Spicy Quinoa Chili & Cornbread

Before we talk about how great quinoa is in chili (spoiler alert – it’s great), let’s talk about silly things kids do.

Today, we had our first real “crayon meets wall” incident.  To be more precise, crayons meets WALLS. Like, every wall. In every room.

Every. Single. Room.

Pink crayon in a continuous trail across my newly refinished, distressed toy cupboard, down the entire length of the hallway wall in a lovely undulating pattern, up as high as a very tall almost-4-year-old can reach in a flower pattern in her bedroom, across the bathroom cupboards, walls, toilet, and bathtub.  I think the only room she missed was the kitchen. She managed to do all this “art” in a matter of less than 5 minutes.

You may recall that we moved into our house less than 6 months ago. And painted every. single. room. Guess what we’ll be doing again?

Argggh. Sometimes as a parent you are so surprised and exhausted at the thought of what awaits that you can’t even be angry. Especially when looking at that sad, guilty little face that thought she was being “just like dad”, carrying her “tools” and making marks on the walls.  This was so completely out of character for her, and as soon as she saw our faces she was devastated and sorry and desperate for snuggles of reconciliation, but still. So. Many. Walls.  At least she managed to scrub the evidence off the toilet and bathtub.


It’s a good thing I have some delicious, healing comfort food to share with you today!

Keeeen-wah, people.

Have you tried it? Do you love it? Did someone tell you it looks like tiny condoms when it’s cooked?

Yeah? Me too, on all of the above.

This grain is so good for me, I’m willing to overlook it’s prophylactic appearance. And I’m becoming a master at disguising it amidst so many other tasty ingredients no one will even notice.  In homemade chicken noodle soup, I tell Gemma the quinoa are teeny noodles just the right size for kids.  In spaghetti and meatballs, they are pieces of teeny meat.  It’s a delicious part of lettuce wraps with this recipe.

And in chili?

It’s perfect.

Chili is something I dreaded as a kid, and I would spread the thinnest of layers on the thickest of toast slices.  Then I discovered chili is one (of many) ways to my man’s heart, so I decided to embrace it.  I still don’t make it often, but I love the flexibility of chili. You can throw in whatever’s handy, make it on the stove, make it in the slow cooker…chili is a meal designed for real life, which I am glaringly reminded that I live every day.

This chili packs a huge protein punch, is gluten free, and can easily be made vegetarian by simply leaving out the sausage.  Make it as spicy or not spicy as you like, and make the whole batch even if you aren’t cooking for a crowd – it freezes really well and is great reheated on its own or turned into sloppy joes or fair-style chili dogs.

I’ve included a quick, basic cornbread recipe that’s perfect for whipping up while the chili cooks, because nothing makes me crave cornbread like a big pot of comforting chili.

Just like real life, chili can be different every time, and that’s what makes it personal and beautiful and exciting.  Just like colored-on walls, dim lighting, and forgiveness snuggles. What’s making up real life for you right now?  Does it apply to chili in any way, or any other kind of food? :)

5.0 from 1 reviews
Spicy Quinoa Chili & Cornbread
Total time
Packed with flavor and nutrition, this is winter comfort food at its most comforting.
Serves: 7
  • CHILI:
  • ½ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lb spicy Italian sausage or chorizo sausage
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, de-seeded if you like less heat, seeds in for more heat, diced
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and grated or very finely chopped
  • 1 small red and bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 (15-oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 3 (15-oz) cans beans of your choice, rinsed and drained (white kidney beans, red kidney beans, chickpeas, bean medley, black beans, etc.)
  • 1 (15-oz) can tomato sauce
  • 3-4 tsp chili powder (less if you prefer mild chili)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp - 2 Tbsp sugar, depending if you like your cornbread sweet or not
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1½ cups buttermilk (or soured milk: add milk to 1 tsp lemon juice or vinegar to equal 1½ cups)
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  2. Combine quinoa and water in medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over med-high heat, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, until water is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
  3. Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or other very large pot, heat the olive oil over med-high heat. Add chopped onion and sausage and scramble fry until onions are tender and sausage is no longer pink, breaking up sausage with a wooden spoon. Stir in garlic, jalapeno, carrot, and bell pepper. Cook until veggies are tender and fragrant, 8-10 minutes.
  4. Add the canned tomatoes, beans, and tomato sauce.
  5. Stir in the cooked quinoa.
  6. Season with chili powder, cumin, and additional salt and pepper to taste (taste before adding any salt - you probably won't need any).
  7. Simmer chili on low for about 30 minutes.
  8. Serve warm, garnished with your favorite toppings. We love cheese galore, tortilla chips, sour cream, and green onion!
  10. Preheat oven to 400 degrees with 8-9" cast iron skillet IN the oven. (If you don't have one, a metal cake pan would also work.)
  11. Combine all ingredients, mix well, and pour into preheated skillet.
  12. Bake for 20 minutes. Best served warm.
This chili can also be made in the slow cooker - add the water and uncooked quinoa to the slow cooker along with everything else. The cornbread can be altered to suit your tastes - it's delicious with a cup of sharp cheddar and some chopped jalapeno thrown in! The chili freezes very well, making it great for stocking your freezer for future busy nights!


  1. Don't Repaint!! says

    Don’t repaint your walls!! Use a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser… it will take the crayon off no problem! Or, if you are worried about ruining a special type of finish, use a hair dryer to heat the crayon and wipe off with some dish soap and water.

  2. says

    You did NOT just compare my quinoa to condoms. I’m sitting here with my jaw dropped and I am totally giggling. Thanks for that. I will NEVER be able to look at it the same again!

  3. says

    Sounds to me like there has been a little testing of patience in your house! Kids will be kids I guess and you can always think of worse things they could have done, so that consideration makes it not so bad.
    Your chili does look like the perfect thing to take your mind off of the house issues. It does look tasty-glad I stopped in!

  4. Katy says

    Haha Anna. Oh no. That does seem really out of character for Gemma. It’s almost like a childish rite of passage :)
    This chili looks delicious. Thanks for another great post.

  5. says

    Lol. I’ve never heard the condom reference either, but my husband did ask me, (we had a brand new baby the first time I ever prepared quinoa) why it looked like the bowl was full of little baby fingernails. . . . He’s not a big fan! The dish you’ve made, however, just might hide those little fingernails. Looks yummy!

    • says

      Eww, fingernails is almost worse I think! But yes, I’m sure he wouldn’t complain about them in this chili, you don’t really notice them or their texture :)

  6. Su VdH says

    Oh wow, I actually burst out laughing. I’ve been eating quinoa for a while now, and have NEVER heard the condom reference! But wow is that ever true!! Bahaha, I will definitely be sharing that one! Oh, and the recipe looks delish :D

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