Easy enough for a casual weekend meal and festive enough to serve as a vegan Thanksgiving main dish, this chili bean casserole features layers of crusty cornmeal.
Inspired by a Native American dish, this easy casserole has been one of my standbys for Thanksgiving for a very long time. I love how the simple chili base contrasts with the cooked cornmeal topping.
If you’re preparing a holiday meal, you can make the chili portion the day before, and put it together with the cooked cornmeal crust just before you want to pop it in the oven. You can also make the whole thing a day or two ahead, refrigerate, and reheat, covered with foil, until piping hot.
Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 1 1/2 cups cooked fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
- 2 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans, or one 28-ounce can, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups chopped ripe tomatoes, or one 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, lightly drained
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced, or one 4-ounce can chopped mild green chiles
- 2 teaspoons chili powder, or more, to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- Salt to taste
- 1 1/4 cups cornmeal
- 4 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Optional cheese layer
- 1 cup cheddar- or pepper jack-style vegan cheese shreds, optional
- Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and bell pepper and continue to sauté until the onion is golden brown.
- Add the corn kernels, pinto beans, tomatoes, and seasonings. Stir well and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Remove from the heat.
- Bring 4 1/2 cups of water to a steady boil in a heavy saucepan or double boiler. Lower the heat and slowly pour the cornmeal into the water in a thin, steady stream, whisking continuously to avoid lumping. Add the salt and cook over very low heat, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If it gets too thick, whisk in an additional 1/2 cup water.
- Preheat the oven to 375º F.
- Oil a shallow 1 1/2-quart baking dish and line the bottom with a little less than half of the cooked cornmeal. Pour the skillet mixture in and gently pat in evenly. Sprinkle with the optional grated cheese. Top with the remaining cornmeal, patting it in smoothly.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cornmeal is golden brown and and beginning to get crusty. Let the casserole stand for 10 minutes, then cut into sections to serve — they can be neat sections or free-form, just scooped out.
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