Recipe: Savory Three Bean Chili

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The secret ingredient in this savory three bean chili? Cocoa!

After a fun day playing outside in the snow, it’s so nice to come home to a warm dinner of savory three bean chili. You can make it in the slow cooker, with meat or without…it’s a great basic recipe that you can add to and play with to make it your own. Organic beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic and spices are the base for the chili, and you can add ground meat, sweet peppers, onion, and all sorts of other things if you’d like. Here’s a good place to use some frozen squash from the summer garden, or a few spicy jalapenos if you’re feeling adventurous. The secret ingredient? A little cocoa powder! You won’t notice a chocolate taste, but it gives the chili such a delicious depth of flavor.

The secret ingredient in this savory three bean chili? Cocoa!

Start with organic beans, canned or soaked and cooked. You can play with the type of beans, but my standard three-bean mix is small dark red kidney beans, Great Northern beans, and black beans. Drain and rinse the beans well (this is a step you don’t want to skip…rinsing the beans gets rid of gas-producing sugars). If you’re using meat, you’ll want to cook that first with some diced onion. You can use shredded chicken, ground beef, or ground turkey, chicken or venison. Saute it with the onions until it’s cooked through, then add the beans and some chopped tomatoes (canned or bottled). Tomato sauce, garlic, and lots of chili powder go in next, along with some cumin and a dash of salt. Stir in a little cocoa powder, and let your chili simmer for as long as you can. The flavors will combine and mellow the longer you cook it.

The secret ingredient in this savory three bean chili? Cocoa!

Once you’ve got your basic 3 bean chili going, you can play with the ingredients a bit. Add or take away the meat, throw in a few cups of grated squash, a diced bell pepper or two, some black olives or corn kernels. A few jalapenos go a long way, or some smokey chopped chipotles.

Another fun thing about chili is that you can serve it in so many different ways. It’s a great meal for serving a crowd…bake a bag of potatoes, and serve the chili over the potatoes with cheese, olives, chopped green onion, extra peppers, and sour cream. Just set everything out on the counter and let people assemble their own! I usually make a large pot of chili when I make it, because you can serve leftovers a different way in a few days (chili with sourdough bread and salad tonight, baked potatoes with chili later…and maybe pulled pork with chili another night). It also freezes well, so a big pot of chili can give you a second meal the next time you need a quick dinner to pull out of the freezer. If you’d rather make a smaller batch, just cut the recipe below in half.

The secret ingredient in this savory three bean chili? Cocoa!

Yield: 8 servings

Savory Three Bean Chili

Savory Three Bean Chili

I love a good hearty meal and this savory three bean chili is just that - hearty, flavorful, comforting, and so delicious.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes


  • 2 15 oz. cans organic great northern beans*
  • 2 15 oz. cans organic small red kidney beans*
  • 2 15 oz. cans organic black beans*
  • 1 large organic onion, diced
  • 42 ounces organic chopped tomatoes, with juice
  • 28 ounces organic tomato sauce
  • 2 pounds organic ground beef, turkey, chicken, or venison (optional, substitute 2 more cans of beans and/or extra vegetables if you omit the meat)
  • 2-3 cloves organic garlic, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons organic ground chili
  • 1 teaspoons organic ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 cup organic, fair-trade cocoa powder (where to buy


  1. Drain and rinse the beans (or, if you're using soaked dry beans, cook them according to the package directions).
  2. If you're using meat, saute the meat in a large, oven-safe pot (or in the crockery of your slow cooker) with the chopped onion until it's cooked through. If you're not using meat, just saute the onion in a Tablespoon of organic coconut oil until it's transparent.
  3. To the pot with the meat and onion, add the beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, garlic, and spices. If you're using any of the optional ingredients, add them as well. Bring the pot to a boil, stirring to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and stir in the cocoa powder.
  4. If you're using a slow cooker, set the crockery into the electric part of the pot and plug it in (cook on low all day, or on high for several hours). If you're not using a slow cooker, you can let the chili simmer for 1/2 hour, stirring every now and then to prevent sticking. You can also put a lid on the pot and put it in the oven at 300 degrees for an hour or two, checking and stirring after an hour. Reduce the heat to a lower temperature (160 works) and stir it periodically if you're going to leave the chili in the oven for longer than 2 hours.
  5. Serve with grated cheese, chopped green onions, and sour cream if you'd like.


The secret ingredient in this savory three bean chili? Cocoa!

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