Chili is the perfect meal on a cold winter’s day. My version is better for you because it’s light on the beef, packed with vegetables, and features a secret ingredient that boosts flavor and nutrition without overpowering the dish. Better make a double batch of this easy, nutritious dish. It tastes great the next day, too!
More Beans, Please
I like more beans (technically, legumes) and less meat in my chili to improve nutrition and cut food cost. Beans supply protein, fiber, potassium, and many other vitamins and minerals, and, as part of a balanced diet, they can help reduce cholesterol levels in the blood that lead to clogged arteries and heart disease. Beans are rich in prebiotics that feed the good bacteria in your gut, which benefits your health in several ways.
I choose canned, drained beans for the sake of convenience and because I lack the forethought to buy dried beans and soak them! Rinse canned beans to reduce their sodium content by as much as 40%.
Have it Your Way
This recipe is flexible. You can use turkey instead of beef, eliminate the meat and add even more beans to make a vegetarian chili, or use different types of beans, such as white kidney beans and garbanzo beans. Also, I’m a wimp, so I keep the heat to a minimum. Add chili powder, jalapeño peppers, more cumin, or any other spice you like. It’s your choice!
The Secret Ingredient, Revealed
So, what’s the big secret? A little bit of cocoa powder. Unsweetened cocoa powder upgrades chili by intensifying the flavor of the meat, and you won’t even know it’s there. Cocoa powder is also good for you.
Cocoa contains antioxidants called flavonoids. While it’s still unclear exactly how flavonoids benefit health, they may help to lower blood pressure, which protects the heart and the brain.
Buy unsweetened cocoa powder that hasn’t been treated with alkaline, which reduces flavonoid content. Avoid Dutch-process cocoa.
Better for You Chili
Makes 6 servings.
8 ounces 95% lean ground beef or 100% ground skinless turkey breast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 16-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 16-ounce can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, not drained
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the meat, breaking it up into very small pieces as it cooks. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Remove the meat from the pan. Set the meat aside.
Return the pan to the burner. Add the oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for two minutes or until clear. Add the garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute. Add peppers, and continue to cook until peppers are soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the beans, tomatoes, cocoa powder, and meat to the pan. Combine thoroughly. Cover, and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Total fat: 9 grams
Saturated fat: 2 grams
Cholesterol: 33 milligrams
Sodium: 586 milligrams
Carbohydrate: 35 grams
Dietary fiber: 10 grams
Protein: 21 grams