Short Rib Chili

November 18, 2010
11 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Prep time 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Cook time 4 hours 25 minutes
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

We love a good pot of chili, and our kitchen has turned out dozens of variations over the years. My husband is partial to a meaty, Alton Brown-style version, while I tend to favor a chili with lots of beans and sometimes no meat at all. With the weather turning colder I decided to make chili my next project, and set out on a recent Sunday to come up with a version that would satisfy both of us. For the meat, I used boneless grass-fed beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into chunks. I made a puree of chiles and spices, added fire-roasted tomatoes and some rich dark beer, and let everything cook low and slow for the better part of the day. I added some crushed tortilla chips for texture and a hint of toasty corn flavor, and a hit of fresh lime juice at the end for brightness and balance. And after my pot of chili had cooked for the better part of the day, I cooled it down and let it sit overnight. We ate it on the following Monday with a bevy of garnishes, and I have to tell you, it was so worth the wait. - lastnightsdinner —lastnightsdinner

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Based out of Providence, RI and Boston, MA, lastnightsdinner is a farmer's market lover and food blogger.
WHAT: A chili that combines the traditional -- smoky and spicy dried chiles, boneless short ribs, roasted bell pepper -- with the innovative -- cocoa powder, stout beer, and tortilla chips.
HOW: After getting the basic components like parboiled beans and a thick chile puree ready, you simmer the chili for hours until the beef is fork tender.
WHY WE LOVE IT: This chili rewards your effort with a major flavor payoff. And your leftovers will taste even better the next day (if you have any, that is)! —Food52

What You'll Need
  • for the chili
  • 1/2 pound dried small red beans
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small onion, halved, unpeeled
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
  • 1 whole fire-roasted red bell pepper
  • 1 Kosher or sea salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed
  • 1 splash grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon dried marjoram or Mexican oregano
  • 1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste
  • 1 28 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with juice, gently crushed
  • 1 cup chocolate stout (I used Brooklyn Brewery's Black Chocolate Stout)
  • 1/2 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • to garnish:
  • 1 handful grated sharp cheddar or jack cheese
  • 1 teaspoon sour cream
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 handful quick pickled red onion
  • 1 handful fresh or pickled jalapeno peppers
  • 1 handful diced fresh avocado
  • 1 handful thinly sliced radishes
  • 1 handful tortilla chips or warm tortillas
  • 1 dash your favorite hot pepper sauce
  1. Pick over the beans to remove any stones or debris, and place them in a large pot. Add the water, bay leaf and onion, cover the pot, and bring it to a boil. Let boil for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the beans stand, undrained, for an hour. Discard the onion and bay leaf. (Note: the beans should be fairly tender at this point, though older beans may need more soaking time.)
  2. Put on a pair of latex gloves. (No, seriously. Trust me on this.) Using kitchen shears, snip off the stems of the dried peppers and shake out most of the seeds (unless you like a fierier chili, in which case leave in as many as you like). Toast the peppers in a dry skillet until they are fragrant and beginning to soften, then place them in a bowl and cover them with the 2 cups of boiling water. Let soak until they are very soft.
  3. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in the same dry skillet until fragrant. Transfer to a mortar and pestle, add the coarse salt, and grind. Place the softened peppers with their soaking liquid in a blender, adding the ground coriander/cumin mixture, the cinnamon, the chipotle powder, the cocoa powder, and the roasted bell pepper. Puree until smooth and set aside.
  4. Cut the short ribs into bite-sized chunks, season well with salt, and set aside. Place a small amount of oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pot and warm until shimmering. Brown the short rib pieces in batches, removing them to a plate or platter as you finish browning.
  5. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and marjoram or Mexican oregano and cook until fragrant. Clear a space in the bottom of the pot, add the tomato paste, and cook for a minute until it gets a little caramelized before stirring it through the onion mixture.
  6. Return the short ribs to the pot with any juices that have accumulated on the plate or platter, then add the chile puree, the beans with their cooking liquid, and the fire-roasted tomatoes. Add the stout and stir to incorporate. Cover and simmer over low heat for at least 3-4 hours, until the beans and beef are fully tender (this is actually best if you cook it low and slow ahead of time, even one or two days in advance of when you’re actually going to serve it).
  7. Add the crushed tortilla chips about an hour before serving, stirring them in so they break down and thicken the chili (and add a lovely toasty corn flavor). Taste for salt and add a bit more if necessary, stir in the fresh lime juice off the heat, then serve with garnishes and plenty of cold beer.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Jan Swafford
    Jan Swafford
  • Edward
  • David Cannon
    David Cannon
  • Erin Argue
    Erin Argue
  • LeBec Fin
    LeBec Fin

