By Carrie Havranek
All chilis are comforting, hearty, and full of the ingredients guaranteed to fill us up. It’s why the moment the weather turns a pot of chili shows up on the menu. By now, we’re guessing you’ve found a chili recipe you like. Maybe it’s a vegetarian number filled with a kaleidoscope of beans and spices or a classic chili con carne you always eat with warm cornbread. As chili season rolls around again we’re sharing a few go-to secrets that can help you make a healthier, heartier chili.
1. Add coffee or chocolate to sweeten the heat
A chef friend has won awards for his chili, which includes both a couple of tablespoons of coffee and an ounce or two of dark chocolate to round out the fiery chili recipe. Both coffee and chocolate bring earthy sweetness to the dish as a way to temper some of the heat. You can use semi-sweet morsels, dark chocolate, or cocoa powder. This trick works great in meaty chilis and especially in a black bean vegetarian chili.
Recipe to try: This Cocoa Chocolate Chili from Robb Wolf without the beef and turn it vegetarian. (As it’s written, it’s paleo).
2. Rethink your base for flavor
The base of your chili is a place to pack in flavor so level up on the stock. If you usually use regular broth, try bone broth for additional protein and a richer texture. This rule works for everything from white chicken chili to a spicy beefy number. If you’re making vegetarian chili, a savory miso or dashi broth can level up the umami with just one ingredient swap.
Recipe to try: White Chicken Chili from Cooking Classy, and swap out the cream cheese for Greek yogurt to make it healthier without sacrificing creaminess.
3. Add freezer staples to bulk it up
That bag of frozen corn? Pop in a cup of it at the end of cooking a Southwestern style chili; it’s especially helpful in a slow cooker chili with black beans and corn. What about convenience items like frozen pre-cut squash? Sure, add that in too. It’s an easy way to boost flavor, fiber, and nutrition. And frozen ingredients require no prep and cook fast, too.
4. Amp up the umami for amazing depth
A good chili doubles down on the savory flavor and there are a few ways to do it: For a salty-savory punch add a tablespoon of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce. Miso or liquid aminos can produce a similar effect but without adding lots of additional sodium. Vegetarian chilis benefit from these additions so the next time chili night rolls around, break out the soy sauce.
Recipe to try: This best ever vegan chili from Foolproof Living brings the umami with dried mushrooms, tomato paste, and soy sauce.
5. Go green for freshness and nutrition
Adding greens to your chili is one of the easiest ways to up the nutrition of the dish. At the very end of cooking, add in your favorite green. They’ll wilt and lose flavor (and nutrition) if you add them too early and become overcooked. Baby spinach is an easy candidate along with chopped kale, collards, or Swiss chard. We can all agree that greens are good for us, right?
Recipe to try: Three-Bean Miso Chili with Spinach