Turkey Chili with Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread

It’s rainy and chilly already here in Maine. September is in the air, with all that that entails. The tips and tops of trees are bursting red, school has started, everywhere new endeavors are being taken up as the season begins to wind down. It’s the perfect cozy day to curl up with a book – I’m reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Just Kids – and cook up a pot of comfort food. I’d been wanting to do a turkey chili for some time, because we lately love, love ground turkey, but I fear it has a real inferiority complex, and with good reason. Ground beef makes a deep, dark, earthy, hearty chili. White chicken with green peppers becomes a lighter and picante stew. Is there a place for the other poultry in the realm of kettle cooking? I think so.

The other part of today’s experiment is cornbread, a completely foreign object to me. I always like cooking something that holds no meaning or magic, no nostalgia factor or familiarity and judge it solely on its merits. This one is packed with heat and cheese, how could that be bad? I had wanted to improvise and my original idea was to make a jalapeno upside down cornbread and add kernels of fresh, sweet corn, but I was intimidated. How do you approach a new dish, strictly adhering to a recipe or improvising? I generally am a risk taker, a non-measurer, a real Coltrane without all the drugs and genius. But not today. I didn’t want to mess up. I wanted the bread to be perfect, or at least as close to that ideal. What would you have done?

Turkey Chili
Adapted from a recipe on Epicurious


  • glug of vegetable oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red Anaheim pepper, minced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 grated garlic cloves
  • 1.3 lbs ground turkey (85/15)
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large fresh tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • kernels from two ears of corn
  • 1 can Mexican beer
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 square semisweet dark chocolate, grated
  • salt and pepper


In a large Dutch oven, I heated oil and cooked the onions, peppers and garlic on high until glistening and golden, about ten minutes. Then I added the turkey right into the mix and browned. Then went the beer, tomato products, beans, corn, broth, chocolate, salt and spices. I brought it to a boil and turned down the heat to a simmer, where it sat on the stove, bubbling for three hours. It’s there now, reducing, thickening, getting good.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread
adapted from an Ina Garten recipe


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 3 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 3 chopped scallions, plus 1 more for the top
  • 3 tablespoons minced jalapenos
  • spray oil to grease the pan


I combined the dry ingredients (flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt) in one bowl, the wet (butter, milk and eggs) in another, and in a third bowl two cups of the cheese, scallions and jalapeno. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, until just moistened and mixed through, then add the cheese and veggies. Allow the mixture to sit for twenty minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan. (I only have a 9 x 9, so I reserved some of the batter). Pour batter into the pan, sprinkle with remaining cheese and the chopped scallion. Bake for 30-35 minutes, then cool and cut into squares.

I just came home from dance class and had a huge, juicy piece of cornbread. This stuff is good. Really good. Moist and rich, as you might expect from a cake with two sticks of butter and three cups of cheese. The chili is nice and spicy, but not burn your guts hot. Served with a dollop of sour cream, a squeeze of lime, and a slice of avocado, this is going to serve us well all through the wet and rainy second week of so-called autumn. I hope you like it. What are your favorite fall chili recipes?

Jillian Bedell

Jillian Bedell is a writer and mother living in a farmhouse in Cushing, Maine. She is very good at talking about herself in the third person. She is co-author of Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road.


  1. I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that the boxed Wick Fowler’s chili kit is my go-to.

    We had it (made with ground beef) once a week or so when I was young, over broad egg-noodles. My mom’s cooking was unremarkable and I only remember a few things being in rotation, but the definition of chili to me will always be that kit, for better or worse. I love chili of all kinds (and have since converted to ground turkey), but when I see the word, I recall one distinct aroma – and then I reflexively squint a little from the memory of the ever-so-slightly flickering fluorescent lighting in that kitchen. This recipe inspires me, though, like many of the recipes you guys post… perhaps it’s time I branch out a bit.

    The cornbread sounds kickass, too! I have a few jalapenos in the garden that I need to pick and use, and all the other fixins are ready to go… hmmm, Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread for dinner? Yes, yes, that sounds good.

    1. Oh yes, this cornbread is good, very good. I’ll be making it again – soon. I was nervous about 2 tablespoons of baking powder being a typo, but clearly it’s not. Ab-fab.

  2. I made these yesterday and they both turned out great. The cornbread, in particular, was extraordinary and will forever take the place of my previous cornbread recipe. I did end up with a disproportionate amount of cornbread to chili using these recipes as is, so I’d probably cut the cornbread recipe down by 1/3 next time. Love the site and thanks for sharing!

  3. My husband who is from Maine found your site checking out hogies.. Your site is wonderful and making him very very homesick . In any case since we have had a full week of rain and flooding your chili and bread sound so good that I will be doing it tomorrow . I never tried beer in chili nor put that much butter in corn bread .. it is going to be some eating

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Pat. The cornbread is incredibly rich, but so delicious it’s worth a few extra minutes on the treadmill!

  4. Making the cornbread tonight with the acclaimed white bean chicken chili! P.S. are you supposed to put the cheese on top? I mixed mine in and now just saw the picture…

  5. About the corn bread: Cooking is an art, but BAKING is a science. If you get the proportions of fat, leavening and dry ingredients wrong, you end up with something inedible. While I’m willing to wing it when I’m cooking, I always follow the directions to a T when I’m baking something for the first time.

  6. The cornbread recipe from Cooks Country

    is amazing and 99{3d9e2dd3ff4a6ad7c579f6992fba32c39af0ae46cb1a0bfdb9adec03cc9df88f} foolproof. I would add 2 – 4 diced jalapenos for a little zip.
    The readers will have to sign up for a free trial to get the actual recipe but it is worth it. I copied their objective in creating the recipe for your convience. I hope you and your readers will try it because they will really enjoy the cornbread.

    From Cooks Country
    We wanted to develop a proper Southern cornbread recipe that made cornbread with hearty corn flavor, a sturdy, moist crumb, and a dark brown crust that would win Northern allegiance. Finely ground Quaker cornmeal gave our cornbread the right texture, and dry-toasting the cornmeal in the oven for five minutes intensified the corn flavor. Buttermilk, which tasters preferred to milk, added a sharp tang that worked well with the corn. When it came to fat selection, a combination of butter (for flavor) and vegetable oil (which can withstand high heat without burning) worked best in our Southern-Style Skillet Cornbread recipe.

    While any 10-inch ovensafe skillet will work here, our first choice (for both tradition and function) is a cast-iron skillet. Avoid coarsely ground cornmeal, as it will make the corn bread gritty.

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