Chocolate Chili

My long-time chili recipe, full of spices and flavor and a touch of chocolate. Often served with mashed potatoes, an old Iowa farmwife technique to make meat go further when feeding hungry farmhands.

Chocolate Chili. Yes, there's a touch of chocolate plus warm savory spices. My oldest (still best!) recipe for chili!


COMPLIMENTS!
"The chili was excellent!" ~ Megan
"Holy cow! Was that chili good!!!" ~ Sally
"... it was so good ..." ~ BabyAlan


It took the longest time to find "my" perfect recipe for chili. I experimented with one recipe after another, finding many "good" chilis but not yet the right combination to claim as my own.

My first chili experiment was borrowed from a great cook from Texas. It called for – get this – two cups (cups!) of beef suet and one-half cup (cup!) of chili powder. Whew – greasy AND spicy and and definitely not to my taste!

I even entered a chili contest once – I thought it was pretty good chili but the judges were unimpressed to learn my entry included a can of tomato soup!

And then finally, my search brought me to Chocolate Chili, the source, sadly is long lost. Chocolate Chili is a must when the yen for “real” chili hits, when the weather turns brisk, when the snow piles high, when somehow, nothing, nothing at all, will do for Sunday supper. If you're like me, you'll be charmed by the spice-chocolate combination – it softens and deepens the warmth from the chili powder and Tabasco. While many chilis are somewhat sweet, Chocolate Chili recipe falls into the not-sweet camp even with slightly "sweet" spices.

ALANNA's TIPS Chocolate Chili is good straight off the stove (or out of the oven) but like many chili recipes, always seems to improve after a day. Even making it in the morning for serving at night makes a difference. Try not to break up the ground beef too small while it's cooking, big clumps are better than fine particles. Ground elk works just as well as ground beef in Chocolate Chili. Go ahead, add beans if you like! Yum! This chili tastes great with Mashed Potatoes & Carrots! And regular mashed potatoes! And mac 'n' cheese! This column was first published in print in 2002 and first published online in 2008.
Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite family chili recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via recipes@kitchen-parade.com. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

CHOCOLATE CHILI

Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Total preparation time: 2 hours
Makes 12 cups
  • 1-1/2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1-1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 4 cups water (or less for a thicker chili)
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 1 – 3 tablespoons chili powder (start with 1 tablespoon, add to taste)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Cook ground beef and onion until meat is cooked. Drain fat. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and water. In a bowl, mix the vinegar, Tabasco, spices, salt and cocoa powder; stir into the chili. Cover and bring to a boil.

FINISH ON THE STOVETOP Simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

FINISH IN THE OVEN Let cook for 2 hours in a 250F oven.

Serve with oyster crackers or Alanna-style with a baked potato, mashed potatoes or mac 'n' cheese.

"SPICE FORWARD" CHOCOLATE CHILI Since 2013, I've played with this recipe, one of my oldest. To my taste, this chili keeps getting better and better! Here are the changes I make now:
Stew meat instead of ground meat, browned really well in an iron skillet, really caramelizing the meat.
Use double the tomatoes but half the water.
Leave out the chili powder (I know, heresy!) but double the vinegar and spices. Do NOT double the Tabasco.
Increase the cocoa powder to a full tablespoon.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 111 Calories; 4g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 7g Carb; 2g Fiber; 633mg Sodium; 51mg Cholesterol; 13g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS WW Old Points 2, WW PointsPlus 3 CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 7/8 cup (12g protein).

Take Off the Cold-Weather Chill with Chili

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Chili with chocolate -- now you are speaking my language! It wasn't until I traveled in Mexico and had really good mole that I discovered how beautifully cocoa enhances the earthy flavor of beans.
 
I love a good chocolate chili; Moosewood has a good vegetarian version that can be googled. I also love the idea of a plop of cheesy mashed potatoes in the middle of the bowl. That's awesome.
 
Quess whats for dinner this weekend. Your chocolate chili!
Sounds so good and were having our worst storm in years. Perfect timing!!!
 
So you must be of the "chili as a gravy" camp as opposed to the "chili as a soup" one? I'm in the later group myself so I'd just add more water. I think the spices listed here sound beautiful together. I'll have to give this a try. Thanks Alanna!
 
Lydia ~ I've yet to have a beautiful mole but am quite confident that when I first discovered this recipe, I had no earthly idea that chocolate with chili was anything except a novelty.

Sally ~ Mashed potatoes with chili are just the best!

Megan ~ Stay warm! Let me know how the chili (and cornbread!) work out!

Sally ~ Funny. I thought the chili camps were "beans and no beans". This chili is meaty but still quite thin on the first day. It definitely thickens up over a couple of days, though, so that's when I start adding water.
 
Wow...this sounds and looks delicious!! This is going on the "to try" list....thanks!
 
Darling, we are surfing the same wavelength! I made a chocolate stew this week; and I am blogging it this weekend. Too funny.

I like your ground beef chili version- with all those yummy flavors co-mingling, how can you go wrong? ;)
 
chili is one of the things on my must-make-this-year list :)

Happy new year to you and the family hon.
 
I learned earlier this year that the secret to silky coq au vin was cocoa. I'm making chili today - thanks for the reminder!
 
I never would have thought to put cocoa powder into chili---I'm excited to try it, thanks!

--steph
 
You are spot-on, Alanna. Finding a good chili recipe is like shopping for that perfect pair of jeans. I baked a batch of red chili brownies last year and was pleasantly surprised. Too hot for all tastes, but the flavor combo was that all-elusive "perfect." Happy New Year!
 
I haven't yet put chocolate into our chili but we have made fantastic chocolate/morita chicken enchiladas (based on a recipe for 'rabbit enchiladas with red mole' in SAVEUR Nov 2006). It is one of our favourites now with corn tortillas.

Since that time, we've often added a little cocoa powder to chicken gravy. It's wonderful how it enhances the other flavours without announcing its presence as chocolate.

-Elizabeth

P.S. When I make chili, the first thing I do is blacken a couple of whole dried cayenne chillies before browning the meat. I can't recommend this method enough. The chilis take on a toasty flavour. (And yes, I also add chili powder) Next time, I will HAVE to add a bit of cocoa.
 
The chili was excellent! My family said this was there new favorite chili! I loved it!
 
Morning Alanna - Holy cow! Was that chili good!!! I had to twist DH's arm to even try it, but he wants me to make it again! LOL (I should have never told him the name.) Thanks so much for the recipe. I can't wait until our next chili cook-off. This should be a winner for sure!
 
Chocolate is one of my favorite food substances, but in chili? I don't see why not really, but only 1/2t of cocoa powder? I would be tempted to use more like 1/2 cup! Does the flavor of chocolate actually show up? Interesting for sure, I'll have to add some cocoa powder to my next chili batch.

- The Peanut Butter Boy
 
Hi Alanna,

Would this work with balsamic vinegar instead of the white kind? I used the last of the later to clean my humidifiers! :) Thanks!
 
~M - of course! The vinegar adds an astringency that helps balance the flavors.
 
Hi, I'm making this for a church gathering tomorrow but i don't have any coriander, Is there anything I can substitute in its place?
 
Alan here my spouse made this and it was so good and because it was just the two of us it lasted a long time.
 
just bought all the ingredients, and i'm trying it right now - can't wait to see/taste the results!!!!
 
I made the chocolate chili with ground venison. The spices and flavor were exquisite. A small squeeze of lime added a nice taste mate. New favorite winter soup!
 

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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna