Thick and Hearty Pinto Bean Chili

by on January 17, 2007
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Mississippi is finally getting a taste of the cold weather that’s sweeping across the country, and though some transplanted Northerners here may think that it’s long overdue, I just want to hibernate. Maybe I’m getting old, but I have no desire to go outside once the weather is below freezing. Yes, I know that in other places people are dealing with snow and ice and we’re lucky here that we have neither. I can certainly sympathize with those of you who are dealing with severe weather, but that’s why I live in Mississippi. Mild winters are our reward for putting up with humid summers and mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds!

Hibernating Pets

I’m not the only one around here who doesn’t want to go outside when the temperature drops. Though the furry members of the family cope by burrowing under pillows or settling into comforters, I prefer to keep warm by cooking—and eating—hearty stews and soups. Mostly I’ve been cooking up old favorites that have already been featured here: Easy Bean and Vegetable Soup is my go-to recipe when I’m cold and in a hurry, and Beefless Stew is my family’s definition of comfort food. But a couple of nights ago I was craving chili—not pinto bean soup, as some chili recipes turn out, but thick, rich chili.

The recipe I came up with doesn’t differ much from most vegetarian chili recipes, except for the use of dried New Mexico chiles instead of chili powder. I was able to find dried chiles in my local supermarket, next to the refried beans and tortillas. Dried New Mexico chiles can vary in degree of heat, but the Melissa’s brand that I used were fairly mild; if you like your chili spicy, you’ll need to add red pepper to increase the heat in this mild, kid-friendly version.

Thick and Hearty Pinto Bean Chili
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Dried chiles and unsweetened cocoa give this chili a deep, rich taste. If you can’t find dried chiles, try substituting 1 cup of vegetable broth plus a tablespoon or so of chili powder. Increase the chili powder to taste.
Serves: 4
  • 3 large dried New Mexico chiles (see note above)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 3 cups cooked pinto beans (or 2 cans, rinsed and drained)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • cayenne or other red pepper, to taste
  1. Remove and discard the stems from the chiles. Place them in a small saucepan and pour the water over them. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Allow to cool. Put the chiles and the water into a blender and puree until well-blended. Pour into a strainer, pressing lightly on the pulp to get out all the flavor. Throw the pulp away and reserve the liquid.
  2. In a large non-stick pot, sauté the onion in a little water (1 tablespoon to start) until it’s beginning to brown. Add the garlic, bell pepper, and a little more water and sauté for 3 more minutes. Add the reserved chile sauce, tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and paprika and bring to a simmer.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the cocoa powder with 1/4 cup hot water until it is well blended. Add it to the chili. Taste for seasonings and add salt and red pepper to taste. If it seems bitter add sugar. Cook on low for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
Nutritional information includes all optional ingredients.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: 1/4 of recipe Calories: 256 Fat: 1g Carbohydrates: 50g Sodium: 568mg Fiber: 15g Protein: 14g


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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Khouni August 22, 2009 at 8:56 am

Tried it and it was great! I made a few changes, according to our situation, though:
1. I did not use dried chili peppers, but fresh homegrown habeneros. Also, I did not put them in the food processor but roasted them along with their seeds, some paprica, onions and leaf garlic (don't know what it's called in English…). Next, I put some water, some flesh tomatoes and tomato paste into the pan. I added pink pepper (Schinus molle) in huge amounts. I did not use black pepper or salt. The beans I used were a weird violet kind with stripes which my father brought back from a journey to Iran where they are grown in some rural areas. Sadly, I don't even know their German name, so I really can't tell you what they are called in English. I just know it was really, really tasty!

Thanks for your great recipe,


2 SusanB August 18, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I love this chili- have made it several times and loved it everytime. Will serve over polenta rounds this time just to change it up a little!


3 Clint Gray September 18, 2010 at 10:36 am

This may be a silly question but in your recipes when you say “oregano” do you mean ground or flakes? I am never sure. So if I use ground I go a little light and if I use flakes I use a little extra.

