One Pot Veggie Chili Cornbread Casserole Over the Open Fire

For your next camping trip or cookout, whip up this three bean chili with cornbread topping. Vegetarian camping food at its most comforting!

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man stoking campfire with pot of three bean chili suspended over it

Man, all this talk about getting older, family members passing away, and animal cruelty is exhausting. How about we keep this one light today, cool? Cool, because I’m about to overload you with photos from our trip last month!

People always talk about apple picking this time of year, but what about camping? For some reason, camping gets lumped into summer activities, but have you ever tried to go camping in July? If the heat doesn’t eat you alive, then the bugs will. So many people I talk to won’t go camping after Labor Day even though this is the best time of year to be outside.

What is better than spending all day hiking around in the woods while the leaves change colors? And what is better than getting a huge fire going to keep you warm in the evenings and to roast your ‘mallows over? And what is better than zipping two sleeping bags together so you have to snuggle really close to your significant other to keep warm at night? Not much if you ask me.

pile of campfire logs

We were staying at a cabin when we whipped up this three bean chili recipe, but it would also be so easy to make out in the woods with a little beforehand prep. Measure out the dry ingredients for the cornbread and stick them in a gallon bag labeled ‘cornbread’. You’ll then be able to just dump your wet ingredients into the bag and mix it altogether right before throwing over the chili. 

I’d also suggest measuring out the spices for the chili beforehand and sticking in a little baggie. You should be able to pick up a little travel size vegetable broth carton and even a small non-dairy milk carton that won’t need to be refrigerated. You can slice the vegetables beforehand if needed or just bring a small knife and find a somewhat clean flat surface to chop them up on.

And finally, camping is fun and meant to be relaxing so don’t take the campfire chili recipe too seriously! You don’t need to actually measure out 1/4 cup olive oil — just eyeball it! Same goes for most of the other ingredients listed below — chili has a way of being fantastic even if something is off by a teaspoon or two, so no need to be exact.

photo collage showing a man starting a fire and a pot of veggies for chili

What’s Needed for Campfire Three Bean Chili?

This camping chili recipe has two main components: the vegetarian black bean chili itself and the cornbread topping that gets cooked along with it. Here’s what you’ll need to make this three bean chili with cornbread topping:

  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Bell peppers
  • Garlic
  • Herbs and spices (chili powder, oregano, cumin, cayenne)
  • Black beans
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Vegetable broth
  • Salsa
  • Canned corn
  • Cornmeal
  • All-purpose flour
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Butter
  • Maple syrup
  • Milk
woman stirring pot of three bean chili over campfire

How to Make Chili Over a Campfire

This three bean chili and cornbread comes together easily and requires minimal babysitting. I’ve included detailed instructions on how to make campfire chili in the recipe card below, but here’s an overview of the process:

  1. Place a cast iron pot over your campfire.
  2. Sauté onions, peppers, and garlic until softened.
  3. Mix in the remaining chili ingredients.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cornbread ingredients.
  5. Lightly spread the cornbread batter over the three bean chili.
  6. Cover the pot with a lid and let cook for roughly 20 minutes, or until the cornbread is done.
photo collage showing how to make camping chili

How Will I Know the Cornbread is Done?

You’ll know the cornbread topping is finished cooking when it’s no longer wet in the middle. It’s the same logic you use when baking a cake — if the middle of the cornbread isn’t set or looks raw, it’s not ready to eat.

Can I Use Different Chili Beans?

Of course! I used three cans of black beans since that’s what I had on hand, but you can use any mixture of beans you’d like. Think: kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, and so on.

campfire with pot of three bean chili suspended over top

Tips for Making Campfire Chili

Be sure to use a heavy bottomed cast iron pot for this campfire three bean chili with cornbread topping. If you don’t use a cast iron pot, your camping chili will likely scorch on the bottom.

If you don’t feel like making the cornbread topping, that’s totally fine! This recipe makes a delicious vegetarian black bean chili as is!

As I mentioned above, campfire recipes are made even easier when you prep the ingredients beforehand. Mix together all the spices, the cornbread ingredients, etc. so that all you have to do once you’re at your campsite is dump everything into the pot.

pile of campfire logs in forest
lake with trees around it
photo collage of camping trip
bowl of campfire chili with cornbread topping

Want More Vegetarian Chili Recipes?

