January 21, 2012

The Great Debate: Chili, with or without beans?

I'm originally from the East Coast, and I have always thought of chili as having beans in it. However, since moving to Texas, I've discovered the population here considers chili with beans almost a sacrilege. In the few years we've lived here, I've never once made chili. There are many reasons for the chili drought in my household...

Reason #1: Texans are weird about their chili, and I'm a little scared a lynch mob may show up on my doorstep if I even whisper the word 'beans'. 

Reason #2: For years, my husband has been convinced that his chili recipe is far superior to anything I can make. I didn't see it necessary to prove him wrong. Until now. 

Reason #3: No one I know around here actually eats chili. Translation: I have no one to pawn off the leftovers to. 

After a huge internal struggle, I finally broke down. The begging from the Hubs was downright pathetic. "Please honey, please make chili for me, I could never do it as well as you!" (Ok, so this never has and never will happen, but all girls have dreams!)

My super-secret chili

It was a difficult decision, but in the end... I put beans in my chili. (I hear gasps of horror from the great state of Texas, but please keep reading!) Actually, I used two different types of beans, no less. I've got my fingers crossed that my ultra-secret ingredient will turn the Texas tide in my favor, if any of them brave this recipe. 

So, let's get this show on the road! I think you'll find this recipe has just the right balance of flavor and spice. At least, I hope so! Here is most of what you'll need: 

Notice there are no kidney beans in this picture... I like to be different. 

The spices

This time, I may have actually gotten all the ingredients in the photos (and pigs fly, right?). Except for the SUPER SECRET one that's coming later... 

I start this recipe by chopping all my vegetables first. Trust me, it's better to have all your ingredients lined up and ready to go, otherwise you look like a madman running around to get things done while other things burn on your stove. Then you accidentally chop off part of a finger. Not good. 

For Christmas, my wonderful sisters sent me a new kitchen toy... this is the best way to make me oohhh and aahhh over a gift. I'm so transparent. 

Isn't it awesome?! Not only is the cutting board removable and reversible, but I adore the dishes on the side for my ingredients. Chop, chop, chop, then slide right into the dish. Repeat as necessary. 

Cool, right? What you have here is a large onion, a red pepper, and one jalapeno pepper. All of them need a quick dice, making sure you removed the seeds from your peppers. Also, you want to shred 2 carrots. OR, you could buy that pre-shredded stuff in the bag if you're in a rush. 

You'll also need about 4 cloves of minced garlic. I mince the garlic fresh, but it's pretty sticky and can be a major annoyance. It's a-ok to use the pre-minced stuff you find in the produce section at grocery stores. If I was smart, I would use that all the time. 

From here, pull out your favorite chili pot. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in it over medium-high heat. Pretty easy so far, right? When the butter is all melted, throw in the veggies you just chopped (In case you forgot already, that would be the onion, red pepper, jalapeno pepper, and carrots. Um, not the garlic, not yet).  Stir them around for a bit, maybe 5 minutes or so. You want the veggies to soften, maybe even start to brown the tiniest bit. But not too much! 

Onion, red pepper, jalapeno pepper, and carrots
Add the garlic to the pot, and stir for 30 seconds to 1 minute. I know that sounds fast! But you don't want to burn the garlic. Burnt garlic = disgusting. A fabulous aroma will be coming from the pot, so take a big whiff and then add your meat to the pot. 

I used 1.5 pounds of lean ground beef, and 1 pound of Italian sausage. You could probably use any kind of beef that you want, mixing and matching to your taste. I think it would be fun to try some boneless chuck, cut up into cubes... maybe some other time. Whatever you choose, be sure the meat is lean. Too much grease in the chili will make for some painful moments later. 

Brown your meat, being careful to leave it a little chunky. If your taste runs different, feel free to chop it small. I like chili a bit meatier. Drain off as much of the fat as you can, but you don't have to go crazy trying to get out every last drop. 

Now, it's time to get serious. Seriously spicy, that is. 

