Classic Three-Bean Chili

When we were first trying to get our kids on board with the whole Weekday Vegetarian thing, we were never quite sure if we should tweak old recipes that they had an attachment to, or just ignore them completely. Sometimes we got lucky and just swapped beans for meat in a favorite dinner and no one was any worse for the wear, like when we replaced chicken with crispy chickpeas in our everyday Caesar salad. Other times, like with a turkey chili we’ve been making since the girls were in diapers, we had to slowly get them used to the idea that a beloved meal was not going to taste exactly the same. In the case of that chili, which already called for black beans, we just kept gradually changing the ratio of ground turkey to beans in favor of the beans. (The inclusion of dark chocolate, inspired by traditional moles, helps replicate a little of the depth that was missing once the meat completely disappeared.) We also switched out crumbled tortilla chips for plantain chips—a favorite snack we usually have lying around. They add a nice sweetness along with the necessary crunch. Eventually everyone came around.

Three-Bean Chili with Chocolate and Plantains
For the meat-eating hold-out: Stir in cooked chicken chorizo sausage crumbles or cooked ground turkey or beef. Recipe from The Weekday Vegetarians. Serves 4.

3 tablespoons oil (any kind: olive, canola, whatever)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped 1 garlic clove, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Dash of dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1⁄2 cups cooked kidney beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained
1 1⁄2 cups cooked pinto beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained
1 1⁄2 cups cooked black beans, or 1 (15-ounce) can, rinsed and drained (you can drain and rinse all beans in the same colander)
1⁄4 cup chili powder, or 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (this is the spicier option!)
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 ounce dark chocolate, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano 1 dried bay leaf
Dash of ground cinnamon

Serving (all optional)

Plantain chips
Pickled Onions
Avocado chunks
Sour cream (omit for vegans)
Shredded cheddar (omit for vegans)
Hot sauce
Chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oil in a medium pot set over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring every now and then, until the onion is translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook another minute, until the tomato paste darkens slightly. Add the beans and chili powder, turn the heat to medium-high, and cook until the spices get sizzly, about 3 more minutes.

Add the tomatoes, chocolate, oregano, bay leaf, and cinnamon and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have a chance to deepen and meld together, about 30 minutes. Serve in bowls with plantain chips and your desired toppings.

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Chili photo by Christine Han.

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One Comment


I made this tonight for a friend and myself for dinner, and we loved it! I wound up buying refried beans and we both kind of loved how it turned out. Thank you for sharing — I will definitely be adding this to my repertoire!