5 from 1 vote
One-Pot Campfire Three Bean Chili with Cornbread Topping
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
20 mins
Total Time
35 mins

A hearty three bean chili and cornbread recipe that can be made over an open fire in one pot.

Course: Main, Soup
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Keyword: chili, cornbread
Servings: 6
Author: Shelly Westerhausen
For the chili:
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion , chopped
  • 2 bell peppers , chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves , minced (feel free to substitute in 3 teaspoons garlic powder if camping)
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3- 15 oz cans black beans , drained
  • 1-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 8 oz jar salsa
  • 1 can corn , drained
For the cornbread:
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 butter , melted (or vegetable oil if it's easier for camping since it won't need to be refrigerated)
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 cups milk *
  1. Place a cast iron pot over your open fire (I used this but some campsites have a grill grate already at the site).

  2. Sauté onions, peppers, and garlic until softened and fragrant (about 5 minutes but it'll all depend on how hot your fire is).

  3. Next, mix in chili powder, cumin, oregano, cayenne, beans, vegetable broth, tomatoes, salsa, and corn. Bring to a boil.
  4. Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.
  5. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the melted butter, maple syrup, and milk.
  6. Slowly whisk together the wet ingredients and then start incorporating the dry ingredients as you whisk until a thick batter as formed.
  7. Lightly spread evenly over the chili mixture to create a cornbread top and cover.
  8. Let simmer for 20 minutes (but check often as fires are unpredictable and could cook faster or sooner).
  9. Remove from heat once the cornbread is cooked all the way through and enjoy!
Recipe Notes

*I suggest getting a non-dairy travel size milk carton if camping since it doesn't have to be refrigerated.



  • Warm Vanilla Sugar
    September 28, 2014

    This is such a fun post, and I love that cooking contraption you guys used! Lovely recipe 🙂

  • molly yeh
    September 28, 2014

    you cooked dinner over a fire every night??! save for the random hot dog roast, i don’t think i’ve ever done that! i am so with you on the whole fall camping/camp fires are far superior to the buggy summer ones. i might have to set up camp in my backyard. and i love that you cook the cornbread on top of the chili– my mom does that too! such a fun post, shelly!!!!

  • afracooking
    September 28, 2014

    After just returning from a holiday that involved a two day hike into the mountains with a gas burner (and pot noodles) I decided I need more recipes for camp fires, gas burners, hikes etc. And voila, here you are posting this amazing dish. Love the bread topping! (Cannot wait to go on holiday again)

  • Millie | Add A Little
    September 28, 2014

    Looks amazing! I love the look of the chilli and the cornbread can easily be veganised which I love!

  • Ksenia @ At the Immigrant's Table
    September 28, 2014

    Earlier this month, we also spent a week camping. Tofu, beans, and bread have made frequent appearances, though never in chilli and cornbread form. Leaves something to aspire to for next time!

  • Grace
    September 29, 2014

    I need all this in my life right now. We had planned a mountain camping trip for this weekend but had to reschedule – life and its craziness got in the way. So I’m taking an extra moment to soak up all these beautiful pictures! And that chili looks like the perfect thing for this dark and rainy Monday – yum!

  • Alanna Taylor-Tobin
    September 29, 2014

    Genius! I can’t believe how good that bowl of cornbread topped chili looks, and it’s so simple. Camping suddenly sounds quite appealing (though I may have to cheat and make this in my oven instead…)

  • Vanessa @ VeganFamilyRecipes
    October 1, 2014

    Your pictures are absolutely stunning! I’ve never much been into camping but if I know I can make a bowl of chili that looks that good in the woods then I might be convinced. Great recipe!

  • dinnersforwinners
    October 1, 2014

    ummm AMAZING. Love your photos, love this fire-cooked chili!

  • Valentina @Hortus
    June 25, 2015

    That place looks amazing! As does the chilli! I’ve never had the all-american experience of outdoor camping, but I’d really love to – especially now that I see all the camping + grilling posts popping up! I love the idea of cooking on an open fire. It’s truly wonderful to stop and reconnect with nature for a few days 🙂

    • Shellywest
      Valentina @Hortus
      July 1, 2015

      Couldn’t agree more! Hope this inspired you enough to plan a little weekend trip! : )

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  • Callie
    March 24, 2018

    This looks amazing! I’m excited to try it out! Does anyone know how many this feeds?

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  • Alexo
    February 10, 2021

    It looks pretty amazing! I love the way how cornbread can easily be veganised

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