A Harissa-Spiked, (Mostly) Pantry Chili For Nachos, Dip, and More

January  9, 2017

It's that time of year to get cozy and hunker down with friends over good meals, so we partnered with NatureSweet® Tomatoes to share a chili recipe that'll be at home on nachos, in bowls, in dip, and more.

When I gather my gang on the weekends for an epic Catan play date, watching a game (it's usually Indiana University basketball around these parts), or just for a low-maintenance dinner in, I'm apt to turn to cozy one-pot meals that employ the make-it-your-way ethos. Whatever's on the stove is still cooking as people start to show up, so everyone cracks beers and hopefully I've got it together enough to make a few things to snack on in the meantime. Often, in the cold months, the main event is a chili of some sort, either a beany, vegetable-packed version or more standard fare featuring ground turkey.

Recently, I found myself flush with harissa after a rash of Middle Eastern cooking and it dawned on me that many of the spices in the Tunisian pepper paste—cumin, coriander, sometimes paprika—are also used in traditional chili recipes (not exactly a revelation, but a good pantry-emptying reminder). And just then, in anticipation of a night with friends, I was hoping to pull together a pot of something thicker to take things beyond just a bowl and spoon.

Shop the Story

The result was a meaty, tangy, pepper-ed, and spiced chili, dotted with green chilis and rosy-cheeked with tomatoes—one that I tested not with a utensil but with chip after chip because of its likeness to dip. The consistency reminded me of the topping for coney dogs I used to order as a teenager at the drive-in in my hometown (RIP Frostop, awkwardness, and braces), while the harissa and chiles reflected more of what I cook with these days.

"Put us in a pot and make us chili!" - This tray of ingredients. Photo by Bobbi Lin

You can certainly add more liquid for something saucier, but I prefer the thick results of this recipe for adding on top of all sorts of other dishes to share:

  • Set out bowls of your favorite tortilla chips, sour cream, pickled jalapeños, and the chili, and let people go to town layering it up in bowls.

  • Loaded baking sheet nachos: Lay down some sturdy tortilla chips, shower on shredded cheese that'll melt well (like Monterey Jack or Chihuahua), add some beans if you please, spoon on your chili, and then layer up once more with the same culprits. Shove in the oven for 10 minutes at 350° F or so, until the cheese is melty and getting a little golden around the edges. Top off with shredded lettuce, jalapeños, halved cherry tomatoes, and sliced green onions. Put it down in front of the masses, say bye bye.

  • Stir it into queso for chili con queso dip (something akin to this, but more of just a dump and stir method), scatter with sliced green onions, and serve with lots of chips.

  • Sub it in for sloppy Joe filling on a mess of potato rolls, and serve with sliced red onion and extra hot sauce.

  • Make trays of DIY walking tacos by picking up a bunch of single-serving bags of Fritos and toppings like lettuce, cheese, and sour cream, and setting them all out alongside the chili.

  • Add it to hot dogs or sausages, like Cara Nicoletti suggests. Line the bun with spicy brown mustard and top the chili with finely diced raw (or very thinly sliced) onions.

  • Try the chili as enchilada filling—no need for a recipe. (Make a few pans if you've got a party coming over.)

It's that time of year to get cozy and hunker down with friends over good meals, so we partnered with NatureSweet® Tomatoes to share a chili recipe—one you can make with their SunBursts® tomatoes—that'll be at home on nachos, in bowls, in dip, and more.

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Smaug
  • Olivia Bloom
    Olivia Bloom
I love oysters and unfussy sandwiches.


Smaug January 9, 2017
Well, it's sponsored by a tomato company- no other reason to put all those tomatoes in chile- which this really isn't.
Olivia B. January 9, 2017
Tooootally ate half of the pan of these when the test kitchen made them.