Perfect Red Bean Chili
After relocating from Southern California to a much colder climate a few years ago, every winter when the temperature would dip below my comfort level I would find myself developing the most inexplicable craving for chili. Despite having attended several chili cook-offs during my childhood (yes, I am actually admitting to that), I never developed much of a taste for chili. It was either too spicy, too bland, too meaty, too tomato-y. Now, I’m a fan of tomatoes, meat, spices and beans but it was always too something and I was never happy with the result. Plus, it inevitably called for hours of cooking and loads of specialty ingredients which felt horribly wasted when the result was such a let down.
These predicable disappointments aside, every winter I would bravely ventured into chili recipe territory in the hopes that some new recipe would set my chili streak straight and each year I was again sorely disappointed . . . until this year. I came across this gorgeous photo at Smitten Kitchen and was suddenly optimistic that this might be the chili recipe to cure my years of bad chili luck. When my boyfriend informed me that he is a major chili fan, that was all the encouragement I needed.
If I said that I’ve made this chili at least a dozen times in the past three months I wouldn’t be exaggerating. The beautiful thing about this recipe is that it can be done in 30 minutes. Yes, the flavors intensify and it gets better and better the longer you let it simmer, it is still pretty close to perfect at the 30 minute mark. This takes away the day-long preparation that was usually called for by my old chili recipes. Also, not gunna lie, this reheats beautifully the next day . . . or two days later even!
Perfect Red Bean Chili
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 pounds lean ground beef or turkey*
1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup canned beef broth
1/3 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
1 14 1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes**
2 15 1/2-ounce cans kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar which works well)
To taste: Tabasco, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne or 1 to 2 tablespoons chipotle en adobo puree***
- Place a large Dutch oven or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the beef or turkey and cook until browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add the onion, stirring well, and cook until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
- Gradually add the broth, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the Dutch oven.
- Stir in the chili powder, cumin, cocoa and tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes.
- Add the beans, salt, and vinegar, stirring well. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes more.
- Adjust flavor with your spices of choice.
- Garnish with the Cheddar, sour cream, and jalapeno, if desired. Serve hot, with cheese, onions or any toppings of your choice.
* I've also used a mix of half turkey and half lean beef which worked great. Frankly, with all the spices you can't really tell the different between the beef and the turkey.
** Both of the original recipes call for diced tomatoes, however I have substituted crushed tomatoes and tomato puree. This reduces the amount of actual, chunky tomato bites you get but maintains the tomato flavor. If you like chunky tomatoes in your chili, just leave the diced tomatoes. If you prefer fewer tomato chunks, go with the crushed or pureed tomatoes.
*** I always add 1 tsp of cayenne and 1 tsp of paprika to increase the smokiness of the chili, but feel free to substitute to suit your tastes. I'm dying to try one with some chipotle but haven't gotten around to it just yet.