Chocolate Chili

My long-time homemade chili, meaty and full of spices and flavor and a touch of chocolate. Nothing says "welcome home" like a big pot of chili simmering on the stove but our favorite way to "slow cook" chili is in the oven. Feeding a crowd? Serve Chocolate Chili with mashed potatoes, an old Iowa farmwife technique to make meat go further when feeding hungry farmhands.

Chocolate Chili ♥, a touch of chocolate plus warm savory spices, my oldest (still best!) chili recipe! Low Carb. Weight Watchers Friendly.

Real Food, Fresh & Family-Tested. Meaty and Bright with Spices and a Touch of Chocolate. Weight Watchers Friendly. Whole30 Friendly. Low Carb. Naturally Gluten Free. High Protein. A Signature Recipe. Budget Friendly. One-Pot Meal. Great for Meal Prep. How to Feed a Crowd. Potluck & Party Friendly. Rave Reviews.

  • "The chili was excellent!" ~Megan
  • "Holy cow! Was that chili good!!!" ~Sally
  • "... it was so good ..." ~BabyAlan
  • "The spices and flavor were exquisite." ~Laurie

Chocolate Chili ♥, my oldest (and still best!) recipe for homemade chili with lots of spices and yes, cocoa powder. Weight Watchers Friendly. Whole30 Friendly. High Protein. Gluten Free.

At Last, "My" Chili Recipe

It took the longest time to find "my" personal recipe for chili. I experimented with one pot 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 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 or worse sometimes way too spicy-hot, Chocolate Chili recipe falls into the not-sweet camp even with slightly "sweet" spices.

What's In Chocolate Chili? Pantry Ingredients!

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • Beef Ground beef works but leave it clumpy instead of breaking it down to fine bits. With this advice, no wonder then that I also love to make Chocolate Chili with chunks of stew meat. Do let the stew meat get really brown, almost crispy.

  • Onion Chop it small if you want the onion to disappear texture-wise or in big chunks if you want the pieces to be obvious. Want to add a little more? A poblano chile works great.

  • Tomato Canned diced tomatoes provide bulk and texture, tomato paste adds flavor depth and a certain "umami," that deep, savory deliciousness we strive for.

  • Water I use water for this chili. Could you use stock? Sure, if you've got good homemade beef stock, that would be great. But I don't recommend a commercial beef stock, too salty and too much flavor to compete with the spices.

  • Chocolate! Yep, Chocolate Chili calls for chocolate, specifically unsweetened cocoa powder but if you don't have any, sure, throw in some chocolate chips instead. They'll melt and meld in with everything else.

  • Spices for Chocolate Chili ♥, my oldest and still most favorite recipe for homemade chili. Lots of spices and yes, cocoa powder.

  • Spices Warm spices! This is not a "hot and spicy" chili, nobody will be wiping sweat off their brow. But it is full of spices, cinnamon, cumin, marjoram and coriander plus chili powder, itself a blend of spice but tending more "hot" than spiced. Like so many of my recipes, call it "spiced" versus "spicy".

  • Vinegar Ahhh, vinegar, it shows up in what might seem like the oddest spots. But vinegar is one of those magic ingredients. If a savory dish ever seems like it's missing something? Try a splash of vinegar or another acidic ingredient like lemon juice. That tiny bit of acidity somehow brightens the pot. Try it! And ... once it's added, you can taste for salt and often, need none at all.

  • No Beans But if you need to stretch the chili further, sure, throw in a can or two of beans, I'd suggest black beans.

Why Put Chocolate in Chili?

One of the things we love about chili is that basically, we can throw anything we d-a-m-n want into the pot and the pot will take it. So why chocolate?

But chili and chocolate are no accident.

Chili and chocolate are a happy flavor combination in Mexican cuisine, especially in the traditional moles (that's mo-lays not underground creatures) that produce deep, rich flavors. Chocolate moderates the heat in chiles (that is, the poblanos, jalapeños and other spicy peppers) and enriches the spices in chili (that is, the chili powder, cumin and other warm spices).

What to Serve with Chili

TOPPINGS?! Some folks love to load their chili up with grated cheddar, chopped onion, jalapeños and for chili Cincinatti-style, spaghetti! Others put their beans on top of chili!

