4 chilli recipes that are anything but ordinary, from vegan versions to chocolate-spiked stews

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Whether you have yours with nachos, rice or on its own, chilli con carne is an ideal weeknight dinner. From classic slow-cooked beef to a speedy veggie version, these recipes will cover all your chilli needs.

When it comes to cold weather food, there are two types of meals. Those in the first category require hours of leisurely preparation on a weekend afternoon, while you sing along to the radio and sip a glass of wine. The second type are snappy weeknight jobs, made for evenings when your stomach is grumbling and you can’t – nay, won’t – wait longer than an hour to eat.

While there’s a place in our heart for adventurous culinary exploits, there’s no denying that throwing ingredients into a pot and leaving them to do their thing is a pretty enticing prospect. And chilli con carne is one recipe that embodies delicious casual cooking.

Home Bird: Simple, Low-Waste Recipes For Family And Friends by Megan Davies
Home Bird: Simple, Low-Waste Recipes For Family And Friends by Megan Davies

With roots along the US-Mexico border, chilli con carne now sits alongside curry and spaghetti bolognese as one of the UK’s favourite dishes. If you’re a fan of the richly spiced combination of minced beef, kidney beans and peppers, you’ll know that it’s an easily customisable dish that can be left to slowly thicken over a low heat or served up in half an hour. It’s also one of those dishes that tastes even better the next day – so if you make double the recipe, you’ll have double the deliciousness to enjoy during the week.

Chilli doesn’t always have to be cooked the traditional way, either – which is why we went in search of four recipes to satisfy every palate, whether you prefer the traditional beef dish or a modern twist.

Happy Vegan Comfort Food by Karoline Jönsson
Happy Vegan Comfort Food by Karoline Jönsson

Love the heartiness of a Texan-style chilli? Ben Lebus’ chorizo chilli stew with zingy guacamole is a seriously great cheat’s recipe that can be whipped up in little over ten minutes. For a vegan version, try Karoline Jönsson’s super-simple recipe, which subs in lentils and beans instead of beef mince and can be made quickly or left to simmer to develop the flavours.

If you’ve mastered the art of a classic vegan chilli, try your hand at Leah Vanderveldt’s amped-up butternut squash and black bean recipe. Lastly, while chocolate might not sound like it belongs in a savoury stew, it’s actually a key ingredient in Mexican cooking – and Megan Davies’ chilli and dark chocolate con carne shows it can lend extra depth to meaty flavours.

Serve over fluffy basmati rice, spoon over a baked potato or enjoy with a side of crunchy tortilla chips – the choice is yours.

  • Ben Lebus’ chorizo chilli stew with guacamole

    Ben says: “The ultimate cheat’s chilli lacking none of the flavour and served with zingy guac and cheddar cheese. As an extra, serve with some tortilla chips for scooping – they bring the crunch.”

    Time: 11 mins, 30 secs

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 225g chorizo ring
    • 450g jar of roasted red peppers
    • 2 fat garlic cloves
    • 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
    • 3 x 400g tins of kidney beans
    • 680g jar of passata 
    • 2 limes
    • 2 avocados
    • 1 small bunch fresh coriander
    • extra mature cheddar cheese
    • olive oil
    • salt and black pepper

    Method

    Peel the chorizo and slice into rounds, roughly half a centimetre thick. Get a large saucepan over a high heat. Drizzle in some olive oil, then scrape in the chorizo. Leave to fry.

    Meanwhile, remove the peppers from the jar with a fork, roughly slice and add them to the pan along with the unpeeled garlic, crushing the cloves into the pan. Add the cajun seasoning and stir, cooking for a further minute. 

    Open the tins of beans, drain the liquid in a sieve and then add to the pan. Pour in the passata. Season with salt and black pepper and give everything a good mix. Bring the chilli to the boil and let it bubble away while you make the guac.

    For the guacamole: cut one lime in half and the other into four wedges. Halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh into a small bowl. Squeeze over the juice from the lime halves, season with salt and black pepper and then smash up with a fork. Guac – done.

    Tear the coriander over the chilli and serve at the table with the bowl of guac, some cheddar cheese for topping and the lime wedges for squeezing over. 

    Speed hack: Squeeze the lime juice over the avocados and season before you start to mash them. They will be easier to smash as the lime and salt help to break them down. 

    From Speedy MOB: 12-Minute Meals For 4 People by Ben Lebus (£12.99, Pavilion), out now

  • Karoline Jönsson’s chilli con carne

    Karoline says: “Gather round the campfire: here is a recipe for a real bang-bang chilli! This hot and hearty stew can be made in a jiffy or left to slow cook. Or you can make it a day in advance –it will just get more and more delicious. Serve with sourdough bread and maybe some nachos for dipping.”

