Whether you are camping or at home, make something special like this Dutch oven chili with cornbread where you bake the cornbread in the same pot as your chili! Also known as cowboy chili, you are sure to be a hit at the campground. Find more of my cast iron campfire Dutch oven recipes.
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?!
We recently bought some new Dutch ovens for our camping trips and they were begging to be used. And what was on our menu for Saturday night: Dutch oven chili with cornbread and Baked Apples. Mmmmm… my mouth is still watering!
Why you must try this recipe
The beauty of Dutch oven cooking is that you can feed your family or a small crowd, depending on the size pot you use. And of course, Dutch oven cooking is so crazy fun and perfect for camping.
Think of a Dutch oven as a small oven. You can cook with it as you cook in a regular pot on your stove at home, or you can bake with it like you would in your oven at home. From pineapple upside down cake to a peach crisp, you can make almost anything in a Dutch oven.
This cowboy chili recipe can easily be adapted and doubled if you need more. I made two pots for our group, where one was spicier than the other, since we were feeding kids. My favorite part of this recipe is the cornbread.
Because I was camping, I used cornbread mix that only required adding water to it. It was easy to mix in the great outdoors and poured it directly on top of the chili. The delicious cornbread bakes with the chili and turns out beautifully.
This is the ultimate one pot meal for camping!
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.
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If you camp a lot and you regularly camp with a crew, I suggest purchasing both a 10-inch and 12-inch Dutch oven. The quantities listed in this chili recipe is good for a 10-inch Dutch oven.
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
- Ground beef: You can use either ground beef, ground pork or ground turkey. You can also combine meats for more flavor.
- Peppers: I used a combination of red bell peppers, anaheim chile and jalapeños. Anaheim chiles are mild. If you want more heat, try medium or hot hatch chiles. If you do not want anything spicy, omit the jalapeño.
- Chipotle chile in adobo sauce: OMG this stuff is AMAZING! Yes, it is spicy but it is also smokey and has incredible flavor. Use sparingly if you don’t like spicy, but try not to omit altogether.
- Canned green chiles: This is optional, but by using a variety of different chiles and peppers your chili base will have incredible flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil: I cook exclusively with olive oil. This is used for sautéing so you can use canola, corn, avocado or any other vegetable oil.
- Onion: You can use brown, white or yellow onion.
- Garlic: I used fresh garlic, but since we’re camping, you could substitute with ½-1 teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Spices: Chile powder (mild or hot), cumin and salt.
- Pantry staples: Canned black beans, canned tomato sauce and canned diced tomatoes.
- Cornbread mix: To make camp cooking easier, I used a box mix of cornbread that only required water. I found Marie Callendar’s just-add-water cornbread mix and it was fabulous with our chili.
- Toppings: Serve with shredded cheese, sour cream and diced avocado with lime.
1. Prepare the 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.
2. Sauté the veggies. Add oil to the hot Dutch oven then add the chopped onions, peppers and chiles that you are using. Once the vegetables are softened, add your ground meat.
3. Brown the meat. Break down the meat while it cooks. Add your seasonings.
4. Break out the cans. Mix in beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chipotle in adobo and canned green chiles
5. Simmer. 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. Add more hot coals as you need them.
6. Bake cornbread. When your chili is almost ready, mix up the cornbread batter per package directions. 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.
Recipe tips and FAQs
You could also make this at home 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.
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 camping cookbook!
The cast iron Dutch oven is perfect for making chili. Always start with a well seasoned pot and you can cook most anything in your cast ironware. The walls of the Dutch oven retain heat beautifully giving you even heat for whatever you are cooking inside of it.
You can cook most anything in a cast iron Dutch oven, like stews to soups and chili. You can also bake bread, cakes, cobblers and cookies and in a Dutch oven too. Think of it as a small oven and you will see that you can make most anything in this versatile pot.
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Campfire Dutch Oven Cornbread Chili
Whether you are camping or at home, make something special like this Dutch oven chili with cornbread where you bake the cornbread in the same pot as your chili! Also known as cowboy chili, you are sure to be a hit at the campground.
- 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 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon 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
PS If you try this recipe, why not leave a star rating in the recipe card right below and/or a review in the comment section further down the page? I always appreciate your feedback.
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I’m not a campfire cook, but this looks good! I sometimes make a chili cobbler using biscuit dough — will have to replace it with cornbread.:-) So nice — thanks.
I’m planning to make this on our family camping trip next month. Is this kid friendly with the spice level?
You can use mild chile peppers and powders and it won’t be spicy at all. If you have someone who is super sensitive you can skip the jalapeño, but remember they aren’t super spicy. The chipotle chile in adobo sauce can be spicy, but it adds so much delicious smokiness. So you can either skip it or just add a little of the sauce. All the different kinds of peppers and chiles offer a different flavor profile, but only a few are spicy. I hope your family likes it!
Can I do this with just a cast iron skillet without a lid?
If you are cooking this at home in the oven, yes, you can use a cast iron skillet. But it needs to be deep enough to allow room for the cornbread to bake and rise. If it is not deep enough, the cornbread will bake and spill over and make a mess.