Smoky Chipotle Chili

I ate these leftovers for 4 days and honestly, I could have kept going.

Smoky Chipotle Chili

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Time: 1 hour
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
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There are few true comfort foods that I like better than slow-cooked, hearty chili.  When I was little, it was one of my favorite recipes of my mom’s, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve tinkered around with the ingredients and come up with a version that always comes out perfectly spicy and delicious.  I think my favorite thing about the recipe is that you don’t have to be all that precise with the ingredients (unlike baking, which basically requires a PhD in Chemistry – especially in a foreign country).

For example, when I went to grab my ingredients for chili this week, there were a few things I couldn’t find at my local supermarket: black beans, red bell pepper and what I consider ‘normal’ chili powder were nowhere to be found, so I improvised.  I grabbed yellow and green bell peppers, which the store had plenty of, as well as red kidney beans and something called “hot chili powder,” which isn’t quite like the chili powder I’m used to, but it got the job done just fine.

The recipe I’m sharing here will make a fairly spicy chili – like, a 7/10 on a spicFullSizeRender - Copy (77)e scale, and it gets hotter as it sits – so keep in mind that the leftovers the next day are going to be spicier than the batch you cook on night one.  If you like yours milder, add less cayenne…if you like it super hot, add cayenne and maybe even some red pepper flakes, and go ahead and leave the seeds in your jalapenos when you dice them up.  If you want to add another vegetable, like zucchinni or carrots, go right ahead; the recipe is super adaptable and can be used as the basis for any number of preparations.  When I feel like pretending to be healthy, I make it with turkey, and when I don’t feel like pretending to be even the slightest bit waistband-conscious, I add chorizo.  This time, I kept it classic, and stuck with beef, bell peppers, onions, beans and spices…here’s how I made it.


1 pound ground beef (I used an 88/12 lean meat-to-fat ratio)

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped, with or without seeds (I used the seeds)

1 red fresno chile, finely chopped, with or without seeds (I used the seeds)

2 tsbp each of chili powder and cumin

1 tsbp each of dried oregano and paprika

2 tsp cayenne

1 tbsp chipotle chili powder or paste

2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp plain white sugar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup red wine (I used cheap – like, CHEAP – Merlot)

2 cans black beans (or whichever kind you prefer), drained and rinsed

5 regular sized cans chopped tomatoes in juice


Cook the meat over medium heat until 90% cooked through.  Remove from heat.

In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onion, bell pepper, garlic and hot peppers and cook for about 8 minutes, until all of the vegetables are soft and the onions are just beginning to brown.  (If you wanted to add other veggies, this would be the time.)  Add all of the spices (but not the sugar), and stir.  The spices will thickly coat the veggies and it may seem like everything is getting sticky – this is totally fine, you’re going to de-glaze the pot with red wine in the next step.

Add the red wine to the pot and bring the ingredients to a simmer.  You should have enough red wine to almost cover the veggies, but you don’t want them totally swimming. Cook the red wine, spice and veggie mixture for about 5-7 minutes, until approximately half of the liquid has burned off.

Add the tomatoes and their juice and bring everything to a simmer.  Once you see some bubbles, add the beans and the meat (when you add the meat, add its cooking juices as well) and stir to combine everything. Add the sugar, and stir to combine.  Some people like their chili to have a distinct sweetness…I’m not one of those people.  This small amount of sugar is plenty for me – you can’t even really tell it’s there, but it rounds out the flavors nicely.  If you like your chili to have that sweet vibe, I would suggest using brown sugar as a sweetening agent. Begin with a small amount (like, a teaspoon or so) and add more until you get things sweet enough.

Let this mixture simmer on medium or medium-low heat for about an hour and then taste the chili for seasoning.  I find that, if I need more of something, it’s usually salt, chili powder or cumin, so if the chili is bland or under-seasoned, go for those ingredients first. Every batch will be a bit different…sometimes your peppers will be nice and hot and you won’t need as much spice, and sometimes it’ll feel like you’re seasoning the hell out of it to get it spicy and flavorful enough.  Just add the spices in smaller increments until the flavor is how you like it.

I serve my chili over plain tortilla chips and top it with sour cream, avocado and cheese. For leftovers, I love this stuff reheated with some breakfast potatoes and a fried egg.  It’s also perfectly perfect in a bowl, on it’s own.

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