Either way everything I have ever tried from your blog has been wonderful – except the Beet Burgers but I think I may have done something wrong on that one. The food, pictures and writing are all so well done! I watch hours of Food Network shows and wonder the whole time why you are not on there.


4 SusanV September 18, 2010 at 10:59 am

Hi Clint, thank you so much for your kind words. Since I’m the type of person who hates having her picture taken or speaking in front of people, I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be on the Food Network, though it’s sweet of you to want me there!

I use only flaked oregano, not ground. I’ll have to try to be clear about that in future recipes. Your work-around sounds like a good one.


5 cshipley10 January 1, 2011 at 8:37 pm

I tried Thick and Hearty Pinto Bean Chili today and it turned out wonderful. I did not find New Mexico chiles at the store, so I made it with one large ancho chili which gave it a subtle flavor without the heat. I used 1/4 tsp of red pepper to add a little snap. I threw in some chunks of tempeh for added protein and was delighted with the results.


6 DeannaK January 5, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Hi Susan,
Thanks so much for this and for so many other delicious recipes. Even my picky onmi BF, who thinks chili has to have beef, admitted this is simply delicious. I told him I would just call it Thick and Hearty Pinto Bean Soup around him.
I am “transitioning” to the FF Vegan ideology via McDougall, Fuhrman, etc., and realize that means COOKING. Your recipes and your entertaining blog makes it interesting, easy, and downright enjoyable for me. You turned me on to Spice House with your Ridiculously Easy Curried Chickpeas and Quinoa (can’t wait to make this tomorrow). They are only a couple of miles from me here in Chicago. What a great store!

Question: I know you say no re-posting of recipes, but I am currently using LiveStrong’s Daily Plate for calculating calories, fat/carb/protein ratio, and fiber. I have been entering in your ingredients, and under directions I type: from SusanV at, and post a link to the recipe on your blog/site. So far I have your recipes set to private, but think others could benefit if they could find them. With your OK I will make them public.

Thanks again for all you do. I have been using what you post for ?six? months now. You have changed my life, and countless others.


ps. I used a habanero and a jalapeno for this. Delicious!


7 SusanV January 6, 2011 at 8:46 am

So glad you liked the chili/soup! I’m happy for you to use my recipes in LiveStrong as long as you just list the ingredients (no instructions) and leave a link so that people can come back here to find the directions. That way, the entire recipe isn’t repeated there and people have a reason to visit my site. If that is what you mean to do, then go for it!


8 kensington cooker January 10, 2011 at 10:58 am

Happy New Year Susan,
I couldn’t resist buying a small truckload of pintos when they went on sale at three pounds for a dollar. They were begging to be cooked. I wanted to use up a good-sized pile of dried beans so I made a few changes. One of the things I love about your recipes is that they can handle certain deviations and still come out great.
I did this in a six-quart crockpot, using about seven cups of liquid for a pound of dried beans. The biggest change I made was to cut up the dried ancho chiles and just put them in with all the other ingredients. After six hours on high I adjusted seasonings and put a couple of cups of the beans into the blender to puree and add back into the pot.
You are so right about the deep, rich flavor. Yummmm….And this will freeze just fine too.
Happy fifth blogging anniversary, and not to pressure you or anything but please–just don’t stop doing it!
Kensington Cooker


9 KCalla March 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm

I made this 2 nights ago with just a slight alteration based on what I had on hand. I did not have the dried New Mexico chiles, but I did have some leftover chipotle in adobo that I diced up (from frozen). I never seem to use much more that 1/4 a can of chipotle in adobo for a recipe, so I pour whatever is left from a just opened can into a zip top freezer bag. I spread it out pretty flat and then lay it flat in the freezer. That way, when I need a little, I can break a chunk off from the frozen mass in the bag and chop it while it is still somewhat frozen. This was another great recipe! Thank you. The cocoa really gave the chili a wonderful, rich flavor. I had a partial bag of frozen corn that I added in at the last minute. Served it on brown rice. What a great dinner. It was satisfying on many levels on an end of winter day. Thanks again.


