Black Bean Chili With Grass-Fed Ground Beef


Home-made chili is a nutritious and inexpensive dish. It's full of antioxidant-rich ingredients like tomatoes, black beans, and peppers, and my version also has cocoa powder and turmeric.

Turmeric isn't a traditional chili ingredient but because has so many healthy benefits, I add it to dishes whenever I can. In this recipe I use unsweetened cocoa powder as a spice, not a sweetener, because it adds a subtle richness and a bittersweet flavor that makes this chili pleasingly complex.

Grass-fed ground beef is a good source of protein and a healthy source of fat. As far as grass-fed meats go, ground versions are less expensive and more widely available than other cuts. Find grass-fed ground beef at your local farmer's market or Trader Joe's.

I season this dish with warm spices like cinnamon and smoked paprika, and I add some heat with fresh chili pepper and dried chipotle pepper. You can use any peppers you wish or omit them if you don't want the heat. (Most of the heat in fresh chili peppers lives in the seeds and membranes, so if you want a less spicy dish, just remove and discard them.) This recipe calls for several spices and if you're missing one or more, don't let that discourage you from making this dish. Use whatever you have.

Home-made chili is slow food. Remember to soak the beans the day before (24 hours in advance is ideal) and plan enough time to cook this stew for a couple of hours and then set it aside for a couple of hours before you serve it.

2 tbsp duck fat, organic butter, or cold-pressed olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1 fresh chili pepper, minced
1 pound grass-fed ground beef at room temperature
1 dried chipotle pepper
1½ tsp ground cumin
1½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp ground coriander seed
½ tsp lime sea salt, or regular sea salt
½ tsp ground cinnamon
24 ounces tomato purée (I buy it in glass jars)
1 cup dried black beans, pre-soaked for 24 hours
2 heaping tbsp unsweetened, unprocessed cocoa powder
3 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh cilantro, leaves and stems chopped
Whole milk Greek yogurt to garnish

Soak the beans 24 hours in advance.

Warm the fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Once it has melted, add the onions and fresh peppers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables become soft and start to pick up some brown color.

Crumble in the ground beef and continue cooking, breaking it up into small pieces, until the meat is fully cooked. Add the whole chipotle (you'll fish it out later), cumin, turmeric, paprika, ground pepper, oregano, coriander, sea salt and cinnamon. Stir to coat the meat and vegetables in spices and reduce the heat to low. Continue cooking until the meat starts to brown, about 5 more minutes.

Add a splash of tomato purée and use a wooden spoon to scrape up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan and incorporate them into the sauce. Then stir in the rest of the tomatoes, the pre-soaked beans, and enough filtered water to cover everything generously.

Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer very gently for 2 hours or more, until the beans are fully cooked and the meat is very tender. Taste the chili periodically while it cooks and make any necessary adjustments with the spices. If you're afraid it will get too spicy, pull out the chipotle whenever you wish. If you need more liquid during cooking, add boiling water.  If you have too much liquid, simmer it uncovered until it reduces to your desired consistency.

Once the chili is fully cooked, turn off the heat. Stir in the cocoa powder and garlic. Cover the chili and set it aside for at least 2 hours or until you're ready to eat.

To serve the chili, remove the chipotle if you haven't already, then re-heat it over low heat until hot. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Stir in half of the chopped cilantro, then ladle the chili into bowls. Top the chili with a dollop of yogurt if you wish, or serve it on the side, then garnish with the remaining cilantro.