When I was a kid, I judged a chili contest at Art Park.

Being a kid, I was not that into spicy, so I (along with most of the other judges, who were all adults) voted for the least spicy offering in the contest, “Ridiculously Easy Chili”.

And since it was ridiculously easy and quite tasty, that became our family’s standard chili recipe. Plus, it made a great breakfast choice for my reactively-hypoglycemic little self, who could barely make it to school on a bowl of cheerios.

But as I grew up, I got a taste for spicier foods…

So one day, I bought a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a deviled eggs recipe (which was *amazing*), and I had several left over. So a new dish – and a new obsession – was born.

I make this a few times a year, but when I do, one batch is not enough. I will eat it for two or three meals a day for two weeks straight. This is decidedly husband-friendly, but mine doesn’t usually get any of it.

Like most of my recipes, the amounts are estimated and not that important anyway. Adjust it to suit yourself. 🙂

Nomtacular Chili
Serves 6-8, depending on the size of your eyes and/or stomach.



  • 1/2 cup dried kidney beans or one 15-oz can, rinsed and drained (feel free to substitute black beans or pintos, if you prefer)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Olive oil (about 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 lb. ground beef (mine comes from the nice people at Chestnut Farms)
  • 2 cups V8-style vegetable juice (sounds gross, but gives it a fuller flavor than just using tomatoes. The Whole Foods 365 brand organic stuff is great)
  • 1 can tomato paste (again, I think the organic stuff tastes better)
  • 1 32-oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes (depending on how you like the texture)
  • One zucchini and/or bell pepper, diced (optional, but a nice way to bump up the veggie content)
  • 2-5 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (depending on how spicy you like it), or 1-2 tsp of ground chipotle powder
  • A lot of cumin (at least 1.5-2 tsp)
  • A lot of garlic powder (at least 1 tsp)
  • A generous shake of onion powder (at least 1/2 tsp)
  • A teeny shake of cayenne pepper (around 1/8 tsp)
  • Enough beef stock to thin the chili to the desired thickness (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Optional Accompaniments:

  • Sour Cream or Crema
  • Shredded Cheese: monterey jack, colby, cheddar, etc.
  • Corn Chips (the blue ones are fun, but the yellow ones look the nicest)
  • Fresh Corn Kernels (or frozen corn, toasted in a dry pan to add flavor)


If you are using dried beans, cover them with water and leave them to soak overnight, then drain, cover with fresh water, and simmer until just tender, about an hour.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or large deep skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sautĂ© until they are soft and just begin to brown. (Don’t rush this step; the chili just doesn’t taste right if the onions are still crunchy.) Add the ground beef, and sautĂ© until browned.

In a separate bowl, mix the V8 juice and tomato paste thoroughly.
(This seems pointless, but it’s hard to mix in the tomato paste otherwise.)

Add the tomato paste to the meat mixture. Add the spices, beans, and the chipotles and their sauce, and stir to mix. If the chili is thicker than you’d like, thin with beef broth. Reduce heat to medium/low, and simmer until the flavors are well-blended, about 45-60 minutes. Remove the chipotles (trust me on this – don’t skip this step!) If you can resist, store the chili in the fridge overnight and reheat; it’s better on the second day!

Salt to taste, but keep in mind that most corn chips are pretty salty, so go a little easier than you would normally.

Serve in bowls, and top with whatever appeals to you: cheese, sour cream, corn chips, fresh corn kernels, etc.


I had this with a California Zinfandel (RED Zinfandel, not white, thank you very much!), and it was a great match. It wasn’t tannic or astringent enough to taste harsh with the spice, and it had big round fruit flavors that meshed with the sweetness of the tomato and really brought out the nice round richness of the chilis.

Most Spanish reds (Tempranillo, Rioja, Garnacha) work well too.

I haven’t tried it, but this might just work with a dry, sparkling rosĂ©. Especially outside at a picnic with a nice fresh salad.