In sixth-grade English, our class read a story about a Native American tribe in the Southwest. I’ve forgotten all but one fascinating detail of that story: the family ate meat cooked with chocolate. Thanks to my dad’s rule that we must at least try everything once, I ate a lot of weird stuff as a kid — raw lamb in kibbeh, chicken livers, capers — but this was something I simply couldn’t fathom. Chocolate! With meat! Now, I’m a sucker for anything that’s sweetly savory, and every time I reach for the cocoa, I smile at the memory of 11-year-old me. This chili is spicy but not hot. Reminiscent of mole, the flavors are rich, mellow, and deep.
Chocolate Chili (From my cookbook Well Fed: Paleo Recipes For People Who Love To Eat)
Prep 20 min | Cook 2-3 hours | Serves 6-8
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 medium onions, diced (about 2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, minced (about 4 teaspoons)
2 pounds ground beef
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon salt
1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
1 can (14.5 ounces) fire-roasted, chopped tomatoes
1 can (14.5 ounces) beef broth
1 cup water
1. Heat a large, deep pot over medium-high heat, then add the coconut oil. When the oil is melted, add onions, stir with a wooden spoon and cook until they’re translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and as soon as it’s fragrant, about 30 seconds, crumble the ground meat into the pan with your hands, mixing with the wooden spoon to combine. Continue to cook the meat, stirring often, until it’s no longer pink.
2. In a small bowl, crush the oregano between your palms to release its flavor, then add the chili powder, cumin, cocoa, allspice, and salt. Combine with a fork, then add to the pot, stirring like you mean it. Add tomato paste and stir until combined, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the tomatoes with their juice, beef broth, and water to the pot. Stir well. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the chili enjoys a gentle simmer. Simmer uncovered for at least two hours. Do not skimp on the simmer! Serve in deep bowls with big spoons.
Try a meat combo by mixing ground beef with ground turkey, pork, or bison.
Make a double batch and freeze half so you have chili-on-demand.
Top with sliced olives, diced onions, and/or avocado slices.
In a Slow Cooker
I haven’t made Chocolate Chili in a slow cooker myself because I don’t love stew-y things cooked in the slow cooker. But if the slow cooker is your thing, here’s the way one reader adapted this recipe for their crockpot. Proceed at your own risk; I haven’t tested this version myself.
1. Sauté onions in fat in a cast iron or nonstick skillet, followed by the garlic; place in the crockpot insert.
2. Put 2 pounds ground beef in the skillet (without cleaning it out) and sauté until just no longer pink. Place that (and the juices) in the crockpot.
3. Add all the spices briefly to the hot skillet to bloom the flavors, then add the tomato paste; stir to combine and cook about 1 minute. Add the beef broth and stir to combine. Transfer to the crockpot.
4. Add the chopped tomatoes to the crockpot; do not add the water listed in the recipe.
5. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
Note: I also heard from another reader who said she just “plopped” everything into the slow cooker and let it do its thing. My recommendation is use the step-by-step method, but if you’re not fussy about texture or you’re in a hurry, I supposed you could try the “plop” technique.
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