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Fiery Mostly Bean Chili Is Comfort Food With a Healthy Twist

By Tom Liddy | February 26, 2013 11:47am

NEW YORK CITY — When people think of health food, they generally don't think of chili.

But this comforting classic is actually a great way to get a hearty helping of nutrients in a simple and flavorful package that is perfect for the end of winter.

When I was growing up, my mom made chili a lot, but I thought that it was unhealthy because of the richness and ground meat.

But that's far from the whole picture.  Chili has a healthy dose of beans which are loaded with fiber, helping with digestion and keeping you feeling full.

They also have protein and minerals such as iron and calcium. Black beans, which are featured prominently in this recipe, have antioxidants in their skins, including anthocyanins, the same healthful compounds found in red wine.

With this recipe, a rich, fiery taste can be achieved in about an hour, but the chili retains a fresh bite because the cooking time is relatively brief. Chipotles add a hint of smoke and a chop of fresh cilantro adds an herby freshness.

With the ground beef, it's best if you can get the butcher to grind a piece of sirloin or chuck for you, so that you know exaclty what you're getting. If not, look for beef that was ground in the store.

Serve the chili with some grated cheese or tortilla chips and you have a meal in a bowl.

It's stick to your ribs cooking that won't pack on the pounds in the end of the day.

Serves 6-8.


1 lb. ground beef - (85/15 meat to fat ratio is good, although you can go leaner, or substitute turkey)

1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed

1 15-oz. can white beans such as great northern or canellini, rinsed

1 can crushed tomatoes – 28 oz. (I like San Marzano for their richness and lower acidity; diced work fine as well)

1 can tomato puree – 28 oz. (San Marzano again, if possible)

1 medium red onion, finely diced

2 large stalks of celery, finely diced

3 cloves garlic, finely sliced

3 tbs. hot Mexican chili powder

1 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 tsp. cumin

1 jalapeño, finely chopped

3 chipotles, in adobe

Salt and pepper

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, rough chopped

Grated Parmesan cheese to garnish


1. Heat a large pot on medium high heat. When the pot is hot, add the ground beef and brown, about 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated.

2. Then add the spices and season with salt and pepper. Cook for about a minute to get rid of the rawness of the spices. Most of the liquid from the beef should be gone.

3. Add the onions, celery, jalapeño and season again. Cook until softened, about 4 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes and beans, and bring to a boil. Then turn to low and cook about an hour until thick, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the chopped cilantro, check the seasoning and serve.

6. Dig in.