Everyone seems to have a special or secret chili recipe – especially dads, for some unknown reason. This is not one of those. This recipe is a simple, no-frills chili base for those winter days when you just want something warm and satisfying.
- 1 pound dry kidney beans
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
- 1-1/2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2-3 bay leaves, depending on size
- regular or low-sodium bouillon of choice (optional)*
- 1 (28-ounce) can low sodium or no-salt added diced tomatoes
- 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
- water or vegetable broth
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 large green bell pepper, diced
- whatever else your heart – or tastebuds – desire
Soak red beans in water overnight. Drain and place in a large slow-cooker (6-8 quart capacity). Add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, red pepper, onion powder, turmeric, bay leaves, bouillon (if using), diced tomatoes, and tomato paste. Add water or vegetable broth to cover by 1-2 inches.
If you are going to be away from home, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Otherwise, I would suggest cooking the beans on high for the first 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally and adding additional liquid if necessary, before switching to low for the remaining time. The beans tend to break down faster and create a thicker chili when cooked on high first. Otherwise, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of cornstarch mixed with cold water before serving.
Once the beans have cooked through, sauté the onions and bell pepper in butter or olive oil just until the bell peppers have cooked through and the onions begin to brown. Add to the chili and stir. Serve with your favorite chili fixings (e.g. shredded cheese, sour cream, hot sauce, crackers, or my quick-and-easy beer bread – recipe coming soon), and enjoy!
Note: this recipe is, as noted above, a simple vegetarian chili base that can – and should – be tweaked to satisfy your particular tastes. So feel free to experiment. Things I’ve added to this base in the past include, but are by no means limited to, the following: beer, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, cilantro, cinnamon, cocoa powder, corn, crispy bacon, sautéed ground beef, diced jalapeño peppers, and paprika. I wouldn’t suggest trying to add ALL of these to your super-secret-extra-special variation, but starting with one or two might help get your culinary juices flowing.
*This low-sodium recipe bypasses the use of pre-packaged chili seasoning, though you may want to add some vegetable or chicken bouillon to enhance the chili’s flavor while it cooks. I typically add one cube of Knorr Chicken Bouillon because it dissolves easily and has a deeper flavor than the generic options that tend to taste more like salt than anything else, but feel free to use whatever brand works for you.