Chili purists will argue that adding beans is a definite no-no, and I actually prefer mine sans beans. However, adding beans not only helps stretch the meat, it also adds vegetable protein and fiber to the dish. Although I’ve used kidney and pinto beans here, feel free to use your favorite cooked beans, such as black beans, navy, white, or whichever you like.
The use of unsweetened chocolate is one of the secrets to an authentic-tasting chili, so don’t skip it. I use the unsweetened baking squares which are are normally used in making chocolate desserts from scratch. In a pinch, you may use unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder.
This recipe is not super spicy, because I’ve used mild chiles which become even less hot once cooked. If you like your chili fiery hot, use hotter chiles or increase the amount of cayenne pepper. I usually put a bottle of hot sauce on the table for those who like to set their mouth on fire.
Cornbread goes great with chili to sop up the juices.
Easy Cowboy Chili Recipe
1 beef chuck roast (about 3 pounds)
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tablespoons (about) all-purpose flour
Olive oil, as needed for browning
1 large onion, diced
3 large Anaheim, serrano, or jalapeno chiles, seeds and stems removed, then diced (about 1/4 pound)
6 cloves garlic, finely-chopped
1 cup beef broth (broth made from bouillon cubes/powder is fine)
1 can (28 ounces ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 square (1 ounce) of unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped (may substitute 1 Tablespoon unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 Tablespoon ground cumin
1 Tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1 Tablespoon dried oregano, crushed between your palms to release flavor
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or to taste
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 bay leaf, broken in half
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1 can (15.5 ounces) kidney beans, undrained
1 can (15.5 ounces) pinto beans, undrained
Sour cream or shredded cheese, 1 chopped tomato, and additional chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
Trim any fat from the chuck roast and cut into 1-inch chunks. Season the beef chunks with salt and pepper. Sprinkle on the flour and toss to coat.
Heat a large, heavy Dutch oven or stock-pot over medium heat. When hot, coat the bottom of the pot with olive oil. Sear the beef in batches, adding more olive oil as necessary, until the meat nicely browned. Do not crowd the pan or the beef will boil instead of brown. Don’t worry if the meat still looks rare. More cooking is to come. Reserve the browned beef in a bowl.
Add the diced onion and chiles to the pan drippings and gently saute for 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Add the beef broth, crushed tomatoes, chopped chiles, garlic, unsweetened chocolate, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, cumin, sweet paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper, chopped cilantro, bay leaf, and salt. Stir and bring to a simmer. When the chocolate has melted, return the beef to the pot, along with any drippings. Cover and simmer on low for 1-1/2 hours, or until beef is tender.
Add the kidney beans and pinto beans to the chili, along with their liquid, and return to a simmer. Heat for 5 minutes. Fish out and discard the bay leaves. Sample and add salt and/or additional hot sauce to taste.
Serve cowboy chili garnished with a dollop of sour cream, diced tomato, and chopped cilantro.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
• You can let the crockpot do the work of cooking the beef base for the chili. Follow the directions above down to the point of returning the beef to the pot. Put it all in the crockpot and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours. When the beef is tender, stir in the beans and cook until the beans are heated through.
• For families on a budget, consider substituting pork roast for the chuck roast or go half pork and half beef. Follow the same directions as above. It’s just as good!
• Bean-lovers may want to add an additional 15.5-ounce can of beans.
• To further stretch the chili, consider serving it over cooked white rice. It makes a filling and hearty meal.