Baby it’s cold outside.
And I ain’t craving hot chocolate or a light soup… I’m craving something serious. Real food. Hearty and substantial.
Which is precisely when I turn to homemade chili. The dish of all dishes, the chameleon of suppers…
It can be snazzied up with a handful of accoutrements, or dressed down over a campfire.
When properly made it’s both filling and delicious, yet nutritious and well-balanced. What more could you ask for in a meal??
My family takes a lot of pride in our chili making skills. In fact, this is my Mom’s tried and true recipe, with a few modifications to make it Little Pine approved.
I know what you’re thinking. I’ve heard it before… Real chili can’t be healthy, healthy chili can’t be tasty.
I assure you that despite the potential contradiction, this recipe is both HEALTHY & incredibly TASTY… but not to worry, I’ll take the liberty of assuaging your concerns in the following paragraphs.
What’ve you got to lose?! So sit back, relax, and let’s go make some chili shall we?
Let’s talk about the essential ingredients in a homemade chili recipe: meat, beans, tomatoes and spices.
Healthy, basic, and delicious stuff… right?
The red flags come up when people get creative and veer too far from this core. A dollop of this plus a sprinkle of that can lead to a lot of added sugar and processed crap…
…When the truth of the matter is, none of those additions are necessary if you spice the dang thing correctly!
Which is why my Mama’s chili recipe is so spot on.
I digress… let’s head back to this short list of seemingly innocuous ingredients that have health enthusiasts hollerin’.
The main ingredient I’d like to point out: the beans; one of the more controversial foods in the health and wellness world.
If this is news to you, let me share the background…
The dispute stems from naturally occurring compounds found in beans (all legumes for that matter) and whether these compounds have a negative effect on our bodies.
Some believe the minimal quantity of these compounds found in legumes is safe for consumption, while others avoid legumes on their behalf.
These compounds are omnipresent in our diets. They are:
Also known as phytates, are antioxidant compounds found in commonly consumed foods such as legumes, seeds, nuts and whole grains.
When ingested, phytates can bind to dietary minerals such as iron, zinc and manganese and slow our body’s ability to absorb them (source).
Which seems like a legitimate concern, however, per Dr. Weil…
“Phytates in your everyday meals should not be an issue for you as long as you’re eating a balanced diet. Most of us consume enough minerals in common foods to more than make up for the small amounts of these micronutrients that might be tied up by phytates” (source).
He continues to state that the only potential concern is for vegetarians who rely on whole grains, nut and beans for a bulk of their calories.
Lectins: are proteins that bind to carbohydrates. They’re found in much of our food, specifically whole grains, potatoes and legumes (source).
Some lectins are deemed “toxic, inflammatory, or both” (source), which raises a red flag for many health enthusiasts.
The chief concern is based on a link between consumption of lectins and an onset of specific autoimmune diseases (such as celiac, insulin dependent diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis).
This is undoubtedly alarming, yet to me begs the question: if lectins are ubiquitously found in our food, why don’t we all have autoimmune diseases?
Despite these concerns, there are still many benefits to consuming legumes.
Nutritionally, they break down to protein, soluble/insoluble fiber, and a boat load of vitamins and minerals… To name a few: folate, iron, potassium and magnesium.
Not to mention, they’re low in cholesterol and fat (source).
All this leads is why many organizations such as The American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society consider legumes to be one of the most important food groups in preventing disease and for maintaining optimal health (source).
My take on the bean issue… I eat beans, and love them.
But I love them because they love me… In that, I feel great after eating them. No bloating, no stomach cramps, you get the picture. If you don’t feel the same, your body may be trying to tell you something.
As with everything, listen to your body. It knows best.
What is your take on beans?
Although the other ingredients may be equally as controversial, I’ll spare the rant for the next article and share a few simple words instead…
For this chili recipe, I used turkey.
Why? Like I said above, the spices are on point so I don’t think beef is necessary.
My personal take on the red meat matter is if I am going to eat it, I’d prefer it to be a deliciously grilled steak or homemade burger. Something where you can truly taste the meat.
Whereas chili contains so many ingredients with various flavor profiles that the meat become ancillary and easy to substitute.
I won’t get into the red meat controversy in this article, as you probably already know the spiel, other than this: I keep my red meat consumption down and protein intake high by diversifying my sources: turkey, chicken, fish, etc.
Veggies: Some people prefer their chili nice and simple. Minimal veggies in this dish gives the substantial ingredients more prominence.
I’m in between on this issue. To me, a healthy serving of peppers, onions and tomatoes bring awesome flavor and a nice serving of nutrients.
If you’re a less veggie kinda person, skip the peppers!
Homemade chili is one of the easiest meals to make in bulk and serve throughout the week.
I love making chili for my weekly meal prep, then pre-slicing and dicing toppings into baggies, and the whole shebang is ready come lunch or dinner time.
Hope you enjoy this homemade chili recipe as much as my friends and family! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
- 1 Tablespoon Vegetable Oil
- 2 Medium Onions, Chopped
- 2 Red Bell Pepper, Diced
- 8 Garlic Cloves, Chopped
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Oregano
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Ground Cumin
- 2 Pounds Lean Ground Turkey
- 1/4 Cup Dried Chili Powder
- 1/4-1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
- 2 Dried Bay Leaves
- 1 1/2 Teaspoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 Teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
- 1-28 Ounce Whole Tomatoes, Can
- 3 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1-8 Ounce Tomato Sauce, Can
- 3-15 Ounce Beans, Canned (I used 1 can of Black Beans, 1 can of Kidney Beans and 1 can of Pinto Beans – up to you!)
- Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions, peppers and garlic; sauté until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes.
- Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon.
- Stir in chili powder, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt, black pepper, and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with their juices, breaking up with back of spoon (or crushing in your hand). Mix in stock, and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Rinse beans and let them dry off on the side while chili cooks down.
- Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes longer. Discard bay leaves. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium-low heat before continuing.)
- Ladle chili into bowls. Add accoutrements – green onions, cilantro, sour cream and/or avocado.