Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta


It’s getting a little chilly here in San Diego (well, chilly for San Diego at least), just the weather that makes me crave some warm, comforting soups and chilis. This Hungarian chili, a Rachael Ray recipe, is such a cool take on the traditional Mexican/Texan/Southwestern varieties. It uses basic chili ingredients (onion, pepper, chile, tomato) but switches up the spice with paprika and marjoram/oregano.


But the real kicker is the smoked gouda polenta that the chili makes its home atop. That’s right, I said smoked gouda. This creamy, cheesy polenta truly makes the dish. You get some smoky flavors from the chile and the chili powder and paprika, but also from the cheese, and the bright herbs on top add just the right note of freshness. You’ll want to curl up on the couch or in front of a fireplace with this dish.

TW’s Tips

  • Using a red pepper instead of green really makes a big difference in the flavors here — don’t switch it out!
  • Find quick cooking polenta in the pasta aisle. Not the pre-made “roll” of polenta — it’s a grain-like consistency that reminds me of finer couscous. It comes in a box.
  • Dill worked really well on top.
  • This makes great leftovers — and would freeze well if you make a double batch. Just make the polenta fresh.

Hungarian Style Chili with Smoked Gouda Polenta  


  • 2 tablespoons EVOO
  • 2 pounds coarse ground sirloin
  • 1 red chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder, a palmful and a half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons smoked sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or oregano, 1/3 palmful
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 quart beef stock
  • 1 1/2 cups water or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 cup quick cooking polenta
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup shredded Gouda or smoked Gouda
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • Finely chopped fresh dill, parsley and chives for garnish


Heat a large pot over medium-high to high heat. Add beef and brown 7-8 minutes. Add hot pepper, bell peppers, onions and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Cook to soften vegetables, 7-8 minutes more. Stir in chili powder, sweet paprika and oregano. Add tomato paste to pot and stir to combine, 1 minute. Add stock to pot and bring chili to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes more.
In a separate pot, bring water or chicken stock and milk to a boil, whisk in polenta and cook 2-3 minutes until thickened. Stir in butter and cheese, season with salt and pepper.

Fill shallow bowls with polenta, make a well in the center. Fill well with ladles of chili and top with sour cream and herbs.


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