This chili con carne with beans has endless layers of flavor thanks to a homemade chili powder, seared steak, beer, and cocoa powder.
This chili has a deep and complex flavor thanks to a homemade chile paste and the chili con carne-style preparation gives it a rich body and steak-y bite. Far and away the finest chili—but don’t be afraid to make it your own! Try other chiles, add more habanero for heat, add other beans or omit them altogether…–Andrew Rea
What is chili con carne?
“Chili con carne” translates, literally, to “chili with meat.” Which may seem sorta redundant. There’s a lot of variance in how it’s prepared although it’s often made with a specific variety (or two) of dried chile peppers, as here, rather than with a store-bought blend labeled “chili powder.” It also often calls for chunks of meat rather than ground beef. And, as always with chili, beans are a tripping point for a lot of folks. Use ’em or omit ’em. As the author says above, don’t be afraid to make it your own.
Chili con Carne with Beans
- 3 ounces dried ancho chile peppers (about 7 peppers) stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 1 ounce dried cascabel chile peppers (about 3 peppers) stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces
- 3 tablespoons finely ground cornmeal
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 4 cups store-bought canned chicken broth or homemade chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
- 3 pounds chuck steak trimmed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 1 large (10 oz) red onion chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves minced
- 2 jalapeños seeded and finely chopped
- 1 habanero pepper seeded and finely chopped (optional)
- 1 bottle (12 ounces) Mexican lager
- 6 medium (1 1/4 lbs) plum tomatoes cored and chopped
- One (12-ounce) can red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Shredded Cheddar cheese for serving (optional)
- Optional garnishes: chopped fresh cilantro sliced scallions, corn kernels, sliced jalapeños, corn chips, and sour cream
- In a dry skillet over medium to medium-low heat, toast the ancho and cascabel chiles until fragrant and barely smoking, about 2 minutes. Place on a plate and let cool slightly.
- Dump the cooled chiles into a food processor and process until they’re ground to a fine powder, about 3 minutes. Add the cornmeal, cocoa powder, cumin, and oregano, and pulse to combine. Add 3/4 cup of the stock and process until a paste forms.
- In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, warm the oil until it’s shimmering. Working in batches to avoid crowding, add the beef and sear, turning as necessary, until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Place the meat in a bowl.
- Add the onion, garlic, jalapeños, and habanero, if using, to the pot and stir to coat with the drippings. Cover and cook for about 1 minute.
- Pour in the beer and cook, stirring and scraping up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, for a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, beans, and brown sugar, and return the beef to the pan. Add the chile paste and the remaining 3 1/4 cups stock and stir until combined.
- Bring the chili to a boil and then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook, partially covered, until the beef is tender and the chili has thickened, about 3 hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
☞TESTER TIP: If you prefer a more stick-to-your-ribs consistency to your chili, leave the lid off the pot for most of the 3 hours.
- Ladle into bowls and let each person add cheese and any other garnishes as desired.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I was hesitant to try this recipe as it’s very different from my own chili. I had most of the ingredients but the chile peppers were a challenge. I finally found the secret hiding spot in the supermarket for the dried ancho chile peppers but had to order the cascabel peppers online.
Immediately after putting together the chili with all the peppers, spices, cocoa powder, cornmeal, and beef, I tasted the chili and I thought ugh, this isn’t very good. But I continued to simmer the chili for almost 3 hours and I must confess, this is the best chili I’ve tasted. The flavor developed with the long simmer and was delicious.
I left the cover off the pot most of the time. The chili was a little soupy at first but did thicken. Next time I may add less stock and another can of beans. Also the amount of salt was not indicated and I added almost 1 tablespoon of salt. This chili was great the first day it was made and even better the next day. I served with cornbread and Cheddar on top, it will be added to my private files.
I have to confess that I very rarely follow a recipe when making chili, but after looking at this I realized it wasn’t too different from my standard method, with the notable additions of cocoa and habanero.
The cooking times were accurate throughout and this made a hearty, tender chili with many layers of flavor. I loved how each of the elements contributed to it from the smoky peppers to the rich cocoa. The habanero packs a punch, so only use if you are comfortable with plenty of heat in your chili!
Originally published February 16, 2021