It might be hard to dig into this Vegetarian Skillet Chili—not because it’s bad but because it just looks so amazing. If the first bite is with the eyes, as they say, then this is a visual feast only matched by how it tastes. The golden medallions of sweet, savory, and cheesy cornbread sit atop the spicy, hearty, and bright vegetable chili, which is just so filling and flavorful you won’t even notice it doesn’t have any meat in it. Pretty as a picture and tasty as only a chili can be, Vegetarian Skillet Chili shows that meat-free can be majestic!

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For the chili:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound store-bought diced butternut squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • kosher salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes with chiles, drained
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 ounces baby spinach

For the cornbread topping:

  • 3/4 cup fine cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream, plus more for serving
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup cheddar, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • pickled jalapeños, optional, for serving


Step 1 –Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Step 2 –Heat the vegetable oil in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.

Step 3 –Add the squash, the salt, and the pepper to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender and browned in some spots, about 6-8 minutes.

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Step 4 –Set the squash aside.

Step 5 –Reduce the heat to medium.

Step 6 –Add the garlic and the onion to the same pan and cook, while stirring often, until the onion has softened and the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes.

Step 7 –Add the chili powder and the cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Step 8 –Add the vegetable stock, the tomatoes, the beans, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, and the cooked squash and bring the chili to a simmer.

Step 9 –Cook the chili until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 30 minutes.

Step 10 –Gradually stir in the spinach until wilted, about 2-3 minutes.

Step 11 –Whisk the cornmeal, the flour, the baking soda, the sugar, and the salt together in a bowl until combined.

Step 12 –In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, the sour cream, and the egg together.

Step 13 –Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.

Step 14 –Stir the cheddar cheese and the melted butter into the cornbread mixture.

Step 15 –Dollop spoonfuls of the cornbread mixture over the chili, leaving spaces in between.

Step 16 –Bake on the center rack of the oven until the cornbread is golden, about 18 minutes.

Step 17 –Serve with the extra sour cream and the pickled jalapeños.