stores. It is usually in the taco products or the Ethnic Foods aisle. Jon@KAF

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