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.
This casserole is part of our roundup of vegan Thanksgiving main dishes, but you need not wait for a special occasion to enjoy it.
Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
What is stoneground cornmeal? You’ll note that the recipe calls for stoneground cornmeal. While not an absolutely must, this type of cornmeal is recommended, rather than the kind simply labeled as yellow (or white) cornmeal.
Stoneground cornmeal retains more of the hull and germ of the kernel, and is, predictably, more of a wholesome choice. I think it tastes better, too. You might find this in your supermarket, but more likely, in natural foods stores and from online sources.
Explore lots more cozy, family-friendly vegan casseroles
Chili Bean Casserole with Cornmeal Crust
Festive enough to serve as a vegan Thanksgiving main dish, this casserole features mildly seasoned bean chili between layers of crusty cornmeal.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 1 1/2 to 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, preferably stoneground
- 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.
If you like this chili bean casserole, you might also enjoy …
Classic Vegetable Chili with Lots of Variations
See lots more delicious vegan main dishes.
The filling was really good but the cornmeal crust was not. It never really browned, had no flavor and was tough. Maybe I cooked it too long trying to get it to brown, but next time I will use a cornbread mix topping.
Hi — I’m sorry this didn’t work out for you! I’ve made this countless times; it’s a Thanksgiving favorite, so I’d be happy to troubleshoot it for you. I wonder if it may have been the type of cornmeal? I do recommend stoneground, as it has more flavor and body than the supermarket brands. If you have any other thoughts, please let me know.