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Sweet & Spicy Chili Polenta

Our whole family LOVES this customizable chili and polenta dish!

Course Main Dish
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 4 to 5
Author Janssen Bradshaw



  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/2 red, orange or yellow bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 - 1 tablespoon chili powder depending on how spicy you like things
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 14.5- oz can tomato sauce


  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Diced red onion
  • Diced avocado
  • Corn chips


Chili instructions:

  1. In a medium-large saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat and then stir in the onions and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about five minutes. Add the garlic and let cook for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir in the spices and then add the tomato paste. Cook about 2 minutes, then add the ground beef. Let the beef cook mostly through, then add the sugar and tomato sauce. Stir to combine, then bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook on medium-low for about 15 minutes. Salt to taste.

Polenta instructions:

  1. While the chili simmers, make the polenta.
  2. Warm the water and milk over medium heat in a saucepan, then stir in the cornmeal (every recipe I've ever read says to bring the liquid to a boil before adding the cornmeal, but when I do that, I can't keep the cornmeal from forming lumps, so I always add it while it's warm but not simmering or boiling).
  3. Stir until smooth, then let it cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently to keep the bottom from burning. Be careful, because it pops out of the pan a lot!
  4. Reduce the heat, and stir in the butter and cheese until melted, then salt to taste.

To serve:

  1. In a bowl or on a plate, layer the polenta, then the chili, followed by your desired toppings.

Recipe Notes

(adapted from How Sweet It Is)