Instant Pot

Cocoa Coriander Chili From Jenn de la Vega

January 28, 2020
12 Ratings
Photo by Rocky Luten. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne.
  • Prep time 12 hours
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Imagine James Beard meets a chili cook-off grand champion. They collaborate to build a genius chili recipe with layers of complex flavor, a refined texture, punchy spice, and, of course, all the homespun comforts of a traditional bowl of chili.

This is that chili. But it came straight from the mind of Jenn de la Vega, a caterer, food stylist, and author, who created this cocoa-coriander chili as an entry to a Brooklyn chili cook-off—with a trick that will save all of your chilis (and other meaty mixes) from going dry or tough. As she writes, "This mole-inspired chili incorporates the James Beard burger technique of adding heavy cream to ground beef. Each bite of beef has a mellow note of ancho pepper while Jamaican peppers provide more of a spicy bite to the broth. It is smoky, creamy and—most importantly—chocolatey."

But it was Jenn who added the marinating time to the burger technique, which is what makes the biggest difference of all—thanks to the tenderizing powers of lactic acid. Carry this heavy cream marinade with you to other chilis and other ground meat recipes you make—burgers, meatloaf, bolognese, you get the picture. In all of these situations, the benefits shine through. The meat loses less fat and won't seize up in cooking, which leads to a more tender and luxurious texture—never dry or spongy. You can swap the heavy cream for buttermilk or yogurt, but then you can't say it was inspired by James Beard's hamburger, can you?

Recipe slightly adapted from "Showdown Comfort Food, Chili & BBQ: Bold Flavors from Wild Cooking Contests" (Page Street Publishing, May 2017). —Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Cocoa Coriander Chili From Jenn de la Vega
  • 1 pound (450 g) dry red beans
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 pound (0.5 kg) ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) heavy cream
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/8 cup (15 g) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon (5 g) coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) masa harina (see Note)
  • Salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 smoked ham hock (see Note)
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (feel free to use canned whole peeled, chopped)
  • 2 small Jamaica or Scotch Bonnet peppers, chopped (see Note)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 quart (950 ml) beef broth
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) plain yogurt
  • 1 bar dark chocolate
  1. Wash the red beans, cover with cold water and soak overnight.
  2. Boil 1 cup water and soak the ancho chile for 20 minutes in it until it is soft. Remove and mince the pepper, keeping the seeds in if you want their rustic texture and flavor and discarding the stem. Fold the minced pepper into the ground beef and heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  3. The next day, drain the beans and set aside.
  4. Sauté the yellow onion for 3 minutes on medium heat with a swirl of olive oil, until it is translucent. Add the ground beef and break it up as it cooks. Once the beef is browned, add the garlic, cocoa, coriander, masa harina, salt, and bay leaf. Stir to combine.
  5. Turn up the heat to high. Add the drained beans, ham hock, tomatoes, Jamaica peppers, cumin, and beef broth. Bring the chili to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender (not chalky). Add salt to taste. If you'd like the chili brothier, add more water or beef broth. If you'd like the chili to be thicker, add more masa harina or see the tip below in step 7. At this point, the ham hock has done its job here—feel free to break it up into the chili or save it for breaking into fried rice, simmering for a broth, or another use.
  6. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and grate chocolate over every bowl with a microplane.
  7. Note: If you can't find some of the ingredients, you have options! For the masa harina, feel free to leave it out and, at the end, scoop out some of the chili, mash some of the softened beans, and stir it all back in till the chili is as thick as you like. For the Jamaica peppers, feel free to substitute another spicy fresh pepper, like jalapeño (and it *will* be spicy). For the ham hock, a couple chopped slices of bacon are a good alternative.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tish MacFarlane
    Tish MacFarlane
  • Smaug
  • caroberts77
  • Cindy Young
    Cindy Young
  • Sharon.C
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

