Cuppa Chili

April 19, 2011

Author Notes: Last spring, for a weekend of camping with families from my daughter’s elementary school, I made a vegetarian chili adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Pierce Street Chili. I subbed yellow split peas and Bhutanese red rice for the farro and barley she calls for and really enjoyed the result. From there I turned to dark and smoky and this admittedly enigmatic chili is the result. It has bacon, so it is not vegetarian, and it has beans, so it is not Texas chili. What it is however, is a savory, smoky, slightly spicy cuppa chili. I hope you enjoy it! gingerroot

Serves: 6


  • 1/2 cup dried black beans
  • For Chili Powder:
  • 2 dried California chiles
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
  • 1 tablespoon cacao nibs
  • 4 thick slices bacon, chopped
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh brewed smoky, bold coffee
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dried yellow split peas
  • 1/2 cup Bhutanese red rice (can substitute a fragrant long grain rice such as brown basmati)
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 1/2 cups sliced carrot
  • 1 14.5 ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • 3 tablespoons balsalmic vinegar mixed with 4 T water
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt for serving
  • Chopped cilantro for serving
  • Monterey Jack cheese for serving
  • Avocado for serving
In This Recipe


  1. Two days before you want to eat the chili, pick through black beans and rinse. Place in a bowl with enough water to cover by at least two inches. Soak overnight. When ready to make chili, drain beans and rinse, discarding soaking water. Place beans in a clean bowl.
  2. Make Chili Powder: Using kitchen shears and gloves, snip stem end of dried chiles. Tip out seeds and discard. Cut each chile into 1-inch lengths. Toast chile pieces and cumin seeds in a dry pan over med-high heat until fragrant, about 3 minutes, occasionally shaking pan to toss seeds and turning chiles with tongs. Allow mixture to cool. Grind toasted chile pieces, toasted cumin, oregano and cacao in a spice grinder or mini prep chopper until you have a uniform powder. Transfer chile powder to a bowl.
  3. Cook bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat, until crispy and fat has rendered. Transfer bacon to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat.
  4. Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened and beginning to get translucent. Follow with garlic, chile powder, cooking until fragrant, a minute or two.
  5. Add water, hot coffee and black beans. Stir to combine. Add split yellow peas and red rice, stirring between each addition. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover and lower to a simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. As mixture cooks and liquid is absorbed, keep an eye on your liquid level, adding small amounts of water (1/4 cup at a time) if needed.
  6. Add celery, carrots and fire roasted tomatoes. Cook 30-40 minutes more.
  7. When beans and peas are tender (and not a moment before!) add kosher salt (start with 1/2 t and taste before adding more) and aleppo pepper (can sub 4 parts sweet paprika and 1 part cayenne for aleppo). Stir in crispy bacon pieces. Allow chili to cool. Refrigerate overnight.
  8. When you are ready to eat, heat chili in pot, covered, over medium heat. Mixture will likely seem dry, so add balsamic/water mixture to pot and cook, covered for at least 15 minutes. Serve chili with garnishes of choice, my favorites include a little cheese, cilantro, sour cream and avocado. Enjoy!

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