Cocoa Coriander Chili From Jenn de la Vega Recipe on Food52 (2024)

Instant Pot

by: Genius Recipes



12 Ratings

  • Prep time 12 hours
  • Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Serves 6

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Author Notes

Imagine James Beard meets a chili cook-off grand champion. They collaborate to build a genius chili recipe with layers of complex flavor, a refined texture, punchy spice, and, of course, all the homespun comforts of a traditional bowl of chili.

This is that chili. But it came straight from the mind of Jenn de la Vega, a caterer, food stylist, and author, who created this cocoa-coriander chili as an entry to a Brooklyn chili cook-off—with a trick that will save all of your chilis (and other meaty mixes) from going dry or tough. As she writes, "This mole-inspired chili incorporates the James Beard burger technique of adding heavy cream to ground beef. Each bite of beef has a mellow note of ancho pepper while Jamaican peppers provide more of a spicy bite to the broth. It is smoky, creamy and—most importantly—chocolatey."

But it was Jenn who added the marinating time to the burger technique, which is what makes the biggest difference of all—thanks to the tenderizing powers of lactic acid. Carry this heavy cream marinade with you to other chilis and other ground meat recipes you make—burgers, meatloaf, bolognese, you get the picture. In all of these situations, the benefits shine through. The meat loses less fat and won't seize up in cooking, which leads to a more tender and luxurious texture—never dry or spongy. You can swap the heavy cream for buttermilk or yogurt, but then you can't say it was inspired by James Beard's hamburger, can you?

Recipe slightly adapted from "Showdown Comfort Food, Chili & BBQ: Bold Flavors from Wild Cooking Contests" (Page Street Publishing, May 2017). —Genius Recipes

  • Test Kitchen-Approved

What You'll Need

Watch This Recipe

Cocoa Coriander Chili From Jenn de laVega

  • 1 pound(450 g) dry red beans
  • 1 dried ancho chile
  • 1 pound(0.5 kg) ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons(30 ml) heavy cream
  • Olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/8 cup(15 g) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon(5 g) coriander seeds, toasted and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon(10 g) masa harina (see Note)
  • Salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 smoked ham hock (see Note)
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (feel free to use canned whole peeled, chopped)
  • 2 small Jamaica or Scotch Bonnet peppers, chopped (see Note)
  • 1/2 teaspoonground cumin
  • 1 quart(950 ml) beef broth
  • 1/4 cup(60 ml) plain yogurt
  • 1 bar dark chocolate
  1. Wash the red beans, cover with cold water and soak overnight.
  2. Boil 1 cup water and soak the ancho chile for 20 minutes in it until it is soft. Remove and mince the pepper, keeping the seeds in if you want their rustic texture and flavor and discarding the stem. Fold the minced pepper into the ground beef and heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
  3. The next day, drain the beans and set aside.
  4. Sauté the yellow onion for 3 minutes on medium heat with a swirl of olive oil, until it is translucent. Add the ground beef and break it up as it cooks. Once the beef is browned, add the garlic, cocoa, coriander, masa harina, salt, and bay leaf. Stir to combine.
  5. Turn up the heat to high. Add the drained beans, ham hock, tomatoes, Jamaica peppers, cumin, and beef broth. Bring the chili to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the beans are tender (not chalky). Add salt to taste. If you'd like the chili brothier, add more water or beef broth. If you'd like the chili to be thicker, add more masa harina or see the tip below in step 7. At this point, the ham hock has done its job here—feel free to break it up into the chili or save it for breaking into fried rice, simmering for a broth, or another use.
  6. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and grate chocolate over every bowl with a microplane.
  7. Note: If you can't find some of the ingredients, you have options! For the masa harina, feel free to leave it out and, at the end, scoop out some of the chili, mash some of the softened beans, and stir it all back in till the chili is as thick as you like. For the Jamaica peppers, feel free to substitute another spicy fresh pepper, like jalapeño (and it *will* be spicy). For the ham hock, a couple chopped slices of bacon are a good alternative.