25 Reviews

Yvonne H. February 3, 2022
Flavor very good. More 'heat' than I'd like. How can heat be reduced?
Sandee S. October 10, 2020
One awesome chilli. This one stays in my repertoire as I have now made it twice and each time it is just so tasty.
Tish M. April 5, 2020
This video has changed the way I will make chili, or any other recipe using hamburger, forever. I didn't make this recipe, but I did use some of Jenn's tips. I did use 2 Tb cream for every pound of hamburger, and increased the seasoning of my meat by adding red pepper flake in the cream and hamburger mixture. I usually use poblano peppers in my chili, but, alas, no poblano peppers in the grocery during these times. The only peppers they had were shishito peppers of which I had never heard so I got a bag out of desperation. I used cherry tomstoes because the Roma tomatoes did not look good. For my beef broth I used Better Than Bouillon (I always add an extra cup of water for each tablespoon because too salty for my taste). And I prefer cuban style black beans from Trader Joe, thoroughly rinsed, before adding to my cooked meat, onions, peppers, garlic and tomato mixture. Simmer for 30 minutes. It was delicious!! Tasted meatier? This week, no shishitos or poblanos so bell pepper. We'll see tomorrow. Thank you for the cream AND for the perspective of seasoning the meat first.
LULULAND March 28, 2020
I made this yesterday. I used 4 pieces of bacon as I had that only. Didn't soak the ancho chili. But used all the other spices. I needed to thicken it so added more masa. We really liked it! I think next time I will leave out the bacon, double all the spices, and continue cooking it in the crock pot. Didn't use the chocolate bar on top or at all. Loved it!
p.mac March 4, 2020
I haven't tried to make this w/o the genius tip, so cant compare, but this recipe produced an excellent chili. Froze the leftovers & reheated, even better! Will make this recipe again, and soon. Thx! :)
Smaug February 29, 2020
This was OK- you can scarce go wrong with smoked meat and beans, and that's really what this dish is about; I can see no reason to characterize it as chili, other than perhaps a desire to enter it in a chili cookoff. The reference to "mole" seems like a poor rationalization for the chocolate- it's true that some recipes for mole poblano call for a small amount of chocolate; those dishes contain large amounts of dried chilis, together with various toasted seeds and nuts, and the chocolate helps pick up some of the flavor elements (largely in the bitter range, where much of the unique flavor of the large Mexican chilis lies)- the result is not at all chocolaty. Mole Poblano is a dish originating in south central Mexico; chili, of course, is not a Mexican dish at all, but the roots of the original southwestern chilis are in north Mexican styles of guizado (stews based on dried chilis). Most of the character of those is lost in modern tomato, bean and hamburger concoctions and there's no real historical reason to connect them to mole poblano. However, chili cooks, particularly competitive ones, are heavily into "secret" ingredients, and cocoa is no weirder than a lot of them; it actually balances pretty well in this dish. The grated chocolate bar is pure nouvelle urban fusion, in the "sort of interesting once" category. If you mix cream with into a hamburger patty, you are adding moisture and fat to the patty; if you then break it up, brown it and cook it in a bunch of liquid for a long period, that is lost. It's possible that lactic acid does have some tenderizing effect, but there are better sources for lactic acid than cream- milk, for one. If you really want to increase the delicacy of the meat in this recipe, I would recommend looking into the method of traditional ragu- such as Marcella Hazan's recipe- where the meat (barely cooked, NOT browned) is cooked very slowly in a fairly large amount of milk- this has a marvelous effect on the final product, due largely to the actions of milk proteins, which are denatured in the slow cooking, allowing them to form chemical bonds with moisture and elements of the meat. At any rate, in this dish, the small amount of ancho pepper is merely a background element. The nearly universal additions of cumin and oregano are either token or nonexistent. Also, I think that the coriander is understated for something called "coriander chili". But hamhocks and red beans will carry you through every time.
Jeano November 2, 2020
Wow. Okayyy..
Pat H. January 28, 2021
I misread your name as “smug”, my apologies. In depth critic, may I never cook in your presence.
Smaug January 28, 2021
Need I really drag up "path" puns? Ignorance is bliss, long may it live.
Pat H. January 28, 2021
Indeed. You punch above my pay grade dear Smug. Bliss rules.
Jeano January 29, 2021
So, it's not just me. Thanks, Pat.
Jeano January 29, 2021
So, it's not just me. Thanks, Pat
Smaug January 29, 2021
As you are the millionth customer to come up with that doubtless clever piece of wordplay your punishment will be a serious statement. It might be hard for newcomers to see, but this site used to be primarily dedicated to education and is still seen in that light by many users. This article goes far to promote very common misconceptions about a couple of fairly well known dishes as well as a simplistic view of a complex cuisine- do you really think that such things should go unchallenged. I am by no means an expert on the subject, in fact I'm a pretty casual amateur cook, but I do eat chili and some Mexican dishes from time to time and have taken the trouble to find out some basics about their origin and nature. If that offend thee then so be it, but as we're all born to ignorance it seems rather extravagant a use of time to seek it out.
Pat H. January 29, 2021
I’ve enjoyed this site since the beginning, and your critique was very well done. Casual, amateur cook? I doubt it.
It’s your approach that irks. There are many so ways to say the same thing. Consider using your considerable talent to educate instead of to humiliate.
Jeano January 29, 2021
My hero.
Jeano January 29, 2021
Again, lotsa words.
Smaug January 29, 2021
Jeano Fabulous, that was the goal all along.
Smaug January 29, 2021
And Jeano again and again- and there's some more.
caroberts77 February 27, 2020
I'd never made chili before, but I love mole sauce. So I decided this would have to be the one to try. I used yogurt instead of the cream and bacon instead of the ham hock. I didn't have cumin seeds, so I just used ground cumin. Left is sitting in the crock-pot for about 3 or so hours before having the first round. It was really good and we've eaten it for dinner 3 nights in a row with some cornbread muffins. Seriously good. And so easy too.
angielee6960 February 2, 2020
Wow Jenn! Food52! Must try this recipe. I love Food52. Thanks Jenn, from your Auntie Angie.
Cindy Y. February 1, 2020
This chili was so good! Used the crock pot which worked out well and the house smelled amazing when I returned home. Thanks for a wonderful recipe and for the cream-beef technique!
Aime January 30, 2020
For the tomatoes, what size can would you recommend to cover "4 plum tomatoes?" 28-oz can?
Sharon.C February 2, 2020
I used a 28oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes and it was perfect. Chop up the tomatoes a little before adding to avoid having to break them up while cooking as I did. i also toasted cumin seeds and ground them before adding, so much more aromatic.
Katy January 30, 2020
Can the heavy cream technique work for ground veal and pork? My bolognese recipe calls for ground veal, ground pork and pancetta.
carswell January 29, 2020
I am definitely going to give the meat/cream thing a try the next time I make Chili.