Chili + Cayenne Cornbread Sticks

Three cheers for chilly (and chili!) weather everyone! I mean really. I can’t think of something as comforting as chili during this season. It’s pretty darn great. And cornbread to go with it is just a bonus. Especially in the shape of mini corn cobs. Who could resist that?

I used to hate chili when I was younger. Big chili beans were just gross, and it all looked so messy. Such a gloopy mess of red sauce, ground meat, pale sour cream, and slightly soggy crackers. My dad, the usual chili preparer, forced me to give it a whirl, insisting that I would love it. I finally gave in, and I never looked back! I became a true chili-convert. The spice, savory-ness, and contrast with a creamy dollop of sour cream will seriously never get old. It’s the freaking best!

Of course I was always a cornbread lover. I think it began when I realized that cornbread essentially gives you an excuse to eat something smothered with honey for dinner. I bet you can figure out why I caught on to that tip really quickly. As someone that still skips meals for candy bars, it’s an ongoing problem ;). Until you make cornbread from scratch, and not from a mix, however, you never realize how cool of an ingredient cornmeal is.

Cornmeal is basically dried corn kernels that have been ground up with some separation of the parts to go to different products. That ground corn is made up of primarily carbohydrates such as starch or cellulose. What this blend doesn’t have is gluten. Gluten is the protein network most commonly encountered in wheat flour that is responsible for that lovely matrix in breads and doughs. Because cornmeal doesn’t have any gluten, it doesn’t form the protein network. That lends itself to some crumbly foods…such as corn bread! No protein holding everything together, no complexed elastic bread! Most recipes do need some sort of structure, so often a 50:50 mix of wheat flour and cornmeal is used.

This cornbread is delightfully spicy which is perfect for a kick after an initial sweet taste from the corn (or honey!). Also this chili can be made vegan! Simply omit the ground hamburger and add some diced green pepper, for flavor, when you add the beans in the recipe.

This combo is best enjoyed with friends (perhaps in front of televised sporting events or Halloween movies?) or packed away for a not-sad desk lunch!

Tenney Chili

Makes 1 large pot, enough for about 12

1 pound lean ground beef

1 yellow onion, diced

Olive oil

1 28 ounce can tomato sauce

1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes

2 16 ounce cans dark kidney beans, drained

2 16 ounce cans medium chili beans

Seasoning (approximate amounts, adjust to your liking!)

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

1. In a large pot, add a splash of olive oil (about ½ tablespoon) and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and stir occasionally, softening for about 10 minutes. Add your ground beef and brown it. Use a wooden spoon to break up the meat into smaller chunks. Once all of the meat is no longer pink or light grayish, you are ready to move on.

2. To the pot, add the rest of the ingredients. You should only drain the dark kidney beans prior to adding them. Don’t drain the other cans! The seasonings should be added now to develop in flavor. You can always add more later.

3. Bring the chili to a boil, reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 3-4 hours. At 2 hours, I like to check the flavors and add more if you want it punchier. Sometimes I’ll end up doubling the amounts depending on how I feel. This is where you get to personalize away!

4. Once the flavors and textures are where you want them (at least 3, but 4 hours is best!), remove the lid from the pot. Continue to heat, uncovered, to thicken the chili. This could take 1-1 ½ more hours depending on your heat, preference, and patience. You can increase the heat to help this bit along faster, but I find that it can be easy to burn the bottom.

5. Serve with your choice of toppings including, but not limited to, a dollop of sour cream, chopped green onion, and shredded cheddar cheese.

Cayenne Cornbread Sticks

Adapted from Epicurious

Makes about 14 sticks (in a cast iron pan!)

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 cup flour

¼ cup brown sugar

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 ¼ cup buttermilk, room temperature (or make your own: 2 tablespoons vinegar in a glass measuring cup, fill with milk to the 1 cup mark for 1 cup + ½ tablespoon vinegar and add milk to the ¼ cup mark)

¼ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to just above room temp

1 large egg

1 cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese (please don’t used packaged cheese for this one! It may cause adverse effects due to the starch that is added to keep the cheese from sticking)

1. Preheat your oven to 425⁰F. Brush the pans with vegetable oil or coconut oil.

2. Mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, soda, salt, and cayenne pepper together in a large bowl. Set aside.

3. In a smaller bowl, whisk the buttermilk, butter, and egg together. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredient mixture. Stir in the grated cheese. If the mixture is really stiff, add a tablespoon of milk/buttermilk. The mixture should be pretty thick, but slightly pourable.

4. Eight minutes before you are ready to bake, put your cast iron into the oven to briefly preheat. After those eight minutes, take the cast iron mold out and fill to the top with batter. Be careful because it will be hot!

5. Bake the corn sticks for about 10-12 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for about ten minutes. Gently remove the sticks from the mold using a knife to lift out the edges. Serve warm…with a drizzle of honey and a bowl of chili!




  1. I want this so much right now! Isn’t it funny that as children food can look like this mysterious, inedible, gloopy mess, and then as adults it is the most delicious experience. For me it was chunky tomato sauce. I would cringe watching my parents take forkfuls of exploded tomatoes and chunks of meat. I’m glad I grew out of that! These cornbreads are so super cute. The only problem with this post is that I am sitting here without any chili, cornbread, or prospects of either arghhh!

    • Kelsey
      October 18

      Oh I used to hate tomato sauce unless it was basically strained! I’m so glad that goes away :) Thanks Kathryn!

  2. Can you believe that I have never tried cornbread before?? I think that it just isn’t really a thing in Canada… I am going to go out looking for cornmeal!

    • Kelsey
      October 18

      Whoa no cornbread in Canada?! Cathleen, you need to go try this ASAP! :) xoxo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *