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I must say that this has been my busiest summer EVER! I mean, having 3 kids keeps you pretty busy. But this summer has been amazing with our first ever two week vacation across California, pool parties with friends, kayaking in Mission Bay and boogie boarding at the beach.
We just returned from a FABULOUS weekend camping along the Kern River with my neighbors. That’s 5 families, 10 adults, 15 kids. FUN TIMES! To help with the meal planning, we split up dinner duties. I got to head up the Saturday night dinner. Was I up for the challenge, or what?!
My hubby, being cubmaster this year, got us some 10-inch cast iron dutch ovens for our camping trips and they were begging to be used. And, thru scouting, my man got together with other scout leaders and had a crash course in dutch oven cuisine.
I was definitely inspired. And what was on our menu for Saturday night: Dutch Oven Chili with Cornbread and Baked Apples. Mmmmm… my mouth is still watering!
What size Dutch oven do you need?
The size of your oven will vary on need and use. Is it just for you and your family of four? Are you cooking for a crew? How many meals are you preparing? For my Dutch oven chili recipe, I was feeding 10 adults and 15 kids. I wish I had a 14-inch pot, but I only had 10-inchers.
So, I made two batches of chili, one with ground beef and the other with ground turkey (for my friends who don’t eat red meat). I also made one spicier than the other, which was great for the adults and kept the kid-friendly chili mild.
When it comes to baking cakes, especially the standard box mixes that make enough for a 2-layer cake, the 10-inch size works perfectly. Although my Baked Apples were wrapped in foil and baked in the coals, you could also bake them in a 10-inch Dutch oven.
Equipment needed to make this Dutch oven chili with cornbread
Since you’re most likely camping while you make this recipe, you’ll want to make sure you have all the equipment with you. Don’t worry – it’s not a complicated list:
- 10-inch Cast Iron Dutch Oven
- Charcoal Briquettes
- Chimney Charcoal Starter
- Long Metal Tongs
- Lid Lifter
- Sturdy Oven Mits
- Drain Pan
If a campfire ring is available, you will not need a drain pan. Remember never place hot coals on grass or directly on the ground. Light up coals in a chimney with the chimney in a campfire ring or drain pan.
You will also need the ingredients and equipment to prepare the chili with cornbread. If you do your prep work at home, for example chop all the vegetables and place them in resealable bags, then you don’t need to bother bringing a cutting board or knife. Here is the full list of what you will most likely need:
- mixing bowl
- long metal tongs or wooden spoon
- measuring spoons and cups
- chef knife
- cutting board
- can opener
Cooking with coals
The key to successful Dutch oven cooking is to control the heat. Light up the coal briquettes and get them good and ready in about 20 minutes. This is all prepared in the campfire ring, so you can also do with this with the ash and coals from your wood.
Remember not to place the Dutch oven directly over the flames, otherwise it can crack. Under each pot I had approximately 18 briquettes. You can also light a wood fire first and then lay the briquettes over the ash to get more heat.
You place the pots over the coals and cook like you do at home. We had a lot of wind going on so to keep the ash out, we would put the lids back on after each step.
How to make Dutch oven chili
Just like you were cooking at home, the chili gets cooked first and then the cornbread batter gets baked on top of it. To prepare the chili, first brown the onions and peppers. Once the vegetables are softened, add the ground meat and diced garlic. While the meat is browning, I added the seasoning.
Once the meat is browned it is time to add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, black beans and diced green chiles. Since our coals were pretty hot, we needed to add a little water to the chili because it was quickly loosing moisture. So pay attention to your heat and visual cues while you are cooking outdoors.
For the cornbread, we didn’t want to fuss with homemade cornbread. We had spent the river rafting and everyone was hot, tired and hungry. My co-chair for Saturday night’s dinner suggested Marie Callendar’s just-add-water cornbread mix. PERFECT!