  • Soup
  • Stew
  • Chili
  • American
  • Chile Pepper
  • Dairy
  • Onion
  • Olive Oil
  • Beef
  • Chocolate
  • Ground Beef
  • Bean

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tish MacFarlane

  • Smaug

  • caroberts77

  • Cindy Young

  • Sharon.C

Popular on Food52

25 Reviews

Yvonne H. February 3, 2022

Flavor very good. More 'heat' than I'd like. How can heat be reduced?

Sandee S. October 10, 2020

One awesome chilli. This one stays in my repertoire as I have now made it twice and each time it is just so tasty.

Tish M. April 5, 2020

This video has changed the way I will make chili, or any other recipe using hamburger, forever. I didn't make this recipe, but I did use some of Jenn's tips. I did use 2 Tb cream for every pound of hamburger, and increased the seasoning of my meat by adding red pepper flake in the cream and hamburger mixture. I usually use poblano peppers in my chili, but, alas, no poblano peppers in the grocery during these times. The only peppers they had were shish*to peppers of which I had never heard so I got a bag out of desperation. I used cherry tomstoes because the Roma tomatoes did not look good. For my beef broth I used Better Than Bouillon (I always add an extra cup of water for each tablespoon because too salty for my taste). And I prefer cuban style black beans from Trader Joe, thoroughly rinsed, before adding to my cooked meat, onions, peppers, garlic and tomato mixture. Simmer for 30 minutes. It was delicious!! Tasted meatier? This week, no shish*tos or poblanos so bell pepper. We'll see tomorrow. Thank you for the cream AND for the perspective of seasoning the meat first.

LULULAND March 28, 2020

I made this yesterday. I used 4 pieces of bacon as I had that only. Didn't soak the ancho chili. But used all the other spices. I needed to thicken it so added more masa. We really liked it! I think next time I will leave out the bacon, double all the spices, and continue cooking it in the crock pot. Didn't use the chocolate bar on top or at all. Loved it!

p.mac March 4, 2020

I haven't tried to make this w/o the genius tip, so cant compare, but this recipe produced an excellent chili. Froze the leftovers & reheated, even better! Will make this recipe again, and soon. Thx! :)

Smaug February 29, 2020

This was OK- you can scarce go wrong with smoked meat and beans, and that's really what this dish is about; I can see no reason to characterize it as chili, other than perhaps a desire to enter it in a chili cookoff. The reference to "mole" seems like a poor rationalization for the chocolate- it's true that some recipes for mole poblano call for a small amount of chocolate; those dishes contain large amounts of dried chilis, together with various toasted seeds and nuts, and the chocolate helps pick up some of the flavor elements (largely in the bitter range, where much of the unique flavor of the large Mexican chilis lies)- the result is not at all chocolaty. Mole Poblano is a dish originating in south central Mexico; chili, of course, is not a Mexican dish at all, but the roots of the original southwestern chilis are in north Mexican styles of guizado (stews based on dried chilis). Most of the character of those is lost in modern tomato, bean and hamburger concoctions and there's no real historical reason to connect them to mole poblano. However, chili cooks, particularly competitive ones, are heavily into "secret" ingredients, and cocoa is no weirder than a lot of them; it actually balances pretty well in this dish. The grated chocolate bar is pure nouvelle urban fusion, in the "sort of interesting once" category. If you mix cream with into a hamburger patty, you are adding moisture and fat to the patty; if you then break it up, brown it and cook it in a bunch of liquid for a long period, that is lost. It's possible that lactic acid does have some tenderizing effect, but there are better sources for lactic acid than cream- milk, for one. If you really want to increase the delicacy of the meat in this recipe, I would recommend looking into the method of traditional ragu- such as Marcella Hazan's recipe- where the meat (barely cooked, NOT browned) is cooked very slowly in a fairly large amount of milk- this has a marvelous effect on the final product, due largely to the actions of milk proteins, which are denatured in the slow cooking, allowing them to form chemical bonds with moisture and elements of the meat. At any rate, in this dish, the small amount of ancho pepper is merely a background element. The nearly universal additions of cumin and oregano are either token or nonexistent. Also, I think that the coriander is understated for something called "coriander chili". But hamhocks and red beans will carry you through every time.

