Eight-ingredient beef and chili beans hide surprise at Super Bowl

A hearty and easy way to feed a crowd, chili is an ideal addition to a Super Bowl party. But to add interest to this tasty winter staple, we sought out an ingredient from the world of baking.

Based on pantry staples for easy weeknight meals, this recipe from our Cook What You Have book has all the usual ingredients: ground beef, beans, cumin, chili powder, tomato, and onion. But it also has an unconventional ingredient: cocoa powder.

At least, it’s unconventional in most of the country. In Cincinnati, cocoa and other hot spices, like cinnamon and allspice, are common components of chili (as is spaghetti, but we’re skipping it this time). Just a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder adds surprising depth and complexity, without making the dish taste like chocolate. Because cocoa is a fermented product, it adds a subtle richness that draws on the umami of a generous amount of tomato paste.

To create a flavor-packed chili using just eight ingredients, we’re not shy about seasoning. In addition to the cocoa, we added 1/4 cup of chili powder and a heaping tablespoon of cumin. We also cook the tomato paste until deeply browned, a trick that develops a rich, concentrated flavor. Another trick is to mash half the beans to thicken the sauce without needing to simmer it on the stove to reduce it.

Since chili loves a garnish, be sure to offer bowls of any combination of sour cream, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, shredded cheddar cheese, hot sauce, and tortilla chips.


Servings: 4 to 6

1/4 cup chili powder

2 tablespoons ground cumin

kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 pound ground beef OR pork OR turkey

Two 15 1/2-ounce cans pinto beans OR kidney beans, drained but not rinsed

28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes

1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped, plus more, finely chopped, for serving

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

In a small bowl, whisk together the chili powder, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. In a medium bowl, combine meat, 1 tablespoon of the spice mix, and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of water. With your hands, mix well; set aside.

In a large bowl, using a potato masher, mash half the beans into a coarse paste. Add the tomatoes with their juices and mash until they break down. Add remaining whole beans; set aside.

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat oil until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften and brown, about 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring frequently, until well browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the remaining spice mix and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up any browned bits. Add meat mixture and cook, breaking into small pieces, until meat is no longer pink, about 1 minute. Add the bean-tomato mixture and cocoa, then return to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until chile has thickened, about 30 minutes. Off the heat, taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with finely chopped onion for sprinkling.

Optional garnish: Sour cream OR chopped fresh cilantro OR pickled jalapenos OR shredded cheddar OR hot sauce OR tortilla chips OR a combination