Here’s a simple chili — because I’m only doing simple these days — that’s taken to the next level with the addition of cacao powder (cocoa powder works too!). The chocolate flavor works here the same way that it works in a mole sauce: it adds richness and depth of flavor to the chili. In other words, it makes for a delicious and complex dish that is actually quick and easy.
Make-ahead meals are the saving grace for a busy cook. Unfortunately, a lot of the time you have to sacrifice flavor for convenience when you make dinner ahead of time (a trade which is still worth it more often than not!). This is not the case with chili. This chili, similar to most chilis and stews, gets better with time. The active cooking time is pretty short — about 20 minutes — and then the best thing you can do is let it simmer on the stove or in a crockpot.
Here are some options:
- I’ve served it right away, and it’s still good, so no worries if you’re short on time.
- All day is great too… cook it in the morning, then put it in a crockpot on low and forget about it!
- Busy day ahead? Make it the day before and put it in a crockpot on low in the morning.
- Cook once, eat twice by making a double batch and freezing the second serving. Let it defrost overnight in the refrigerator, and then reheat on the stove when you are ready to eat. Or again, you can put it in a crockpot on low.
Chocolate Chili Inspiration
The recipe is inspired by Melissa Joulwan’s paleo version. I’ve made her recipe many times and it’s always a hit. Over the years we’ve come to land on half ground turkey/half black beans as our favorite variation. And I’ve simplified the spices just a little here too… I always strive to keep the ingredient list short and sweet, both for my sake and yours! It’s funny how just one extra spice can put me over the edge, prompting me to decide that I’m actually not up to making the recipe after all.
For a vegetarian version, add in an extra can of black beans in lieu of the meat. For a beef version, just sub in equal amounts of ground beef for ground turkey. Feel free to add in as many veggies as you’d like: you could stir in some chopped and sauteed red bell peppers, or a handful of chopped frozen spinach, or some corn cut off the cob.
Baked Potato with Chili
The flavors in this chili are so rich that I think it pairs really well with a plain baked potato (which I bake until the internal temperature reaches 450, per the instructions of Cook’s Illustrated). I’ll bake the potato, cut it in half and open it up, tuck in a little steamed kale, and pile it high with chili. Sometimes I’ll add cheese, Greek yogurt (which we usually sub in for the standard sour cream, just because we keep yogurt on hand), avocado, chives, cilantro, and lime. Truth be told, it’s rare that I have all of these ingredients on hand at the same time so I’ll usually just use whatever I’ve got and call it a day.
About Cacao Powder
This recipe calls for cacao powder, so here’s a little primer on this ingredient. There is a difference between cacao and cocoa powder, although most of this difference is in terms of nutrition rather than taste. Cacao is made by cold-pressing unroasted cacao beans, and this process preserves a lot of its nutritional value, whereas cocoa is made from cacao that has been roasted at high temperatures, which causes it to lose some of its nutritional value (see more information on this here). But in terms of flavor, I’ve had similar results using both cacao powder and cocoa powder, so if you can’t find cacao, go ahead and use unsweetened cocoa powder instead (just make sure it really is unsweetened; it’s easy to grab the wrong one).
- 1 medium onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 2 cans black beans (14.5 ounces each)
- 1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)
- 1 can petite* diced tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
- 2 tablespoons cacao** powder unsweetened
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 cup broth***
- 1 teaspoon salt
- sour cream or greek yogurt
- shredded cheese
- diced avocado
- minced chives
- diced red onion
- fresh lime juice
- corn chips
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Coat in 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onion and garlic, and cook for about five minutes until onions are translucent and slightly browned. Scoot onions to the edges of the pot, and place ground turkey in the middle. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, break up ground turkey and cook until browned and cooked through.
Add spices (cumin, chili powder, and allspice) to the pot and stir to coat meat and to brown spices. Stir for two minutes. Add tomato paste and stir for two more minutes, coating meat and caramelizing tomato paste.
Add beans, tomatoes, and broth. Stir to combine and disperse flavors from spices and tomato paste. Add salt and adjust if necessary.
Let chili simmer on stove over very low heat for at least 1 hour to further develop flavors.
Serve over baked potato or in a bowl with all the fixings: sour cream or greek yogurt, shredded cheese, diced red onion, chives, cilantro, lime, avocado, and corn chips.
*regular diced tomatoes are fine as well; I just prefer the smaller size of petite diced. **unsweetened cocao powder works too. ***I like using bone broth in cases like this, for extra protein and nutrients, but chicken broth or beef broth are perfectly acceptable.