107 Reviews

Pcollier1017#5 October 5, 2020
I made this chili for a family dinner and everyone agreed that it was delicious. I used 3 cans of dark red kidney beans Instead of the dried beans, adding them after a few hours of cooking. This didn’t impact the flavor or quality. I agree this is very time consuming and when I made it again I will make the chili sauce and prep all ingredients on day 1. Make the chili the next day (mine cooked ~ 10 hours). Cool and refrigerate overnight. Reheat and finish with final ingredients before serving. Too much work for one day especially if you can’t be tied to the stove.
Deheydo October 16, 2019
Time consuming - check
Delicious - check

If you want to make this a bit more "hearty" add some quinoa. It'll extend your portion size and its fantastic. You'll thank me later.
Beverly S. February 7, 2018
This is one tasty chili! Definitely the best I have ever made. Time consuming on the front end, but major payoff. It’s rich, you will have leftovers.
I made this for a casual dinner party. Had a bit of an EMERGENCY when the beans were not cooked through after a LONG cook in the chili. I had to pick out all the beans and cook separately, with a bit of baking soda to accelerate the process. Next time I will cook the beans separately, and add at the end. If you want to impress chili officianados, this is the one.
Jan S. September 8, 2017
This turned out quite nicely, in the running for the best chili I ever made (though I don't make chili that much). Here's a general comment toward the powers that be in Food 52: Someday it would be very handy to put a note-taking function into favorites. Every time I cook something I give the result a grade and add some notes about things learned. I have to do that on paper now, and those papers add up. If I could do it on this page, then I wouldn't have to keep the paper.
beejay45 September 23, 2017
Excellent suggestion! I am occasionally suckered in by a recipe that sounds good but doesn't work - admittedly doesn't often happen here. It would be great to be able to worn myself: been there, done that, regretted the effort. ;) Or, on a more positive note, sometimes you have an idea for a riff for next time, like trying a different fruit in a dessert or changing the seasoning from TexMex to full on Asian for a whole new dish. Would love that notetaking function!
PT May 31, 2017
hello, i notice in the photo you used a glass blender. I have been looking for one, can you let me know what brand yours is?
Also, amazing recipe! I'm late to the party here but I just made it this week.
Douglas B. May 7, 2016
SOOOOOOOO GOOOD !!!!!! No matter what one calls this. i used root beer in stead of stout.
Edward February 4, 2016
Popularity in other regions has nothing to do with it. I can decide to put chocolate and beets in my matzoh ball soup, but it is no longer matzoh ball soup. It is something else, but not matzoh ball soup. Chili originated in Texas/Mexico region as local stew type dish. I am a native Texan, and I know Chili when I see it. Theses other recipes are stew type dishes. I don't think a Vietnamese individual would like me to call the dish Texas Pho. It is not Pho. The same principles apply to Chili.
beejay45 February 4, 2016
Several points...Arizona and California share borders and cuisines with Mexico, too, and have long had their own versions of meat stewed with chilis, called chili. As long as they aren't calling it Texas chili, lighten up and give us a break.
Matzoh ball soup has matzoh balls and soup. If you want beets and chocolate in yours, go for it. Pho..really? You find enough common points between chili and pho to call one by the other's name?

When cooks put their own spin on a classic dish, they usually retain the original name as a frame of reference. It would be a pretty boring world if no one ever deviated from the classics.
David C. February 23, 2016
How can you spot a native Texan at a party? Don't worry, they'll tell you.
Edward February 3, 2016
This appears to be a great dish. It is not chili however. Beans, chocolate, cinnamon are not components of chili.
beejay45 February 4, 2016
Perhaps not in your kitchen/region, however, those and other miscellaneous ingredients are popular in other areas -- spaghetti, anyone? And they are still chili.
David C. October 28, 2015
Quick comment on the cinnamon: I don't usually do cinnamon in savory dishes (sorry Morocco!) but it worked very well for this chili. The key is to use a milder Mexican cinnamon (the true Ceylon), which will blend into the dish, instead of something bolder like a Chinese or Vietnamese cassia, which is punchy enough for cinnamon rolls.

