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Cowboy cornbread casserole in a cast-iron skillet.

Cowboy Cornbread Casserole


This flavorful cowboy cornbread casserole is an easy weekday dinner. It’s a savory 2-layer dish featuring chili beans topped with golden buttery cornbread. It’s hearty, delicious and extra comforting. 


Units Scale

Meaty Chili Beans

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/12 pounds lean ground beef
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 (packed) teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (7-ounce) can fire-roasted diced green chiles
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (8.75-ounce) can sweet whole-kernel corn, drained
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth, or more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Cornbread Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup yellow corn meal
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Optional Garnishes

  • Sour Cream
  • Cherry Tomatoes, diced
  • Italian Parsley
  • Fresh Jalapeño, sliced
  • Haas Avocado, sliced or diced
  • Limes, cut into wedges for squeezing


Make Meaty Chili Beans

RECIPE PREP: Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. Add olive oil to a large Dutch oven over medium heat. When the oil shimmers, add onion and minced garlic with a small pinch of salt. Sauté until almost tender.
  2. Add meat to the pot with a small pinch of salt, and cook until browned with no more pink (about 5 to 7 minutes). While cooking, use a wooden spatula to break up meat into small pieces. Drain off any excess fat.
  3. Add all the spices and sugar to the pot. Stir to incorporate. Add in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes with all their juices, kidney beans, black beans, corn, chicken broth, and apple cider vinegar. Stir to combine. Bring the chili to a light boil. Then reduce the heat to simmer.
  4. Cover the pot. Let chili simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, so the flavors can combine. We want the chili to thicken in preparation for the cowboy casserole, but if it’s becoming too thick then stir in a bit more chicken broth until it’s the perfect consistency.
  5. Do a taste test. Add more seasonings and spices, if needed. Add shredded cheese to the pot and fold it in.

Prep Cornbread Batter

  1. Combine dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder and salt) in a medium mixing bowl. 
  2. Crack eggs into a small bowl and whisk briefly. Add milk, oil, and melted butter. Whisk to combine.
  3. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Mix just until blended. Do not overmix.

Assemble Cowboy Cornbread Casserole

  1. Ladle chili into a large cast-iron skillet, leaving room for the cornbread topping. In a 12-inch skillet,  most of the chili should fit, with room for the cornbread topping. If using an 11-inch skillet, you may have about 2 cups of chili leftover. (No oven-safe skillet? Use a 9×13 baking dish that’s been greased with butter.)
  2. Carefully pour the cornbread batter over the chili. With the back of a spoon, spread it to the edges of the skillet so the chili is completely covered.
  3. Bake for 17 to 22 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean. 
  4. If desired, lightly butter the top of the cowboy casserole. Let it cool for 5 minutes before slicing or scooping. Serve with your favorite garnishes.


Why start with a Dutch oven then transfer chili to a skillet? Most cowboy casseroles are not made with full-on flavorful chili beans like our recipe. They cook meat and onion in a skillet, then pour cornbread batter over the top and bake. Our recipe uses more tasty ingredients, and may take 15 to 20 minutes longer than the others, but the end result is absolutely worth it!

  • Prep Time: 5 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 Minutes
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop & Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Cowboy Cornbread Casserole, Cornbread Cowboy Casserole, Beans and Cornbread