Some recipes are really, really stubborn. As in, it takes a lot (a looooottttt) of attempts to get it just right.
This pumpkin chili cornbread bake definitely dug its heels in. First, the cornbread wouldn’t cook all the way through. So I halved the cornbread portion of the recipe, while also working on perfecting the pumpkin chili part – but then the cornbread didn’t have much taste after being halved. Why? I don’t know! It was the same exact recipe!
So then I tested cornbread recipes until I got the flavor, moist-factor, and, you know, got it to actually bake through.
It might take me awhile to look back at this recipe without seeing an entire October dedicated to developing the recipe, instead of recalling its Halloween-perfect, totally-awesome-for-fall vibe.
I mean really, stubbornness isn’t a terrible thing. I can be stubborn. My guy’s stubborn. Our kid … yeah. Stubbornness leads to tenacity and drive, right? I mean, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of a tenacious casserole though.
At least not until now.
The truth is, I really love this Pumpkin Chili Cornbread Bake. I set out to create a one-dish dinner of pumpkin chili with the must-have cornbread situation baked right on top. And as long as I was going to pumpkin town, I thought, why not make it pumpkin cornbread?
It pleases me to no end that this recipe uses exactly one standard-size can of pumpkin puree – one cup of it goes into the chili, the rest goes into the cornbread. Yes!
The chili is a quick stovetop version, borrowing its flavor profile from this pumpkin red lentil chili. We’ve got chili spices but we’ve also got some cinnamon and cocoa powder (trust me), plus, of course, lots of pureed pumpkin which adds a nice sweet note, nutrients galore, and a wonderful thick texture.
And then the cornbread! Moist thanks to pumpkin, a bit sweet due to the brown sugar, a bit of cinnamon and a hint of cloves just to make sure it stays firmly in fall town. But then we have jalapeños. Because they’re cute and a bit of heat is always nice.
Pumpkin Chili Cornbread Bake
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion (diced)
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 14-ounce can fire-roasted petite diced tomatoes
- 1 14-ounce can cooked black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 14-ounce can cooked kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling (here's how to make your own))
- 1 jalapeno pepper (seeded and diced small)
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (there should be just enough left in the can from the chili)
- 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or cow's milk
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground cloves
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 jalapeno pepper (sliced into coins (optional))
Assorted optional toppings:
- More fresh jalapeno peppers
- Sour cream or vegan sour cream
- Fresh cilantro
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Make the pumpkin chili. To a medium pot over medium-low heat, add the olive oil. When hot, add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent. Add the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, pumpkin, jalapeno, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then remove from heat.
- Prepare the pumpkin cornbread. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, milk, oil, brown sugar, and egg. Place a sifter over the wet ingredients and add the cornmeal, flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Sift together over the wet ingredients (if there are any larger particles of cornmeal remaining, just pour it in.)
- Use a wire whisk to combine the ingredients, switching to a wooden spoon or spatula/scraper if needed and mixing just until incorporated and no more.
- Pour the chili into a 2.5- to 3- quart baking dish (I use a 13"x9" dish). Pour the cornbread over the top, carefully spreading to the edges. Arrange jalapeno slices on top if desired.
- Bake 35-40 minutes, until cornbread is cooked through - check by inserting a toothpick into the cornbread and if it comes out clean, you're good.
- Scoop out individual servings and pass assorted toppings around the table if desired.