Cornbread Topped Chili Con Carne

Total Time:
14 hr 30 min
30 min
12 hr
2 hr

up to 20 servings

  • Chili:
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried or crushed chili flakes
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 5 cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 red peppers, seeded and finely diced
  • 3 pounds 4 ounces ground beef
  • 7 cups canned chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato ketchup
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 1/2 cups canned red kidney beans
  • Cornbread:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups grated Cheddar
  • Guacamole, recipe follows
  • Serving suggestion:
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • Ground paprika, for dusting
  • 3 3/4 cups grated Cheddar
  • Special equipment: Very large pan
Serving suggestion:

Heat the oil in a very large pan and fry the onion and garlic until it begins to soften. Add the chili, coriander, cumin, and crushed cardamom pods and stir well.

Add the peppers then break up the ground beef into the pan and, using a fork, keep turning it to separate it as the meat browns. Add the chopped tomatoes, ketchup, tomato puree, and water stirring to make a rich red sauce. When the chili starts to boil sprinkle over the cocoa and stir it in. Add the beans and simmer partially covered for 1 1/2 hours. At this point you can cool and freeze the chili, or just keep it in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Pour the chili into a large, wide dish or keep in the pan you cooked it in if it is ovenproof.

Combine the salt, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, honey, and oil in a jug, and then stir into the dry ingredients mixing to make a vivid yellow batter.

Pour the cornmeal topping over the chili con carne, or blob it over to cover the top as evenly as possible.

Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the cornbread and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cornbread topping is risen and golden and the chili underneath is bubbling. How long this takes depends on the how cold or hot the chili was when it went into the oven. Since it's such a huge vat, you may find it easiest to reheat it on the stove in its pan first.

Let the chili stand for about 5 minutes once out of the oven before cutting the cornbread top into squares or slices to serve with a helping of chili underneath.


4 ripe avocados, peeled, stoned and chopped

4 scallions, finely chopped

2 limes, juiced

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Mash the avocados with the scallions and add the juice of up to 2 limes, to taste. Stir in most of the cilantro and turn into 2 bowls, sprinkling each with the remaining cilantro.

Divide the sour cream into another 2 bowls, and dust with a little paprika and, into another pair of bowls add the grated Cheddar so that people can take clumps and add the tangy cheese to their plates of guacamole and sour cream splodged chili.

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    58 Reviews
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    The best chili I've ever made and the only chili my daughter ever asks me to cook. The richness of the flavors melds everything together wonderfully and I think the cocoa really makes this dish. The only thing I don't use is the ketchup, which is simply a taste preference. I usually use cornmeal flour for cornbread so I didn't have any problems with the cornbread portion of the recipe. I think maybe that's something each person just has to work with and adjust according to what they like.
    Dreadful! Agree with comments from other reviewer's - it cost a fortune to make and alot of mucking around to try and find cornmeal (an ingred. not often found in Australian supermarkets. Tasteless, dry, the cornbread was like lead - I followed the recipe "to the letter". I thought it would be OK as it came from Nigella but what a mistake! I chucked most of it out
    This was AWFUL!!!! I will admit to having made my own chilli as I have made it for years and it is tried and tested, but I love cornbread and so made my chilli and then followed Nigella's recipe for the cornbread and then applying it to the chilli... 
    I was extremely disappointed! Any liquid and juice of the original chilli completely disappeared and the cornbread was dry and every mouthful was difficult... There was no moistness left! :( It was dry cornbread and dry chilli :( Very disappointing! Chilli requires some liquid sauce and I had loads until I applied the cornbread topping. 
    This recipe just doesn't work :(
    I tried the chili recipe because the ingredients sounded different than what I usually see in a chili recipe ie cardamom pods. It was quite tasty, but I did add seasonings as the chili cooked. 
    The cornbread was really really dry. I liked that the recipe called for more corn meal than flour, but that might have been the reason it was dry. No one would eat it, especially those who like traditional moist cornbread without cinnamon.
    I love this recipe. We make it every year for Super Bowl Sunday. It's so easy because you can make the chili the day before (it's better if you do, then just reheat, mix up the batter, and bake. The spicing is different than most "American" chilis but very delicious and little bit sophisticated. The cocoa makes a huge difference! The only things I change: 1. I add some salt and more red pepper flakes. 2. I drain the fat from the beef after browning. 3. I add a cup of water or tomato puree the second day before I reheat it, otherwise it's dry.
    Top of the world!! We loved it. My son made it, very tasty, spicy, just the way we like it.
    I made this (a half batch and used less cinnamon because of the reviews. The cornbread topping didn't have much flavor and soaked up a lot of the chili and kind of ruined the dish. I was really looking forward to liking this after seeing Nigella prepare it on TV. Also, the chili was a little bland itself so I added smoked salt and some extra hot sauce and the chili was fairly decent itself. I ended up scooping the cornbread off the top and throwing it out and saved some of the chili for leftovers. I have to say that the quacamole on the chili was quite nice, though.
    I made this chili and cornbread for superbowl. The cornbread soaked up a good amount of the chili, so not much left in the bottom of the dutch oven. It did cook through though and we were able to eat it. Very different! I did make the chili again but made the cornbread separate. Very good.
    Had a large back yard party with 3 different chili recipes with related cornbreads, toppings, etc. Personnaly, I don't like beans in my chili. HOWEVER< this recipe chili was the top...the most selected for 2nds and 3rds! Hunger in our neighbors and friends got all 3 chili recipes devoured but this one was the top
    If you're like me and afraid to try things because they never turn out good, THIS is the recipe for you. Just follow it and you'll have the most amazingly yummy chili. Mine may have tasted unbelievably good because I used my frozen (or fresh) heirloom brandywine and cherokee purple tomatoes I grew in my garden. I also added cayanne pepper and about 3 times the red pepper flakes because I like my chili HOT! I also salt & peppered it to taste (this will aleviate all the "bland" complaints because this chili is NOT bland.). I also didn't make the cornbread because I DON'T like cinnamon. I would not recommend putting cinnamon in cornbread yuck. I also used certified angus beef which was amazing. If u use good ingredients, you'll get good food.

