Chili con Chocolate

Chili con Chocolate
This deeply flavorful chili is even better the next day. (Victoria de la Maza)

Classic chili gains an extra depth of flavor with a couple tablespoons of cocoa added to the pot. The texture is rich and thick, and the flavor is deeply savory, just a bit sweet, and a touch spicy.

Do dice all the vegetables to the same size, not only for better presentation, but also for more even cooking.

I like making chili the day before I’m planning on serving it, then reheating it by bringing it back to a simmer with an extra splash of broth or beer. Of course, it’s also just perfect on the same day.

For a dinner party, serve this with a lot of garnishes, such as sour cream, diced tomatoes, diced onions, and grated cheese. Add as many as you like and play with textures and color. Pico de gallo salsa, guacamole, crispy tortilla strips, and even mango salsa add character and pizazz.

Chili freezes well, so make a double batch and store it in the freezer. To thaw, add a cup of beef broth or light beer and bring it to a simmer over low heat.

Serves 8 to 10
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup diced green pepper
  • 1 cup diced red pepper
  • 1 cup diced yellow or orange pepper
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the oil and sauté the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the meat and cook, breaking it up with a fork, until no longer pink. Season with salt and pepper.

Add the cocoa powder, crushed red pepper, and nutmeg and stir to combine well. Simmer to release the aroma of the spices, about 3 minutes. Add the peppers and stir well to combine. Cook for about 5 minutes for all the flavors to meld.

Add the kidney beans, tomato sauce, and broth. Bring to a boil, add the bay leaf, and then simmer over low heat for at least 1 hour, stirring once in a while, until the liquid has nearly completely evaporated. Taste to adjust seasonings. Remove the bay leaf before serving.

To serve, garnish with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and/or diced onions. A toasted baguette to mop up the juices and a cold beer would be ideal accompaniments!

Victoria de la Maza is an award-winning cookbook author, columnist, and international TV host. Passionate about great food, she combines American traditions with her European heritage to create classic-with-a-twist recipes and ideas for stylish entertaining at home. Subscribe to her weekly newsletter, "Diary of a Serial Hostess,” at
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