Jeano November 2, 2020

Wow. Okayyy..

Pat H. January 28, 2021

I misread your name as “smug”, my apologies. In depth critic, may I never cook in your presence.

Smaug January 28, 2021

Need I really drag up "path" puns? Ignorance is bliss, long may it live.

Pat H. January 28, 2021

Indeed. You punch above my pay grade dear Smug. Bliss rules.

Jeano January 29, 2021

So, it's not just me. Thanks, Pat.

Jeano January 29, 2021

So, it's not just me. Thanks, Pat

Smaug January 29, 2021

As you are the millionth customer to come up with that doubtless clever piece of wordplay your punishment will be a serious statement. It might be hard for newcomers to see, but this site used to be primarily dedicated to education and is still seen in that light by many users. This article goes far to promote very common misconceptions about a couple of fairly well known dishes as well as a simplistic view of a complex cuisine- do you really think that such things should go unchallenged. I am by no means an expert on the subject, in fact I'm a pretty casual amateur cook, but I do eat chili and some Mexican dishes from time to time and have taken the trouble to find out some basics about their origin and nature. If that offend thee then so be it, but as we're all born to ignorance it seems rather extravagant a use of time to seek it out.

Pat H. January 29, 2021

I’ve enjoyed this site since the beginning, and your critique was very well done. Casual, amateur cook? I doubt it.
It’s your approach that irks. There are many so ways to say the same thing. Consider using your considerable talent to educate instead of to humiliate.

Jeano January 29, 2021

My hero.

Jeano January 29, 2021

Again, lotsa words.

Smaug January 29, 2021

Jeano Fabulous, that was the goal all along.

Smaug January 29, 2021

And Jeano again and again- and there's some more.

caroberts77 February 27, 2020

I'd never made chili before, but I love mole sauce. So I decided this would have to be the one to try. I used yogurt instead of the cream and bacon instead of the ham hock. I didn't have cumin seeds, so I just used ground cumin. Left is sitting in the crock-pot for about 3 or so hours before having the first round. It was really good and we've eaten it for dinner 3 nights in a row with some cornbread muffins. Seriously good. And so easy too.

angielee6960 February 2, 2020

Wow Jenn! Food52! Must try this recipe. I love Food52. Thanks Jenn, from your Auntie Angie.

Cindy Y. February 1, 2020

This chili was so good! Used the crock pot which worked out well and the house smelled amazing when I returned home. Thanks for a wonderful recipe and for the cream-beef technique!

Aime January 30, 2020

For the tomatoes, what size can would you recommend to cover "4 plum tomatoes?" 28-oz can?

Sharon.C February 2, 2020

I used a 28oz can whole peeled Italian tomatoes and it was perfect. Chop up the tomatoes a little before adding to avoid having to break them up while cooking as I did. i also toasted cumin seeds and ground them before adding, so much more aromatic.

Katy January 30, 2020

Can the heavy cream technique work for ground veal and pork? My bolognese recipe calls for ground veal, ground pork and pancetta.

carswell January 29, 2020

I am definitely going to give the meat/cream thing a try the next time I make Chili.

Cocoa Coriander Chili From Jenn de la Vega Recipe on Food52 (2024)


What does adding cocoa powder to chili do? ›

What does cocoa powder do for chili? Cocoa powder adds a rich depth of flavor to chili. There isn't a prominent chocolate taste, just extra deliciousness from something that you can't quite pinpoint. Use unsweetened cocoa powder or cacao powder so it doesn't make the finished dish sweet.

