What to CookChili

A Hearty Vegetarian Chili with 3 Tricks Up Its Sleeve

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There may be numerous schools of chili out there, but no matter what regional style you subscribe to, we can all agree that there are fewer things more comforting than tucking into a warm bowl of it (with all the fixings, please).

The latest chili to cross our paths here at Food52 comes to us from Laila Ali (yes, that one!), and it checks off everything we love about the soul-soothing dish: hearty, spiced just right, with a depth of flavor that had us reaching for more. Now, cocoa powder and coffee are no strangers to a chili party, but combined with the earthy cremini mushrooms in Ali's recipe, they bring out all of the great umami flavors we love so much. A touch of sweet and tangy balsamic vinegar acts as both a deglazing liquid and a final brightener to the finished pot.

Talk about a sight for sore eyes!
Talk about a sight for sore eyes! Photo by Rocky Luten

Like many chilis, this one gets better the longer you cook it (and tastes even better the following day). For those who like a thicker chili, you can blend a portion of it and then return it to the pan.

The former professional boxer has a passion for throwing it down in the kitchen—and it shows in her new book, Food for Life.

"Many people assume that my success in boxing was automatically passed on to me from my dad [Muhammad Ali]. Actually, the truth is, I didn't learn how to harvest those boxing 'genes' and build on the healthy fitness and eating habits my parents instilled in me until I was eighteen and became a boxer myself," Ali writes. "The food I ate allowed me to get the most out of my training and set me apart from the competition."

These days as a busy mother of two, Ali is committed to passing down those good habits to her own family. "Nutrition is king in my kitchen, but flavor is queen, and I won't sacrifice one for the other in my cooking."

Cremini Mushroom, Black Bean, and Corn Chili

Cremini Mushroom, Black Bean, and Corn Chili

Food52 Food52
Serves 8
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, finely chopped or pulsed in the food processor (in batches, if necessary)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans black beans, drained, or 3 cups cooked black beans
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with juices
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups good-quality store-bought (vegetable) broth, plus more if needed
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Optional garnishes: Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt; guacamole or avocado chunks; shredded Jack cheese; sliced scallions; pickled jalapeños; chopped red onion; lime wedges
Go to Recipe

What are your favorite ways to boost flavor in chili? Share your tips with us below!

Automagic Spring Menu Maker!
Automagic Spring Menu Maker!

Tags: Bean, Vegetable, Vegetarian, Books, Wellness