This Traditional Chili is the delicious and hearty ground beef chili full of tomatoes and beans that is served throughout the Midwest (except Cincinnati), and is what I crave when I want chili.
I had a devil of a time naming this post, because I have this fear a whole bunch of you will come out of the woodwork yelling that this is not your idea of traditional chili. But it is definitely the basic flavor profile I grew up with in Columbus, Ohio, with ground beef, tomatoes and beans. The corn is optional and using a mix of beans (versus all kidney beans) is also optional. But in general this is what I grew up with –in Ohio, people, NOT Texas!!– and what I can make blindfolded in the kitchen without thinking about it. So much so, as a matter of fact, that I was shocked to discover recently…. it is not already on the blog!
And if you are wondering, no disrespect is intended whatsoever to Texans and their chili–which I also really love. But kind of like the eternal cornbread debate between the North and South, I am well aware that what a central Ohioan (never mind someone from Cincinnati) calls chili and what a Texan calls chili are two radically different things. As for me, this is my traditional chili, what I grew up with, but I am super happy to eat them all and just call them all different kinds of chili!
So now that we have gotten that out of the way, apparently my traditional chili has never been on this blog. Somehow I got it in my head that it was already there! Which is a shame because in addition to being delicious, it is really easy. As long as you give yourself enough time for the ground dried ancho chile peppers and fire roasted tomatoes to blend together magically (which takes less time than you might think, start to finish this was about one and a half hours, which is my idea of an easy weekend meal), this chili is simple simple simple.
I personally love this traditional chili with fresh or frozen organic sweet corn, but you could garnish it with tortilla chips instead. They both add a pop of texture, one is just sweeter than the other. In my ideal world I would probably serve this chili with all kidney beans (or some other kind of runner bean) but Sammy loves black beans and does not love the larger super firm beans, so I often mix the beans up as a compromise. Don’t get hung up on too many of the flavor enhancing ingredients; for example, if you don’t have cocoa powder, use unsweetened chocolate or even a little bittersweet chocolate. No cider vinegar? Red wine vinegar would work ok too or maybe a golden balsamic. The point is to add a little bitter depth (the chocolate) and bright and sour (the vinegar). If I didn’t have Ceylon Cinnamon, I would add a little Allspice. No canned chipotle peppers? Use ground dried. Or even smoked paprika. I would make this chili with regular canned tomatoes, but I think it would take longer to get the smoky depth of flavor you get from using fire roasted. And if you want a few alarms in your chili? Add more chipotle (my first choice) or some cayenne pepper. We avoid that because of Alex, as my long time readers probably know by now.
Use any beans that sound good to you! I prefer to have either corn in my chili or tortilla chips as a garnish, not both at the same time, but once again do what sounds good to you. If you like your chili spicy, use more chipotle chile peppers or add some cayenne.
- 1-2 T vegetable oil
- 4 small or 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- salt to taste
- 2-3 T minced garlic
- 1 4-oz can diced green chile peppers
- 2 sweet bell peppers, chopped
- 1 lb ground beef
- 3 T ancho chile powder
- 2 t New Mexico chile powder
- 1 T ground cumin
- 1 t Ceylon cinnamon
- 1/2-1 minced canned chipotle pepper
- 3 15-oz cans fire roasted tomatoes
- 2 t natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 1-2 cups chicken stock, low sodium if commercial
- 10 oz frozen organic corn
- 1 T cider vinegar, plus more if needed for deglazing
- shredded medium cheddar
- shredded monterey jack
- sour cream
- tortilla chips
- chopped cilantro
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat. When hot, add the oil and when it shimmers add the onions with a pinch of salt.
Cook the onions for 7-8 minutes, until they are becoming translucent. Add the garlic and the canned diced green chile peppers. Stir and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add the chopped sweet bell pepper with another pinch of salt. Stir and let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the vegetables have stuck or scorched at all, add a small splash of cider vinegar.
Add the ground beef. Break it up into clumps and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Mix into the onions. Let the beef brown, stirring occasionally, about 8-10 minutes.
Add the chile powders, cumin and cinnamon. Stir into the ground beef mixture and let the spices roast. Add the minced canned chipotle pepper. Stir it into the mixture and let everything cook for 3-5 minutes. If anything is scorching or sticking, add a small splash of cider vinegar.
Add the fire roasted tomatoes. Mix into the ground beef mixture until incorporated. Stir in the cocoa powder. Let simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the rinsed and drained beans with 1 cup of chicken stock. Stir and bring to a simmer. Let simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
A good chili should be rich and stew-like, but not watery or brothy. If the chili is getting too dry after 30 minutes add more chicken stock. At the 30 minute mark is also when you add the corn if using. If you need to add more stock, let it simmer for 10-15 minutes after adding in order to blend the chicken stock into the chili; if you only added corn, 5-7 minutes should do. Turn the heat down to a lower simmer if it is evaporating too quickly.
Stir the 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar into the chili. Stir and taste for more vinegar and more salt.
Serve with cilantro, shredded cheeses and sour cream, and tortilla chips if desired.
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