I quickly mixed my cornbread batter and poured it over the chili. Follow the directions on the bag to prepare enough batter for a 9-inch square pan for each 10-inch Dutch oven. Put the lid on your dutch oven, place approximately 16 coals on top of the lid and your cornbread will be done in about 30 minutes.
I admit that I am not totally sure on the timing of everything, as it was getting dark and I didn’t have a watch on. Every now and then we would peek inside and check the status of the cornbread. The bread rose about 2 inches, so make sure you have enough room between the top of the chili and the top of your dutch oven.
Again, our fire was a bit on the hot side, we quickly removed the dutch oven off the coals and put it in the dirt, but left the coals on the lid. Overall, the cooking time was about an hour. We also had toppings for the campfire chili on hand: shredded cheese, sour cream and diced avocado with lime.
The chili was a hit and we had enough for our hungry crew of 10 – especially since we were famished from all that white water rafting that day.
You could do this at home, as well, with an oven safe pot. Just make the chili the same way and pour your cornbread mix on top. Put the whole pot in your oven and bake it uncovered per your cornbread recipes directions.
Now, in hindsight, starting a fire and cooking and eating chili after a 100ºF day probably wasn’t one of my best ideas. But, since we ate after sundown when the weather cooled off, the chili with cornbread hit the spot! It’s filling, super tasty, and easy to make especially if you are feeding a big and hungry crowd on a camping trip.
**NOTE** I have made this several times and it is still one of our favorite campfire meals!
Camping cookbook with more camping recipes
If you want a real chile pepper chili and with a homemade cornbread crust that is crazy good, you can find THAT recipe is in my new cookbook, The Camp & Cabin Cookbook (Countryman Press 2018). I have 100 recipes that are all prepared outdoors and over fire using multiple techniques, including the beloved Dutch oven. Learn more about my camp cookbook!
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded & diced
- 1 anaheim chile, seeded & diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded & diced
- 1 ½ lb ground turkey
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 TBS chile powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- 15 oz canned black beans, drained an rinsed
- 15 oz canned tomato sauce
- 15 oz canned diced tomatoes
- 3 oz chipotle chile in adobo sauce
- 4 oz green chiles, canned, drained & diced
- ½ cup water, if needed
- 1 box of cornbread mix
- In a fire ring or other fire-safe container add 35 charcoal briquettes.
- Light the briquettes and allow to heat up for approximately 20-30 minutes.
- When flames are down and coals are hot, place over the hot coals a 10-inch cast iron Dutch oven.
- Add olive oil into Dutch oven.
- Stir in diced onions, bell peppers, anaheim chile and jalapeño pepper.
- Cook until vegetables start to soften, approximately 5 minutes.
- Add ground turkey and garlic cloves to the vegetables and cook until meat is mostly browned.
- Season with chile powder, cumin and salt.
- Mix in beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chipotle chile and canned green chiles.
- If your coals are too hot you might need more water.
- Allow chili to simmer for at least 30 min or up to several hours. The longer the chili cooks, the more flavor the chili will have. If you are simmering the chili for hours, remove 10-15 coals from underneath the Dutch oven. Keep an eye on the coals and the heat while it cooks. You may need to to add new coals if the old ones die out.
- Mix together (per package directions 1 box of cornbread mix. There are brands that only require water to be added.
- Spread cornbread batter evenly over the top of your chili.
- Cover Dutch oven with lid and place approximately 16 hot coals on the lid.
- Allow chili and cornbread to cook until cornbread is browned and done, approximately 20-30 minutes.
If wind is blowing ashes around your fire, keep chili covered. Remember, when cooking do not place your Dutch oven directly over the flames because this will crack your pot.
You can also do this at home in the oven. Make sure you use an oven safe pot and bake the chili-cornbread uncovered per your cornbread recipe directions.
Serving Size:1 bowl
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 350Total Fat: 11.9gSaturated Fat: 3.7gTrans Fat: .3gUnsaturated Fat: 1.3gCholesterol: 60mgSodium: 985.4mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 4.3gSugar: 11.2gProtein: 21.8g