Chili Bean dish

Chilli con Frijoles Negros

Prep time: 5 minutes, plus soaking

Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4-6

I almost called this recipe ‘authentic’ black bean chilli, but of course, as any Texan would remind us, authentic chilli does not contain beans, or tomato. However, this recipe is closer to being authentic than many, because it contains a hell of a lot of chilli, and doesn’t contain vegetables. Now, when I first started making chilli, I was a poor uni student trying to cram all my vitamins into one big, cheap pot of food to last me all week, so I understand the temptation to add vegetables. I used to add all kinds: corn, capsicum, zucchini, carrot, even mushrooms once. It fit the bill of cheap and nourishing, but it didn’t taste like chilli. It tasted more like a spicy black bean soup, which is really what it was. There’s nothing wrong with spicy black bean soup of course, but once I’d had real, deep red and fiery hot chilli in the USA, I could never call anything else ‘chilli’ again. I urge you to ignore that voice telling you everything is better with extra vegetables and serve your veggies on the side instead.

The depth of flavour in this dish comes from the many varieties of chillies used. The Arbol chillies provide heat, and not much else. The Chipotles add smokiness, the Guajillos add fruitiness, and the Mulatos add a rich, almost chocolatey flavour.  Slow cooking the onions adds even more depth and meatiness. I use a good quality vegetable stock rather than the Massell chicken style stock cubes these days, because the cubes contain palm oil and the powder seems to have no flavour. I do however add vegetarian mushroom seasoning (available at good Asian grocers), which is a great chicken stock replacement. It’s basically MSG without the MSG. It makes everything taste better. You can use whatever stock you like as long as it has a good flavour.

A word of warning: The recipe as it is below is HOT! After all, it is chilli with beans, not beans with chilli. If you want it mild or aren’t sure, simply remove the seeds from all the whole chillies. If you scrape the seeds into a bowl, you can always add them back in to if you want it hotter. If you enjoy breathing fire, by all means add an additional chillies As it is now, this is the perfect heat level for me, but I have a very high tolerance for heat.

Serve this chilli with a dollop of avocado and lime on top, some grilled corn and cornbread or rice. You can add vegan cheese and sour cream too if you like, but it tones down the heat too much for my taste.


1 large brown onion, finely chopped

2-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp brown sugar

4 tins black beans, drained and rinsed

1 tin diced tomatoes

3 cups vegetable stock

3 dried Mulato chillies

2 dried Guajillo chili

6 dried Arbol chililies

 3 whole dried chipotle chillies

1 or 2tsp ground cumin (to taste)

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp vegetarian mushroom seasoning (optional)

Salt to taste

1 tsp liquid smoke (or to taste)

To serve

Avocado mashed with fresh lime

Grilled Corn Kernels

Brown rice or  cornbread


1. Place the whole chillies in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak until rehydrated, approximately 30 minutes. Once rehydrated, remove the stems and place chillies into a food processor and blend into a paste (alternatively, mince them by hand).

2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the onions and cook gently, stirring often, until sticky and golden, approx 10 mins. Add the garlic and chillies and cook another minute. Add the beans and sugar and mix well.

3. Add all remaining ingredients except for the liquid smoke and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until thick and rich. Add liquid smoke and salt to taste and allow to cool a little before serving. As with all spiced food, this is even better the next day.

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