Return your pot to the heat and stir in the following combination: 1 - 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 - 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. On top of that, I add ONE finely minced chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. These bad boys add some serious heat to your chili, so be careful! If you don't like things too spicy, you can always leave it out.

Side note: When I say "one", I mean one pepper, not one can. Someone I know made that mistake, and it wasn't pretty! 

Stir everything around so your meat is coated with all the yummy spices, about 2 minutes. Next, you want to add a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce and a 6 ounce can of tomato paste. Keep stirring it all around, letting those spices distribute. I had a little leftover tomato sauce in my fridge as well, about 1/3 of a cup, so I threw that in too. Soups, chili, and stews are a great way to clean out your fridge. 

At this point, you only have to ask yourself one question... what is your favorite kind of beer? Immediately open your refrigerator, take one out, and pour about 6 ounces of it into your chili. Then drink the rest as you cook. It's a win-win situation. 

Along with the beer, add in a cup of chicken stock (maybe a bit more), a can (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes and a can (15 oz) of pinto beans, with the juice. Since we've previously established that I'm neurotic, it won't surprise you that I didn't add any kidney beans. Instead, I drained and rinsed a 15 oz. can of black beans and added those to my pot. I'm such a rebel. 

Now all you have to do is wait... reduce your heat to low, cover the pot of chili, and let it simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The chili might be a bit thin at this point, but don't let that bother you. It won't stay that way for long.  

I know what you're thinking now. Where is this magical, secret ingredient that I spoke about? Don't worry, it's the very next step. The secret ingredient is.... DRUMROLL please....


Yes, you heard me correctly. And no, I didn't upload the wrong photo. My secret ingredient really is peanut butter. It sounds weird and alien, but trust me on this... it is oh so good

I used about 1/3 cup, but I think you could add even more. After an hour of simmering, stir in the peanut butter. Not only does it add a wonderful, nutty flavor to the chili, it also acts as your thickening agent. Simmer for another hour or so, and drool a bit as the aroma permeates your house. 

At long last, your chili is ready for sampling!


I served mine topped with some cheddar cheese and green onions, with corn bread on the side. (Someday I will post my cornbread and honey butter recipe, I promise. But today is not that day).

This chili is delicious alone, but it also has other uses. Top your hot dogs, hamburgers, and French fries with it, be creative! Make a double batch and freeze some for whenever  craving strikes. And believe me, the craving will hit you at the oddest moments. Once you've tried peanut butter in your chili, it's hard to go back. Even if it does have beans in it!

The Standard Form:

Secret Ingredient Chili


1.5 lbs. ground beef
1 lb. Italian sausage
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
2 carrots, finely shredded
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) Ranch Style pinto beans, with juice
1 can black beans (15 ounces), drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
6 ounces of your favorite beer
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tablespoons chili powder
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, finely minced (OPTIONAL)
1/3 cup peanut butter, more to taste
For garnish: Shredded cheddar cheese and sliced green onions


Melt the butter in a stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, onion, and carrot to the pot. Sauté about 5 minutes, until caramelization begins. Add the garlic and sauté a minute more, just until fragrant. Do not burn the garlic!

Add the ground beef and sausage to the pot and brown. Be careful not to break the meat up too much, you want it to be slightly chunky. When brown, drain the fat from the pot, then return to heat.

Stir in all the spices, including the chipotle pepper. Cook 2 minutes, stirring to combine.

Stir in the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine, warm for 2 minutes, then stir in the beer and chicken stock. Add the diced tomatoes, pinto beans, and black beans. Stir well, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, stir in the peanut butter until well-blended. Simmer at least 1 more hour, then serve hot topped with cheddar cheese and green onions. OR, use it to top your hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, etc. 


  1. Yum! And peanutbutter is a great secret ingredient in other things. Haven't tried it in chili yet, but I'm pumped to do so now! :)

  2. The chili turned out really, really good... usually I have to play with my recipes a few times before it's just right, but this time I got it on the first try!