CHILI AS TOPPING Here, we like chili "over something," nearly always something starchy like:

And you? What goes with chili at your table?

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If my chili recipe inspires you, please do save and share! I'd be honored ...

Chocolate Chili ♥, my oldest (and still best!) recipe for homemade chili with lots of spices and yes, cocoa powder. Weight Watchers Friendly. Whole30 Friendly. High Protein. Gluten Free.


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time-to-table: 2-1/2 hours
Makes 12 cups
  • 1-1/2 pounds (680g) lean ground beef
  • 1-1/2 cups 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
  • 1-1/2 pounds (680g) beef stew meat, cut in bite-size chunks
  • 1-1/2 cups diced onion
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco
  • 0 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon marjoram
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

BROWN Cook ground beef and onion until the meat is fully cooked and the onions soft and golden. (For the Spice-Forward Recipe, brown the meat pieces really well in an iron skillet, really caramelizing the edges of the beef.) Drain off any excess fat.

Stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil.

FINISH ON THE STOVETOP Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

~ or ~

FINISH IN THE OVEN Leave the cover on, let cook for 2 hours in a 250F/120C oven.

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

ALANNA's TIPS The Original Recipe goes way-way back, it's one of my very oldest recipes, long before I was publishing recipes online. But over time, I played with this recipe, to my taste, it keeps getting better and better! The Spice-Forward Recipe is how I make Chocolate Chili since 2013. 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. In fact, we've started asking our butcher to separately package some "chili meat" (a rougher grind) along with the regular "ground beef" (the usual grind). One comes in one-pound rolls, the other in two-pound rolls, easy to tell apart! 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!

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See .
NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Cup: 107 Calories; 3g Tot Fat; 1g Sat Fat; 7g Carb; 2g Fiber; 505mg Sodium; 35mg Cholesterol; 4g Sugars; 13g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS Old Points 2 & PointsPlus 3 & SmartPoints 3 & Freestyle 2 & myWW green 2 & blue 2 & purple 2 & future WW points CALORIE COUNTERS 100-calorie serving = 7/8 cup (12g protein).

Take Off the Cold-Weather Chill with Chili

~ chili recipes ~
Chillin: Favorite Chili, Chowder & Cornbread Recipes ♥, a collection of cold-weather, football-friendly favorites.
Vegetable Chili with Sweet Potatoes & Chipotle ♥, a confetti of colorful vegetables and beans warmed with chili spices.

White Chicken Chili ♥, spicy-but-not-too-spicy, just chicken, spices, chilies and white beans.

Crockpot Chili with Spicy Sausage ♥, just cook ground beef and spicy sausage, then dump it all into a slow cooker or Dutch oven for slow cooking in the oven or on the stove. Meaty and man-friendly!

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ tomato recipes ~
~ cocoa powder recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. 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, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. 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.

  2. Anonymous1/04/2008

    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.

  3. Quess whats for dinner this weekend. Your chocolate chili!
    Sounds so good and were having our worst storm in years. Perfect timing!!!

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. Wow...this sounds and looks delicious!! This is going on the "to try" list....thanks!

  7. 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? ;)

  8. chili is one of the things on my must-make-this-year list :)

    Happy new year to you and the family hon.

  9. I learned earlier this year that the secret to silky coq au vin was cocoa. I'm making chili today - thanks for the reminder!

  10. I never would have thought to put cocoa powder into chili---I'm excited to try it, thanks!


  11. 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!

  12. 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.


    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.

  13. Anonymous1/07/2008

    The chili was excellent! My family said this was there new favorite chili! I loved it!

  14. Anonymous1/10/2008

    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!

  15. 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!

  16. ~M - of course! The vinegar adds an astringency that helps balance the flavors.

  17. Anonymous10/03/2008

    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?

  18. 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.

  19. just bought all the ingredients, and i'm trying it right now - can't wait to see/taste the results!!!!

  20. 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!

  21. Yummy. I'm making this today but using your most recent version with the stew meat, etc. I KNOW I'll love this. Thanks, Alanna.

  22. Anonymous11/02/2022

    Alanna, in the Spice forward ingredient list it says 0 tablespoons chili powder. Is that correct? Thanks!

  23. Anonymous11/02/2022

    Yes ma’am! ~ Alanna


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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