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Simple and Satisfying Chili from Scratch


Staff member
Jan 19, 2024
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NOTE: An updated version of this recipe appears in my cookbook, The Ancestral Table.

Editor’s Note: this recipe is from before I switched to the Paleo Diet, but all you need to do to make this dish Paleo-friendly is omit the beans.

Ah, chili. One of the most hotly-debated dishes a person can serve in America, perhaps second only to BBQ ribs. And like many of my other recipes, I’m quick to concede that this recipe isn’t for everyone; this is a generally mild chili that goes well with chili dogs, chili burgers, or on top of a scoop of white rice.

For me, the most important aspect of chili is having it blend into one single element and texture – nothing bothers me more than a chili that just looks like a bunch of ingredients thrown together. Luckily, my handy Magic Bullet helps to puree most of the chunkier ingredients while still retaining its necessary taste. I also add a couple of seemingly odd ingredients, which play important roles: cocoa powder for richness and complexity, and mayonnaise for smoothness and just a touch of creaminess.

This dish takes a little over three hours to make: one hour to prep and soften the tomatoes and two hours to cook the chili itself.

You’ll Need:
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 lb uncooked bacon, chopped
2 tomatoes
1 medium onion
6 cloves garlic
1 can tomato puree (28 oz)
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
2 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp coconut oil

for later:
2 tbsp Hersey’s unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tbsp olive oil mayonnaise

Boil a small pot of water. Once the water is boiling, drop a tomato in and pull it out after ten seconds; you should then be able to slice the skins with a knife and easily remove them. Chop the tomatoes into 1/2 inch chunks, removing the seeds but retaining all the liquid. Pour the tomato chunks and liquid into a saucepan, add the bay leaf and salt, and simmer for 50 minutes, stirring frequently.

While the tomatoes are simmering, you can prep the rest of the chili. Chop the onion into large chunks and puree it in a Magic Bullet or food processor along with the garlic cloves and coriander seeds. 20 minutes before the tomatoes are done simmering, add the oil to a Dutch or French oven and heat it on medium heat for a few minutes. Next, add your onion/garlic/coriander mixture, and then add the cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, oregano, paprika, and black pepper. Saute the mixture on medium for about 10 minutes. It should look something like this:

Next, break the ground beef into chunks and add it to your mixture, turning the heat up to medium-high heat. Cook the ground beef, stirring constantly to make sure it doesn’t clump. As soon as the pink is gone from the meat, add your tomatoes (remove the bay leaf), the can of tomato puree and the two cans of kidney beans. Stir it all together, allow it to boil ever so slightly, reduce the heat to low and cover it. Simmer it for one hour with the lid on. In a separate pan, cook the bacon pieces until they are mostly crispy and add them to the chili. Stir the chili every ten minutes.

After one hour, remove the lid and stir in the cocoa powder. Simmer the chili for one more hour, uncovered, stirring every ten minutes. Ten minutes before the hour is over, stir in the mayonnaise. At the end of the hour, taste the chili for spiciness. If you want it more spicy, add cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes. To reduce spiciness, which shouldn’t be necessary since this is a fairly mild chili, you would add something sweet like honey, maple sugar, or coconut palm sugar.
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