    The best thing about this recipe is the chocolate! I used Van Hauten Dutch process chocolate from trader joes, but any good choc powder will work. You can't really taste the chocolate but it's a BRILLIANT way to get super yummy comfort food taste and an amazing richness without adding fat.

    My olive oil was yummy organic cold pressed and organic garlic & ketchup. Like I said, use good ingredients get amazing flavor. The other thing I liked is that it tasted good right after I made it which usually u have to wait a day for it to taste good. I also made my own kidney beans which I soaked over night and cooked for hours til tender I then added them to the chili last and just simmered 10 minutes before serving since they were already fully cooked to creamy tenderness. Enjoy
    I have used a couple of Nigella's recipes but watching her make this chili was not one of my favorites. Did she really use a wooden spoon to stir raw ground beef?
    This chili was fantastic. I had one guest say "best chili ever" and others say "fantastic". I did add more garlic, 1 more t of cumin and coriander. And, reading other reviews, baked the cornbread seperately (and cut back the cinnamon to 1/2 t due to reviews) Also this chili is super easy to make. For the beans, I used 3 rinsed and drained cans of red beans. The only important note is that it does NOT feed 20. I had 14 adults here and ran out before I got a whole bowl. I'd say feeds 10. I even made mac and cheese and had the cornbread, appetizers and dessert, so the 20 servings is off. Even for some who had 2 bowls, they weren't huge bowls. I'll make again and make sure I get a WHOLE bowl! :)
    The chili was too bland and really had a bad taste because of the cinnamon in the cornbread. We were so disappointed, all the money spent, and the time it took to cook, was definitely not worth. We couldn't finish what we put in our bowls and threw the rest away and had a bowl of ice cream topped with fresh blackberries.


    Elizabeth, IN
    I made this the weekend after the superbow, as it just sounded good ~ and kind of different, but I did not make the cornbread topping. This turned out great! My husband says it's the best he has had, and can't wait to have it again. It has a great consistancy (not too thick, not too soupy). You don't "taste" the cocoa or the ketchup, but I believe they are definitely part of what makes the favor so wonderful. I will make again, and would be proud to take it to a friends or a potluck. Give it a whirl!
    I also made this for Super Bowl Sunday and since no one asked for seconds, as well as myself, I can safely say it is not a keeper. The chili was lack luster, the cornbread topping overpowered the chili with all the cinnamon it had in it, and most of the chili got absorbed in the cornbread, so there was not much liquid in the chili. I was so disappointed, all the money spent, and the time it took to cook, was definitely not worth. I threw at least half of it away. Don't waste your time or money with this one.
    We made this as a Super Bowl party dish and really enjoyed it. It wasn't very spicy but the flavor was complex and rich. We baked the cornbread separate since our largest pot - a 6 3/4 US quart Le Creuset - barely could hold the chili. We put the cornbread in a 13 x 9 x 2 inch glass baking dish and baked at the recipe temperature for 20 minutes. Loved the cheesy topping on the bread.
    This chili was wonderful. My son and I decided to make it after watching Nigella do it. Other than having a bit of trouble finding cardamom pods the ingredients were simple to put together and the recipe is in logical order. We loved the chili and the corn bread topping turned out perfect! Nigella is the bombdigity! I swear she could make a peanut butter and jelly look gourmet!
    Were all vegetarians in my household. I love turning a classic meat entree into a vege one. I used the texurized soy crumbles by Light Life instead of the meat. These can now be found in any major grocery store. You can use them for meatloafs or meatballs it tastes great. Anyways I used that subsitute and followed the rest of the recipe only I added more tomato paste to get a thicker consistancy.
    From a brit I take exception and would like to point out to the reviewer a couple of posts ago that said the Brit taste buds were a bit 'bland'. I forgive his ignorance (the UK top favourite dish is tikka masala an "Indian" inspired dish!!).

