Chocolate in chili?
The first time I mentioned it to my 6 year old, he grinned and his eyes just about burst out of his head from a combination of disbelief and excitement. You would've thought I told him Santa was coming for dinner. Truth be told, there's only one tablespoon of chocolate in the whole pot — but he didn't know that. Needless to say, he gobbled up his entire bowl that night without one ounce of the usual mealtime drama. It was a chocolate chili miracle! So yes, I'll admit, I make it a point to shamelessly announce the beloved ingredient every time this chili is being served. Better yet, whenever possible I let my son add the chocolate to the pot. It's so funny to watch him — he thinks he's pulling one over on us, putting 'candy' in our dinner.
Not a carnivore? Check out the Vegan version here.
I like to think this is a crowd-pleasing chili, because it's not too hot or too spicy like some can be. When feeding a crowd I find it easier to make a batch like this and then offer toppings for everyone to create their own meal, just how they like it. I've set up a chili bar (like this one) several times and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. And I can tell you, it makes hosting super easy — especially if you make the chili the day before and just reheat it in a crock pot.
You want to use pure cacao powder (or cocoa powder) that is unsweetened. The cacao powder I use is from my local health food store, and I use it in lots of different recipes (smoothies, brownies, protein bars... you get the idea). Organic cacao powder is full of antioxidants and magnesium, making this kind of chocolate guilt-free.
You have some wiggle room with the ingredients in this recipe, so don't worry about exact measurements too much. Don't like kidney beans? Use Black or Pinto. As for cans of beans and diced tomatoes — it's not going to matter if you use two small cans (15 oz) or one large can (between 28 to 30 oz). Just keep the volume as close as possible to what's called for in the ingredients list. The pepper? I like to use one large green bell pepper, but I've also used yellow, red, and orange. You can even use 2 small and mix the colors for fun if you'd like. Experiment and use what inspires you. I would just try to keep the spices (chili powder, cumin, oregano, cinnamon, and cacao powder) the same as in the recipe. That's where you can really get off track and ruin a whole pot of chili — trust me!
The exact chili powder that you use will affect the taste of your chili. They each have their own blend and some are hotter than others (For a while there, I couldn't figure out why my chili kept turning out too hot, even when I stopped using cayenne. Turns out it was the chili powder!) It took me a while to find a brand that I like, and the one that I use is the Simply Organic brand. They sell it in both my local grocery store and health food store, which makes things easy when shopping.
For this recipe you could also use a piece of dark chocolate that is roughly the size of a tablespoon; however, be sure to purchase chocolate that is free of dairy and soy. Soy lecithin is very commonly used in chocolate, especially in cheaper varieties. My local health food store seems to offer the greatest variety of allergy-free chocolate bars for just a few dollars a piece. They even sell individually wrapped bite-sized pieces that would be a perfect substitute for the cacao powder.
Chili is even better the next day, so whenever possible, make this the day before you plan on eating it. Your patience will be rewarded!
The 8SAFE processed ingredients that I used in this recipe: Applegate Farms Uncured Sunday Bacon, NAVITAS NATURALS Cacao Powder, MUIR GLEN ORGANICS diced tomatoes, EDEN ORGANIC Kidney Beans, and Pacific Organic Beef Broth.
A recipe is only 8SAFE if it is free of gluten and the top eight food allergens. Please be mindful of this when selecting products to use in this recipe, and double check the ingredients of the products you use.
- 8 oz bacon, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large (or 2 small) bell pepper, diced
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp cacao powder
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 (16 oz) cans of diced tomatoes
- 2 (16 oz) cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cups beef broth (or water)
In a large dutch oven or stock pot, brown the bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally for about 8 to 10 minutes, until bacon is browned and has rendered 2 to 4 Tbsp of fat. Drain off excess fat, leaving about 2 Tbsp in the pot.
Add the onion and pepper and continue cooking until onion is translucent.
Add the ground beef and spices. Stir, breaking up the beef and cook until beef is no longer pink inside. Scrape off any browned bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan (there's tons of flavor in there!).
Add tomatoes, beans, and beef broth (or water).
Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally for about an hour.
Remove the lid and cook another 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. If it starts getting too thick, or sticking to the bottom of the pot, stir in about 1/4 cup of water to thin it out, and continue cooking until the chili thickens to your desired consistency.
Remove from heat and salt to taste.