Chili con Carne

As many of you probably know, I’ve been blogging about my journey with the Paleo diet (or some approximation of it) for about seven years now. But what most people don’t realize is that I posted recipes on this site well before I decided to change my dietary lifestyle, albeit to a much smaller audience. There are very few remnants of the old site today, but one of them is this chili recipe, published about a month before I changed my diet.

I think it’s about time I updated that recipe – the pictures make me cringe every time I see them. In truth, I have updated the recipe twice before; it was featured in both The Ancestral Table and Paleo Takeout. Today’s creation differs from those recipes because it’s more in line with traditional Texas chili; in other words, it focuses mainly on the flavor that comes from dried chilis.

Before we get started, a quick caveat to any Texans reading the recipe: yes, I used tomatoes (considered sacrilege in certain circles). I found that by grating a couple tomatoes and cooking them down a bit, it adds a fruity balance you can’t get from dried chiles alone. You’re just going to have to trust me on this.

Chili con Carne (Gluten-free, Paleo, Primal, Whole30, Perfect Health Diet)

  • Servings: 8
  • Difficulty: Easy

3 dried New Mexico, Guajillo, or Anaheim chiles, stems and seeds removed
3 dried Ancho chiles, stems and seeds removed
3 dried morita or chipotle chiles, stems and seeds remove
4 cups chicken stock, divided, more as needed
2 tbsp avocado oil or lard
4 lbs boneless beef chuck or short ribs, cut into 3/4” pieces
2 tsp kosher salt, more to taste
1 tsp black pepper, more to taste
2 medium onions, diced, divided (about 2 cups chopped)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, grated
2 bay leaves
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp unsweetened (100%) cocoa powder
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped, to serve
4 avocados, pitted and sliced, to serve

1. Warm a skillet over medium heat; in batches, add the chiles and toast until fragrant, but not smoking, about 30 seconds per side, then set aside. Bring 2 cups of the chicken stock to boil over high heat, then add the chiles and remove from heat; steep until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer the stock and chiles to a high-speed blender and blend over high speed until smooth, about 30 seconds.

2. Warm the oil in a deep skillet or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper, then brown in the skillet until browned and crispy at the edges, about 3 minutes per side, in batches if needed to prevent overcrowding; remove the beef and set aside. Reduce heat to medium, then add half of the onions and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then stir in the tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cumin, oregano, and coriander; saute until the tomatoes are softened and darkened, about 10 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the beef, chile mixture, and enough chicken stock to nearly cover the beef, about 2 cups. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover and reduce heat to low. Gently simmer until the beef is tender, about 1 hour 30 minutes; after 1 hour of simmering, stir in the cocoa powder. Once the beef is tender, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, sliced avocado, and the remaining chopped onion.

Note: In the year leading up to my new cookbook’s release, I will be regularly releasing these recipes to 1) maintain a continuing conversation with my readership and 2) give visitors to this site an opportunity to test and provide feedback before editing. For more information on this new approach, read my post here.

15 thoughts on “Chili con Carne

  1. I love your chili, so look forward to tasting this new spin. However, I can’t handle spicy hot like I used to. I usually sub ancho, or similar, for hotter varieties listed in recipes. How hot will this version be, and if hot, would you do all ancho or something else to tone down the heat? I like the smokiness and flavor of chili, with just barely a touch of heat.


    1. I would replace the morita/chipotles with 1 more guajillo and 2 more anchos, plus add another tomato. There’s no way to totally avoid some spiciness, but that should cut it down significantly! On its own, the chili is moderately spicy.


      1. Thanks Russ, I’ll try that. For some reason I’d thought that guajillo was pretty hot. Raw Anaheims can be mild or hot, depending on ripeness, but I think that they use ripe ones for drying.


  2. This is very timely, since I was just given a massive package of ground venison – I’m sure chunks would be better, as in your recipe, but sometimes you have to work with what you’ve got. By the way – though I think this is maybe heresy to Texans as well – what’s your general take on beans (since I know you include some not traditionally paleo foods like potatoes and rice)?


    1. Half the onions should be sautéed, the other half added as a garnish. I didn’t articulate that initially, but I’ve changed the recipe to reflect that – thanks for the catch!


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