Chili Cheese Polenta Bowls.
Yes jars. Jars are more fun. Jars are more trendy. Jars are more 2014. Or maybe, like, 2011 and I’m just way behind. Yeah. Probably that. What will we be putting food in come 2015?
You can put this in a bowl though. I allow it. I just neeeeeeded you to see the layering of this cheesy polenta, chili, cheese, limes, chips and all that. It’s what makes this so much fun.
Speaking of chips, I shared a sneak peek of this on instagram last week and a bunch of you asked if I made homemade fritos. Um. No. I wish! I wonder if that is possible? Like real, legit fritos and not just something that says it will be like fritos and then tastes exactly nothing like real life fritos. I will say that I probably hadn’t eaten a frito since sneaking them out of Mother Lovett’s snack cupboard like ten years ago. But I found myself buying a bag, opening it up and piling them on top of this chili.
And eating fifty thousand and thirty two.
Normally we just use regular tortilla chips, like the super thin crisp ones with a little salt on them that are so perfect for guacamole? Those. They are delicious.
Sometimes though, I can get behind a frito on chili. With cheese.
So this is a super small batch of chili… and it’s actually beanless. I love beans in chili and rarely make a pot without them, but this was a quick one I wanted to throw together with chunky tomatoes and ground beef. I definitely stand firm in the camp that chili tastes so much better once it sits – once it simmers – even the next day or two once all those flavors go crazy together.
Eddie really loves chili. And surprisingly, I find it to be a fast, easy meal I can throw together on a weeknight. Sure, it’s not like the most fabulous four day slow-cooked chili that will win you ten awards and that needs to be tended to every hour. But it’s still pretty darn good as far as fast trashed chili goes. This small batch will last us about two days, which is nice since I usually make a gigantic pot that is atrociously embarrassing and spits tomato sauce all over the entire kitchen and then crowds our freezer for three months. When I don’t know what else to make? It’s what I throw together.
Let’s talk about what really makes the chili though? And in turn, these polenta chili bowls?
And not JUST the fritos. I find that all of these things together – “together” being the operative word her – are imperative to a killer bowl of chili. I like red onion, but in a really small dice. I prefer chives over scallions. Sour cream or greek yogurt, which ever your want. Tonssssss of white cheddar cheese, freshly grated. If you do one thing, please do not buy bagged cheese. I beg of you. Nothing melts like freshly grated cheese.
The fritos, yes. Don’t forget. Or another chips of your choice for crunch. And cilantro, because some of us just looooove when our chili tastes like soap. Oh and limes! Don’t leave out the limes. A spritz of a slice is perfect and can add a ton of flavor.
Now this is totally going to be your dinner tonight. Right?
Chili Cheese Polenta
small batch chili
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 sweet onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 8 ounces ground beef, I used 90% lean
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 1 (14.5 oz) can tomato puree
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 3/4 cup polenta, coarse grind cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 ounces pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 6 ounces white cheddar cheese, freshly grated
- 1/3 cup sour cream or greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup diced red onion
- 1/4 cup freshly snipped chives
- a few handfuls of corn chips
- sliced limes for spritzing
small batch chili
- In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, peppers and garlic. Stir to coat in the oil then cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, paprika, chili powder, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Add in the tomato paste. Stir well to distribute the spices and paste, cooking for another 5 minutes. Add in the ground beef and break it apart with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef cooks through, about 10 minutes.
- Add in the sugar, canned tomatoes and puree, stirring well. Bring the soup to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes or so. After 30 minutes, taste and season additionally if desired. Sometimes I like to add more cumin, salt or pepper. Go by your tastes!
- While the chili is simmering, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a saucepan. Slowly whisk in the polenta Turn the heat down to medium low and continue to stir until the mixture thickens. Once the mixture has come together and the cornmeal is thoroughly combined, reduce the heat to low and cover. Cook until the polenta is creamy and resembles the consistency of oatmeal, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes. If at any time the polenta looks parched, dry or too thick, add in some extra chicken stock ¼ cup at a time. After 30 minutes, stir in the butter, cheese, salt and pepper.
- To serve, spoon the polenta into bowls, jars or cups. Cover with a hearty helping of chili (add some cheese in between if desired), then add all the toppings: cheese, sour cream, cilantro, red onion, chives and chips. EAT.
Did you make this recipe?
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I appreciate you so much!
because it’s the cutest.
60 Comments on “Chili Cheese Polenta Bowls.”
Ok, i NEED these.
You’re right, it is absolutely the cutest.
Would it hold up to a few hours in a thermos, do you think? It’s be a perfect lunch for my SO next week if it would!
What is it about food in a jar that makes it so much more fun to eat? So cute! This looks amazing, Jessica!
Jars definitely make everything more fun!! Love the chili and polenta combo in these!
So I made the BBQ Chicken Chili from your cookbook and had been wondering what to do with the leftovers. [I made a homemade chipotle BBQ sauce in it, which add the perfect bit of spice!] This sounds perfect to change up my leftovers :D
that is such a great idea!
wow that looks really delicious!!!
Wow. There is so much going on here and I want it all!!
well that right there is beautiful!! Mmmm .. I LOVE chili, I haven’t made a pot in ages!