10 alexandra April 22, 2011 at 6:58 pm

A wonderful recipe; very good and of course better the next day. Thank you for your blog. I have made a few of your recipes in the past, all great. now I am going to move from vegetarian to mostly vegan, and fat free. Your blog is it; well written and enticing. Thanks!


11 Tammy B October 29, 2011 at 9:41 pm

Had this for dinner tonight and it was great. Served it with vegan cornbread …yummy! I will definitely have this again.


12 Carla February 5, 2012 at 11:20 am

Love this Chili. The flavor is great. I follow your recipe with the exception of the canned beans. I soak a bag of pintos over night and cook the chili until the beans soften. I think the longer cooking time enhances the flavors even more and gives an even thicker chili. 🙂 Thanks so much for this recipe, I have tried numerous recipes since I stopped eating meat and none of them were worth making again. I’m just getting ready to make my 5th batch today.


13 Elana May 29, 2012 at 4:53 pm

Great recipe and filling! I left out the chilies and used chili powder.


14 Ryan December 10, 2012 at 12:36 am

Just made a big pot of this with my girlfriend to eat on through finals week. Substituted California for New Mexico peppers. This is the best vegan chilli we’ve ever had!


15 taska January 29, 2013 at 8:11 am

Great recipe!!! I sub a half envelope of McCormick chili and red peepee fpakes for chili peppers..came out great!!


16 Ainsley June 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

LOVE this chili. Best I’ve ever tasted. Silly question: What do you consider a “serving” – a cup? Thanks again for the yummiest recipes around!


17 Susan Voisin June 10, 2013 at 1:36 pm

I just divide it into fourths and call each one a serving, but I’m betting that it comes out to a little more than 1 cup each.


18 Ellen Francis September 23, 2013 at 7:10 pm

This recipe looked so delicious and easy to make that I was inspired to incorporate it into an article I just posted in Vegan American Princess! I gave you credit and a link directly to this page. Take a look….


19 Jess September 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I tried the 1 tsp of new mexico dried chili powder, and think it could have used the two tsp, but did add cayene as suggested at then end. Hubbs liked this very much, so thanks for the recommendation of how much powder to use!


20 Marianne November 1, 2013 at 3:33 am

I just wanted to say that I love your page very much. It gives me so much inspiration. Right now over here (Middle of Europe) the weather is getting chilly too and I love your soups and pots and stews very much. There is almost nothing as comforting as preparing a big pot of wonderfully smelling beans,vegetables and spices. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing all your wonderful recipes!


21 Joseph January 4, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Thanks for this wonderful recipe. it has now become a staple of my rotation. Very tasty and healthy! Can’t wait to try out your other recipes!


22 Peggy Snodsmith January 17, 2014 at 6:38 am

is the cocoa used the same we use for hot cocoa?


23 Susan Voisin January 17, 2014 at 7:19 am

It’s the unsweetened kind that is used for baking.


24 Kristen March 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm

I haven’t actually finished cooking this yet (I’m sure it will be delicious), I just wanted to say that I would STRONGLY recommend against anyone with even slight respiratory sensitivities pureeing the chili peppers. I have very mild asthma (more of an annoyance than a danger in my case), but the aerosolized particles of pepper have made it so that I cannot draw a breath in my kitchen. I choke before it gets past my windpipe. It made my fiancé cough initially, but after that he was fine.

If you have remotely sensitive breathing, be careful with those chilis!


25 Danielle November 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

I am making this right now and taste tested it (twice, heh)… oh wow, it’s delicious!

I added a bag of frozen corn and two diced zucchini, plus about a teaspoon of coriander, a teaspoon of chipotle powder, and used about a tablespoon dried NM chili powder instead of the whole chilis. The seasonings are great! Thanks for another yummy recipe.

The seasonings are great! Thanks for another yummy recipe. My husband is working at our local polling place today, and this will be a great meal for him when he gets home at about 9:30 tonight.


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