I think it is fairly well documented that I am a fan of chili. It’s one of the foods I remember most from my childhood, and might be the first thing I learned to cook. I’ve hosted an annual chili party for at least five years. I’ve tried many different recipes, and one of the things I love most about chili is its versatility, but there is one recipe I come to again and again, the recipe that I’m ready with at a moment’s notice, the chili I can make in my sleep. And somehow I have never shared it. I think it’s time to fix that.
People have very strong feelings about chili. Families have divided over the place of beans in chili, or whether tomatoes should be included, or what spices precisely belong in the pot. I will say up front that I don’t have a dog in this fight. I like all kinds of chilis. I usually include beans because I love them, but I’m not averse to a beanless pot. I only include meat occasionally. And my go-to recipe, this one I’m going to share with you, uses chile powder rather than fresh or dried chiles, because it’s easier. It’s not incredibly spicy, because I prefer things a little more mellow. The thing I believe most about chili is that you can make it however you like. Experiment, and over time you’ll find your own perfect chili recipe. This is mine.
The trick to this chili, and the thing that has been my secret chili ingredient for at least 15 years, is the cup of brewed coffee stirred into the mix. It gives the chili an excellent depth and smokiness, aided and abetted by the chipotles I throw in for an extra kick. The coffee is the key.
The other controversial chili ingredient here is the carrot. I like the touch of sweetness carrots bring to the party, and their silky texture once they’ve cooked long and slow. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it, I say.
I made this chili for a camping trip, and if you’re planning to go camping at all this summer, consider bringing this along. It’s a wonderful camping meal, because you can cook it ahead of time and simply warm it on the camp stove. It takes only a few minutes, and is super warming when the air starts to cool. This is always why chili is an excellent meal for a party: Not only can it be made ahead of time, but it only gets better with time.
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound beef stew meat
- ½ a medium onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 bell peppers, chopped
- 1-2 medium carrots, chopped
- 2 small chipotle chiles, with a bit of the adobo
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ to 1 teaspoon chile powder (I used guajillo)
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 14-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed
- 1 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed
- 1 28-ounce can diced or crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup of brewed black coffee
- Heat the canola oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat. If needed, cut the stew meat into smaller chunks (I like about one-inch pieces). When the oil is very hot, add about half the meat to the pot, being sure it’s not crowded. Cook for about 2 or 3 minutes, or just until it gets a nice bit of brown on it, before flipping the pieces and browning the other side. Remove the meat to a plate, and cook the remaining pieces the same way. Add it to the plate, and set aside.
- If the pot is dry, add a smidge more oil, then add the onions. Cook the onions for about three minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are beginning to soften. Stir in the garlic, then the peppers and carrots. Let the mixture cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften.
- Stir in the spices, the chipotles, and the salt. Then add the beans, tomatoes, and the coffee. Add the meat back to the pot, and give everything a good stir. Cover the pot, and let it come to a boil. Then lower the heat and simmer the chili for at least 30 minutes, and up to an hour. Season to taste with additional salt, and pepper if you like, and serve.
Is this recipe not sparking your interest? Try something a little different:
- Joy the Baker’s Spicy Vegetarian Chili
- Smitten Kitchen’s Red Bean Chili
- Homesick Texan’s Texas Chili