Chili often brings out the purists. Some people claim it shouldn’t have beans. Others get up in arms about tomatoes.
So let’s really freak them out and do chili without chilis.
Chili has always been an obvious moon shot for no nightshade cooks. It’s even harder to get excited about replacements because by now there isn’t really a definitive chili. (Sorry, Texas.) Chili is now so many different things to so many different people that sometimes what gets called ‘chili’ may actually be more closely related to Kevin Bacon than to actual chili.
I could write a lot more here, because the history of chili—and the arguments about its origin story—is full of violence and border intrigue. But I can’t do it justice without burying the recipe at the bottom of 5000 words of hearsay and speculation that burn with fires stoked by true believers, so we’re just going to get quickly to the recipe. (If you want a good history read, start here!)
Besides, this recipe is, obviously, not actually chili, because it has no nightshades. But it does have the stripped-down economy of the most basic chili, and it’s both tangy and spicy. Without the capsaicin your heat ceiling is 2 alarms. But for me this really satisfies that chili-shaped hole in my stomach.
Be advised: you’re going to need a well stocked spice cabinet to pull this off. If you skip the Indian long pepper and the Grains of Paradise it’s not going to feel spicy enough.
1 medium onion, chopped
2-6 large clove garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 pound lean ground beef
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon green pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Grains of Paradise
1/2 teaspoon Indian long pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground annatto
1 can dark kidney beans, along with everything from the can
1/2 cup Beetuto
1/2 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon ume vinegar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
broth or water as needed
1In a heavy skillet or Dutch oven sauté your ground beef, or whatever you’re usingene in its place. Depending on the fat content of the meat, you may need to either drain some fat after the meat is browned, or on the other end of the scale add some oil to keep the pan lubricated. If you expect to drain fat, do that before you add the onions—you’d do not want to drain off that onion flavor, too.
2While the beef is browning, start to assemble your spices. I don’t normally do this, but there is enough spice bulk here that they will absorb the oil and other cooking juices quite handily, and with 12 different spices it’s going to take you longer to measure than you may have to cook. If you’re not fast enough with measuring and adding, the spices that went into the skillet first will likely wind up a little charred. And even if you avoid burning, the spices added at the end will not benefit as much from the blooming process. So, assemble the spices beforehand on a plate or in a small bowl add them all at once. But not yet!
3Add the onions and sauté for three to five minutes, then add your garlic. You can mince it if you’d like, but I love having large, thin slices of garlic. It helps offset the lack of peppers.
4Once the onion and garlic have cooked sufficiently, add the spices. Mix them in with the onions and the meat. You want to keep the heat on as high as you dare to activate the aromatic compounds. This can happen fairly quickly, so don’t walk away, and also have your can of beans ready to go so that when the spices are perfectly toasted you can then prevent charring by adding the first round of wet ingredients.
5Add the wet ingredients, with the beans, the Beetuto, and a bit of broth or water coming first. Bring to a simmer and mix well before adding the tamarind paste and the vinegars. If you’re cooking your own beans save all of the water; it’s likely to come in handy in the next step.
6Now for the simmer. Chili is traditionally a long and slow cooking meal, so you can adjust as needed here. If you need to get this meal on the table quickly and you’re using a ground meat that doesn’t require long cooking to soften it up, use as little as a half-cup of water and simmer it down to the desired stew-like consistency. If you’re going to cook it longer, perhaps with some stew beef that has the right flavor but requires more significant time investment, you can add a couple of cups of broth or water and leave it on your stove to simmer. Just make sure you’re checking in on it.
Double or triple the beans if you’re going vegetarian.
Skip the beans and double or triple the meat if beans in chili enrage you!
Double either the meat or the beans if you prefer a different meat/bean balance.