Four-Bean Chili

To me, chili is the ultimate comfort food. Rich and warm, spicy and flavorful, and just waiting to merge with oodles of melty cheese, a bowl of hot chili on a cold autumn day is just one of my favorite things.

Chili is wonderfully versatile. It’s great for using up bits of old ingredients, and its flavor varies dramatically depending on which spices, beans, and chillies you use. This recipe features my favorite ingredients, but I’ll list some tried and true alternatives in the Cooking Notes section.

Ingredients:

  • A mix comprising a total of 16 ounces (450 grams) of:
    • Black beans
    • Cranberry beans
    • Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
    • Purple runner beans (phaseolus coccineus)
  • Yellow onions (200 grams)
  • Beets (300 grams)
  • Carrots (150 grams)
  • Butternut squash (150 grams)
  • Cremini mushrooms (140 grams)
  • Three Cups crushed tomatoes
  • Two shallots or two Tablespoons freeze-dried shallots
  • Eight Tablespoons olive oil
  • One tablespoon honey
  • One vegetable bouillon cube or three to five cups cups vegetable bouillon, as needed

Spices:

  • Five Tablespoons Black Onyx cocoa powder
  • Five Tablespoons of your favorite chili powder
  • Two Tablespoons cumin
  • One to three Tablespoons Urfa biber, as preferred
  • One Tablespoon Ancho chili powder
  • 1/2 Tablespoon Mexican oregano (lippia graveolens)
  • 1/2 Tablespoon smoked sweet Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 Tablespoon crushed dried jalapeños
  • One to three teaspoons ground cayenne pepper, as preferred
  • One teaspoon cinnamon
  • One teaspoon onion and garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • Two bay leaves (laurus nobilis)

Equipment:

  • A large crock pot
  • A cutting board
  • A chef’s knife
  • Measuring spoons
  • A wooden spoon
  • A tasting spoon
  • A mortar and pestle
  • Measuring cups
  • Several bowls, for ingredient prep
  • Two large mixing bowls, for soaking the beans
  • A baking sheet
  • A pastry brush

Divide the beans into the two mixing bowls. Put the garbanzo beans and the runner beans in one bowl, and the cranberry and black beans in the other bowl. Soak the beans in water overnight. Drain the beans. You can either discard the water or use it to hydrate your houseplants.

Set your crock pot to low heat. Put the garbanzo beans and the runner beans in the crock pot and cover with vegetable bouillon. Add two tablespoons olive oil and the two bay leaves. Cook for one to two hours or until the beans are just starting to soften, but still starchy and not cooked through. Add the cranberry and black beans and more water or vegetable bouillon, and continue cooking until all the beans are soft, approximately two to four hours. If the water level falls below the beans in the pot, add more water or bouillon. Once the beans are cooked through, remove the bay leaves. Add the crushed tomatoes to the beans and stir.

Using a mortar and pestle, crush the coriander seeds. Combine all of the spices (except the bay leaves you used for the beans) in a small bowl, and mix thoroughly. The spice mix should be a dark, earthy brown and smell pungent, fruity, and warm. Add the spices to the beans and tomatoes in your crock pot, and stir to incorporate.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit/190 degrees Celsius. In another small bowl, combine the honey and five tablespoons of the olive oil. Whisk briskly to combine. Set aside.

Clean the beets, squash, and carrots. Chop them into pieces roughly the size of a cranberry bean (don’t worry if they’re a bit larger or smaller). Arrange the pieces on a baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, cover the pieces with the olive oil and honey mixture. Place the vegetables into the oven and roast for twenty minutes. After your timer goes off, use a spatula to stir the pieces so they don’t stick, then put the veggies back in the oven for another 15-25 minutes or until they’re soft. Remove the veggies and transfer them to the crock pot with your beans and tomatoes.

While the root vegetables are roasting, clean and chop the onions, shallots, and mushrooms. In a sauté pan, warm the remaining olive oil. When the oil is at temperature, add the garlic and shallots. If you are using freeze-dried shallots, simply add the shallots into the chili directly and skip the sauté. Sauté until the onions are transparent, then add the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are soft, then remove from heat and put the whole mess into the crock pot.

Stir to incorporate all your ingredients, then cook on your crock pot’s lowest heat setting for 3-5 hours. Serve covered in your favorite grated cheddar cheese.

Cooking Notes:

The key to this chili is variety. If you don’t have access to the beans listed above, you can try any four of your favorite beans. I’ve had great success with some combination of garbanzo beans, pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans, Domingo Rojo beans, or lentils. If you choose beans of different sizes, you may have to cook them for slightly different amounts of time in order to achieve softness without overcooking them. Lentils should be prepared separately, since they don’t require pre-soaking and take about 30 minutes to cook.

Don’t have time to soak and cook beans? Use canned beans instead; one can of each type of bean you’d like to use. Drain the beans and put them right in your crock pot on low heat, and skip to adding the crushed tomatoes and spices.

Out of mushrooms, or just not a fan? Substitute seitan, or, if you want to make the dish non-vegetarian, your favorite cooked, ground meat.

Don’t have all of the spices called for in this recipe? Try making your own mix, out of your favorite spices and chillies. The important thing is that your chili is pungent, flavorful, and tasty!

This recipe makes 8-12 servings, and will last up to a week in the refrigerator. You can also freeze the chili to enjoy later. To reheat, warm in a saucepan over low heat. Enjoy chili topped with shredded cheese, or fry it in a tortilla for a breakfast quesadilla.

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