Is coriander good in chili? ›

Cumin, Chile Powders, and Paprika are the most common spices in chili followed by garlic, onion, coriander, Mexican oregano, and bay leaves. These ingredients can be combined to create a savory and well-balanced pot of top notch comfort food.

Who puts chocolate in chili? ›

The practice of mixing chocolate and chile dates back to the Aztecs. Head north to Cincinnati and we find that recipes for their iconic chili include a little cocoa powder or grated unsweetened baking chocolate, and some cinnamon, too.

How does Martha Stewart make chili? ›

Add chili powder, cocoa, and tomato paste; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add tomatoes, broth, and cooked beef. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until thickened slightly, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; serve with sour cream and chives.

How much cocoa powder should I put in my chili? ›

The key is to reach for unsweetened cocoa powder and use it judiciously — for a typical batch, you'll only need a tablespoon or two. Start by stirring in a tablespoon to your favorite recipe when you add your dry spices like chili powder and cumin. Let the pot simmer, then taste the chili.

What not to put in chili? ›

Beans and non-vegetable fillers such as rice and pasta are not allowed." If that sounds a bit uptight, the ICS's Homestyle Chili competition defines chili as: "any kind of meat, or combination of meats, and/or vegetables cooked with beans, chili peppers, various spices, and other ingredients.

What is the most important spice in chili? ›

Spices: Freshly ground cumin is a must. If it's not fresh, then don't bother. Secret Ingredients & Technique: I like extra hot chili, so I round up all spicy ingredients. I cool it down by piling on lots of fresh fixins' including scallions, cilantro, and sour cream.

What does coriander taste like in chili? ›

What Does Coriander Taste Like? Ground Coriander can be compared to ground ginger because of its intense bright citrus flavor with more developed undertones of fragrant pepperiness.

When should I add chocolate to my chili? ›

Stir the chopped chocolate in after the chili has simmered for 20-25 minutes (or at the end of cooking if you're making this in your slow cooker). It'll give your chili an extra layer of flavor that will taste even better the day after it's made.

What does cinnamon do to chili? ›

I use both sugar and cinnamon to my chili if I had made it too spicy. It does not taste like a dessert at all... I think the faint taste of the cinnamon gives you a warm, cozy feeling. Just a little is all it takes.

Is chocolate or cocoa powder better in chili? ›

I add unsweetened cocoa powder to my chili because the bitterness balances out the acidity of the canned tomatoes, and I like the flavor combinations you get. The umami from the chocolate enhances the flavor, and I like the way it hits the tongue, it gives it more punch.

Why do people put baking soda in chili? ›

According to the magazine's food experimenters, the baking soda treatment will definitely keep the meat tender and juicy when cooked.

What does Wendy's make their chili from? ›

Chili Concentrate: Chili Sauce (Water, Tomato Juice, Tomatoes, Calcium Chloride, Seasoning (Sugar, Salt, Corn Starch, Dried Chilies, Spices, Flavor Enhancer [Dextrose, Salt, Yeast Extract, Silicon Dioxide, Modified Corn Starch], Citric Acid, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Xanthan gum), Beans (Pink Beans, Red ...

How do you make chili taste richer? ›

Cocoa powder, bacon, cinnamon, ground coffee and tomato paste will all add a rich sweet & salty flavors that are sure to surprise and delight. Warming spice blends, like Garam Masala, Ras el Hanout or Baharat are another simple and delicious way to add layered flavors to this simple one-pot meal.

Can you taste cocoa powder in chili? ›

You may associate chocolate with dessert, but rest assured, adding cocoa powder won't make your chili sickeningly sweet. Instead, it'll contribute a layer of richness and balance out the spiciness. Especially in plant-based chili where the savory quality of meat is absent, cocoa powder adds complexity of flavor.

What happens if you add more cocoa powder? ›

That means that too much of it also means a dry-baked good. So to avoid your baked goods from coming out dry, either reduce the amount of flour (by the same amount of cocoa) or increase the amount of liquid in your formula, about 1/4-1/3 cup of liquids per 1/2 cup of powder.

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