    Our taste buds are slightly different though, will agree to that. This chili like others have worldwide differences. It may not be your classic Texas style (though there are so many variations to Texas ones) for those that love that type this might be too different for them (but give it a try).

    But for those that don't normally love chilli give this a try (I don't love chili could easily give it a miss but the flavours in this are good).
    Instead of some chilis that just love overpowering 'one note heat' from chili powder (yawn), this has a bit of depth and different flavours going on, which do combine well - which I like to say would be more of an intelligent chili (LOL).

    Like any chilli or recipe take this as a base and make it your own (taste and retaste Iike any good cook) and adjust the seasoning to your family tastebuds.
    Make it with or without cornbread.
    This recipe appealed to myself and my husband. We both enjoy cooking. This receipe is very time consuming...we had to shop for many of the ingredients. I will not be making this again. If you want to try it, I suggest seasoning it to your own tastes - it lacks salt and chili powder which I would normally use when making chili. This was incredibly bland. The cornbread hardly has a hint of sweetness and becomes a soggy mess sitting atop the chili. Hope this review helps.
    About to make the Chili! I really appreciate the reviews as it gives me a heads up from some of the most impressive people on this site (The Reviewers).

    I consider Nigella to be a "whole" food sorta person (she wants to taste all the components). She sticks to the foundations of food and doesn't really add a lot of seasonings, simple is best. Nigella, being a Brit is likely rather skewed to the UK palette and caters to Brits who have very unique (often fairly bland) tastes and ideas on food. We North Americans tend to use way more salt and want our flavours more "married". As with many Nigella recipes I simply use her recipes as a starting point and then season and adjust to my tastes.

    A note on ingredients. The quality in the UK is often very different (some superior and some crap) to North American chain stores. Nigella uses "The Best" and she can afford it :)

    Just some food for thought.

    Best wishes everyone for a Happy 08!
    This made a very good chili. I did add more of the spices than called for. I didn't make the cornbread that night because I ran out of time. I did make it last night and served it with the potato soup I made. That is a nice change from the more sweet cornbread. The addition of cinnamon adds that little something to the flavor. Instead of veg. oil I used extra virgin olive oil, that's all I have. It comes fresh from a friend's olive grove in Greece yummy! This is a keeper. Thanks for great ideas.
    This was a great recipe and very easy to make. My husband loved it!
    Everybody has had great things to say about this dish everytime I've made it. I, personally, add more spice- hot sauce, etc. I do make the cornbread on the side, for several reasons including that the left-over servings get soggy and don't freeze well. Don't skip the cocoa, it is the not-so-secret-anymore ingredient that will set your chili apart from the mediocre.
    I love to try differet types of chili: southwestern, Texas, white, Cincinnati, etc. This caught my interest and on a cooler day this past week, I made it for my family. I followed the recipe to a 'T' including the $11.00 bottle of cardamon pods. The chili was uniquely flavored altho very very mild. The cornbread, because I did not have a large enough container, was cooked separately and the chili served over it. I tried really hard to like that cornbread but no one in my family would eat much of it. I am thinking I must have done something wrong....too mild of chili flavors somehow so that the cinnamon bread, rather than enchancing the chili, overpowered it completely.

    Sorry Nigella!
    Fabulous chili!! I did cut the quantity down by 1/4, since it was just for myself and my husband. It made enough for four generous servings. I used a smaller pot, of course, and cooked it covered, instead of partially covered, on very low heat so it didn't dry out.

    It was really exceptionally tasty.
    did not like the cornbread topping. Got rather sloppy
    I found this recipe to be a keeper and have to force myself to make chili any other way! I love the meaty texture and especially love the cardamom pods! I appreciate how many different spices I get to work with after using Nigella's recipes. The cornbread topping (although unique and fun) isn't much for taste. It never seems to cook fully through. I have to make it on the side and even still, it's fairly dry. I add some cream corn and an egg white to it and it becomes more moist. Anyway, it is a very good pot of chili!
    The chili is wonderful and if you add a can of creamed corn to the cornbread then you have a wonderful group meal. It also freezes quite nicely!
    Wonderful recipe, perfect for a cool winter night!
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