This looks amazing!! Also how excited are you for the Sephora VIB sale, would love to know what you have your eye on (not that I really need to add more things to my list ha)
GAHHH I know. I really am just getting some replacement things because I have some bigger expenses to focus on with the baby coming (furniture, stroller, etc)! I’m going to get anastasia brow gel, too faced chocolate bronzer, sugar fresh advanced lip therapy balm, caudalie toner, nars shadow primer.
Last year I did a post on it (I really wish I had time this year but I don’t, WAH) and pretty much everything I mention is still stuff I’d recommend! http://www.howsweeteats.com/2013/11/sephora-vib-sale-wish-list/
What are you getting?!
Totally understand! I got the Caudalie toner per your suggestion, Sisheido eye cream, Makeup For Ever foundation and stocked up on some mascara! The store looks so cute all decorated for Christmas it was dangerous!
Oh my word! this is seriously made for me. I absolutely love anything in the grits texture family, especially when mixed with something as fabulous as chili.
I will be making ASAP!
Chili ON polenta????? NEED. Jars will forever live on in my life.
Hey I need to cook this, I never imagined to cook polenta this way. I’m half italian, the only polenta that I have eaten is the traditional one.
I have never been the hugest fan of Fritos and then I eat one and end up eating 50 bajillion. What the heck why does that happen?! This looks delish.
OMG i am the exact same way. i do this with popcorn too.
I love polenta. I love chili. I love fritos. This is AWESOME. Also, I still like to think of jars as “in” too, but I’m always way behind! :) These pictures are the prettiest EVER, btw!
Polenta = my fav. Chili = husband’s fav. The two together = everyone’s happy.
Yum yum yum! x
I wanted to tell you – I got home last night from work (exhausted, and cranky) and my husband had cooked your black bean tacos with mango and tomato salsa from your cookbook (that I bought a while ago and have been wanting to make everything from but just haven’t had the time!) as a surprise dinner. It was THE BEST thing I could have come home to (especially because my husband is a mess in the kitchen usually). Even he couldn’t mess them up. Delicious!!
I need to make this! My Hubby will love it!
#beastmode with this baby, lovvvving the use of jars!!
and uch SONS girrrrl!!! Unser is soooooo close to figuring it all out!
This. Looks. Amazing!!! You had me at polenta, but that chili and cheese. Yum!
ooh, good question, what WILL we be putting food into next year? maybe in big sideways glass bottles with small necks; the kind people built little wooden ships in. i’m calling it right now. it’ll be the food blogging trend by summer of 2015. either that or glass slippers or freakin’ terrariums.
No kidding, but I was just thinking yesterday (11/5) that it would be great if you did something with polenta. What does that mean? ha!
OMG polenta, jars and chili?! Sounds like my kinda party!
you had me at polenta…and chilli, and limes and frito-freakin-chips!!
This is a must!! looks delish. I am a firm believer that layered food MUST be stored in glass jars. hellooo? why hide all that yummy pretty goodness. We eat with our eyes too, man!
YOU ARE CRAZY AND I ♥ YOU
Duh! Chili is totally all about the toppings, always!!! Oh and in this case it is all about that base too!
I eat juuuuuust about everything, but have always hated chili. Something about the texture of the beans, I just can’t do it. So yay for beanless chili! Going to test run this while watching college football this weekend.
Yuuuuum! This looks amazing! I’m also so guilty of making an atrociously large batch of soup, chili, etc. that hoards the fridge for daaaaaaaaaaaaayz. Ugh. Now i want chili & fritos!
This is damn amazinG! You’re recipes are just the best. I recently made a polenta recipe but wiht mushroms, standard. This however is fun delicious and a special recipe. Legend!
Polenta and chili sounds like a cool-weather match made in heaven! I want ALLLL the cilantro on mine. :)
Shut the front door. you had me at polenta
This looks amazing! Do you think I could replace the ground beef with a can of beans? I’m a vegetarian.
If anyone was going to re-create fritos and actually have them taste like fritos, it would be you! Um, this is pretty amazing and I’m pretty upset considering I made polenta bowls for dinner but mine just had roasted veggies, chickpeas, and sauce…pretty upset I didn’t read this first!
Yessssss…this looks amazing! Love the idea of chili with polenta…don’t know why I’ve never thought of that!!
Cute lil jars of chili polenta is a reason to celebrate on Friday!
So we just had chili (with cornbread) for dinner for the past two nights but after seeing this…I could definitely head back into the chili camp again tonight!
this looks like a lot of work, but i’m going to try it anyway. it’s too cute not to!
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I LOVE everything about this post. Can’t wait to try the recipe and your images are simply gorgeous!
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I made this on Saturday with my boyfriend. I was going to take a photo to post on your facebook wall since I know you love seeing readers create your recipes, but it was so good we ate it before I had my phone out! Also, obviously we were unable to arrange it as beautifully as you always do (we just pretty much piled everything on top of each other and ATE!).
Random cooking fact: When we made it, my boyfriend was like: “Did you do wrong conversions (to metric units)?? Does it really ask for that much cheese in the polenta?” and I was like… “Um… You should know Jessica by now!!!” And then when we ate it, he totally loved the amount of cheese :D
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The food looks great but I have to comment on the picture of Lincoln. What a beautiful photo! I’m a grandma but grand
children are teenagers and I love that you share moments with Lincoln on this blog.
Wrong blog.Thought I was still on Iowa Girl eats.
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So if you happen to be one of those crazy people who totally does not love or even like polenta…. What would you recommend serving this awesome chili with this.
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