The sauce had a delightful velvety texture and the bitterness mellowed out the more I cooked it. It was wonderfully complex with "warm blanket" heat instead of "Texas swagger" heat.
Erin A. October 14, 2015
I made this once already and followed the recipe to the letter. I should have known better than to add the cinnamon and the cocoa - I'm just not a fan of either in savoury food. Also. I live in Costa Rica and boneless short ribs are unheard of here so I gagged my way through cleaning and cutting the short ribs. (I am a queasy meat preparer). Anyway - everyone loved it but me so yay Lastnightsdinner! Today I prepared it again - with a piece of chuck steak instead and I omitted the cinnamon and cocoa and WOW - amazing, delicious, ridiculous, best chili ever....for me anyway! It was already the best chili ever for my friends a few weeks ago who like the addition of the spices I omitted.
Irwin September 30, 2015
quick question, is the cocoa powder sweetened or unsweetened?
lastnightsdinner September 30, 2015
Heather February 25, 2015
I can see why this won. Once you use dried peppers in a chile (or enchilada sauce), everything else seems a thin imposter. This is rich, flavorful comfort in a bowl. Thank you for this recipe....it will be treasured and repeated many times to come.
Michele G. December 1, 2017
Agreed! A small amount of masa marina in lieu of the crushed tortilla chips is also good.
LeBec F. October 30, 2014
beejay, what a great informative post; love your comment about mole profiles. Did you mean to say Red Bliss POTATOES?
beejay45 October 30, 2014
LOL! That's a good one. Yes, potatoes, although Red Bliss would be an excellent name for a tomato variety. ;) Thanks for catching that. LE BEC FIN!
beejay45 October 30, 2014
Hope I'm not stepping on any toes, but to answer a couple questions in the comments...
alcohol -- alcohol is volatile and will all be "burned off" long before the chili is done, leaving only the flavor of the stout, so no worries about alcohol in the finished dish. If you don't keep alcohol in the house, I've seen Coke, Pepsi and even Dr. Pepper used in chili recipes -- different flavor profile, but hey.
hard beans -- old beans take much longer to cook and soften than fresher dried beans, if you don't know the age of your beans, that could be the problem. Also, note that lastnightsdinner said that the beans should be fairly soft after the initial boil and soak, so if they are still hard then, you might want to add more liquid and repeat the process before putting them into the chili.
Now, having said all that, pushy broad that I am, I have to say that this is an amazing dish. I usually go for a completely different flavor profile in my chili, and I don't like the mole side of things, thinking it tastes like mud, but there are enough brighteners in here to elevate that profile. This really pleased me and my roomie. The only change we made was to amp up the garlic by adding another several cloves, crushed, at the very end -- we love our garlic! Thanks for the great recipe, lnd, and very late congratulations on your win! ;)
Oh! And we sometimes serve chili over smooshed, leftover baked (Red Bliss) tomatoes, either plain or briefly pan fried -- that would pretty much be beanless chili, but it's amazing and gets rid of leftovers.
DennisH October 23, 2014
Fantastic- Followed to the T and can't wait to make again. Best chili i ever had.
Try crumbling some home made corn bread in instead of the chips. Awesome!
Alexa April 5, 2014
Hi, I just need to comment about the beans. I have made this 2x but put everything into the slow cooker after Step 5. The first time I did it the beans were not cooked after 4 hours. This time I doubled the recipe and the beans are not cooked after 5 hours and then an additional 2 hours (on low both times). So I think next time I am going to have to cook the beans first and then put them in. What I don't understand is that I frequently cook beans by themselves in the slow cooker and it takes 5 hours on low with no pre-soaking (and I followed this recipe - with the boiling and soaking for over an hour). So I can't understand why they won't cook with this fairly liquid-y chili in the same time frame. Anyway, it is delicious but I am stressed out with 14 people coming tonight. I don't want to overcook the meat but I need to get these beans softer.
Patti October 21, 2016
I have found through experince which stores have a higher turn over of the dried beans. If they aren't soft within the recommended time, I throw them out because they never soften if too old.
Douglas March 10, 2014
I made w/o any stout nor tomatoes and it came out Absolut-Delish. I have a sensitivity to glutton and tomatoes so I either find substitutions or eliminate all together
ThisOldChick March 10, 2014
Thank you, Douglas! Did you use a liquid substitute for the stout (broth, etc.) or simply eliminate it?
ThisOldChick February 26, 2014
Recipe looks fabulous, but I can't consume alcohol. Can you recommend a liquid non-alcoholic substitute for the chocolate stout?
Sherry Z. February 26, 2014
Let me add another to your mountain of compliments. Easily the best chili I've ever had. I topped it with pickled red onions & radishes, diced avocado, and cotija cheese.
callen34 February 17, 2014
The list of ingredients calls for "trimmed" short ribs. Does that mean to trim off any fat? Or to trim the meat off the bone? Thanks.
lastnightsdinner February 21, 2014
Hi - sorry, I'm just seeing this now! I use boneless short ribs for this recipe, so by "trimmed" I just mean trimmed of any sinew or excessive amounts of fat.