Why I Could Never Live in Texas…

We left Sacramento on Saturday night, and I promptly stumbled to bed. I woke up Sunday to make pumpkin pie baked oatmeal (freakin’ best way to use up pumpkin pie ever) and watch the the last few Top Chef episodes that we missed. If you’re into Top Chef, you know they’re in Texas this time around meaning that the quick fire challenges include rattlesnake (yuck) and chili (delicious!)

Prior to the Top Chef chili cook off of last week, I didn’t know “real” Texas chili didn’t include beans. Clearly Alex and I with our vegetarian, bean-eatin’ ways would never make it in Texas, or the Top Chef competition. I’d love to see more vegetarian challenges or even an entire vegetarian season of Top Chef – can you imagine?

Inspired by bowls of piping hot chili – I imagined those shreds of beef were actually chili covered pinto beans – I got off the couch to make chili and cornbread for dinner. The chili was great, but the cornbread desperately needs some revision before a recipe is posted; it made a good chili topping though!

Clearly Not From Texas Pinto Bean Chili 


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 sweet potato, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1.5 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 cup thawed frozen corn
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle sauce
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Garnishes: cheese, scallions, cilantro, tortilla chips, cornbread, avocado


  1. Heat stockpot over medium high heat and add oil, swirling to coat pan. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about ten minutes.
  2. Add garlic, spices, and cocoa powder and sauté until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add sweet potato, bell pepper, zucchini and water or vegetable broth and stir well. Simmer for ten minutes.
  4. Add pinto beans and tomatoes, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add corn and chipotle sauce, stir, and simmer 10 to 30 minutes. The longer it cooks, the deeper the flavor.

The chili was complex with depth of flavor and not too spicy; often, I add so much spice that I “burn out the palate” as Tom Colicchio would say. But this time, it was perfect – there was a residual heat without being completely overpowering. And I love the addition of cocoa powder to chili; it’s not overly chocolately but it does add a certain kick.

In researching how to make good chili, I found an article that says nothing smoky (aka chipotle sauce) has a place in chili, but I thought it was a great addition. If you’re a true chili connesiour feel free to leave it out.

As the weather changes and the fog rolls in, I foresee a lot of chili in our future. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as a hot bowl of beans and veggies on a cold night. Now I just have to perfect that cornbread recipe and we’ll be golden.


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