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 2 brown onions, sliced
    • 2 red peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
    • 2 chillies, or to taste, finely chopped
    • vegetable oil for frying
    • 1 tbsp paprika
    • 1½ tsp ground cumin
    • 3 bay leaves
    • 3 garlic cloves, grated
    • 400g can chopped tomatoes
    • 170g dried red lentils
    • 3 tbsp tamari or Japanese soy sauce
    • 600g cooked kidney beans and white beans
    • 100g frozen sweetcorn
    • salt and black pepper

    Method

    Fry the onions, peppers and chillies in oil until the onion has softened and started to colour.

    Add the spices, bay leaves and garlic and fry for another minute. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, 600ml water, lentils and tamari and simmer for at least 15 minutes, but preferably longer. 

    Add the beans and sweetcorn and simmer for another couple of minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    From Happy Vegan Comfort Food by Karoline Jönsson (£14.99, Pavilion), out now

  • Leah Vanderveldt’s butternut squash and black bean chilli

    Leah says: “Cubes of butternut squash and black beans make this chilli hearty and satisfying. I’ll make this on a Sunday afternoon to eat throughout the week. The flavours deepen when it has time to sit, so it tastes even better the second or third time around.”

    Serves 4-6

    Ingredients

    • avocado or olive oil, for frying
    • 1 onion, diced
    • 375g peeled butternut squash, cut into small 1.5cm cubes
    • 2 tbsp tomato purée
    • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
    • 3 tsp ground cumin
    • 2 tsp smoked paprika
    • 1⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • 1 x 400g can crushed or chopped tomatoes in juices
    • 2 x 400g cans black beans in their liquid (I use the low sodium version)
    • salt, to taste

    To serve (optional)

    • diced avocado or basic avocado dip
    • vegan sour cream
    • chopped large spring onions
    • corn chips

    Method

    In a large saucepan with a lid, heat enough oil to cover the base of the pan over a medium heat.

    Add the onion, season with salt and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. Add the butternut squash and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

    Add the tomato purée and stir. Cook for 1 minute. Add the garlic, cumin, paprika, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in the tomatoes and black beans along with the liquid from the cans. Season with salt and reduce the heat to medium-low.

    Cook covered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the butternut is tender. You may need to add 120ml or more water, if the chilli becomes too dry or thick for your liking. Serve with your desired toppings.

    From First-Time Vegan: Delicious Dishes And Simple Switches For A Plant-Based Lifestyle by Leah Vanderveldt (£9.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now

  • Megan Davies’ chilli and chocolate con carne

    Megan says: “I’ve added chorizo to intensify the meatiness and some chocolate to give the chilli a subtle sweetness at the end. This recipe is best served with dill and basil rice or plenty of salad and some garlic bread.”

    Time: 2 hours

    Serves 6–8

    Ingredients

    • 2 red peppers, deseeded and finely chopped
    • 2 red onions, finely chopped
    • 1 carrot, finely chopped
    • 140g chorizo
    • 5 garlic cloves, grated
    • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
    • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
    • 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
    • 1kg minced beef
    • 300ml beef stock
    • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
    • 1 can red kidney beans
    • 30g dark chocolate (at least 70%)
    • 3 spring onions, to serve
    • 200ml soured cream, to serve

    Method

    Heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a large casserole or saucepan and, once hot, add the chopped pepper, frying vigorously, achieving a rich colour and moderate char, for about 3-4 minutes.

    Scoop out the charred red peppers from the pan, transfer to a bowl and reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions and carrot to the pan (with another drizzle of oil if you need). Sweat for 10 minutes, until softening and beginning to colour.

    Meanwhile, halve the chorizo piece lengthways, then finely chop. Next, add the chorizo to the cooking onions and carrot. Fry for 3 minutes, stirring very often, and then return the charred peppers back to the pan, along with the garlic, paprika, cumin seeds, cayenne pepper and oregano. Mix all the ingredients until fragrant, 30 seconds, then add the tomato purée and let cook out for 2 minutes.

    Add the beef to the pan, break up using a wooden spoon and fry for 5 minutes until well-browned.

    Finally, add the beef stock and canned tomatoes and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a gentle bubble and simmer for 2 hours, stirring often. If the chilli reduces too quickly, add a splash of water to prevent it drying out.

    Whilst the chilli cooks, drain and rinse the kidney beans, break up the chocolate, finely slice the spring onion and season the soured cream.

    When the chilli has been on the hob for 90 minutes, add the kidney beans and chocolate and stir well to combine, then simmer for the remaining 30 minutes. Taste to check for seasoning and simmer gently on a low heat for a final 5 minutes.

    Serve with the spring onions on top and soured cream on the side.

    Swap ins: Swap smoked bacon for chorizo and sweet paprika, ground cumin or fresh oregano for their counterparts. Fresh parsley or coriander can step in for spring onions.

    Leftovers: Make sloppy giuseppe-style sandwiches with melted mozzarella. 

    From Home Bird: Simple, Low-Waste Recipes For Family And Friends by Megan Davies (£16.99, Ryland Peters & Small), out now

First-Time Vegan by Leah Vanderveldt

Photography: Clare Winfield; David Loftus; Karoline Jönsson

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.