Test Kitchen: Signature spicy, smoky, sweet chili

I was sitting in a cabin in middle-of-nowhere Minnesota the first time I tried a chili recipe I actually liked. The secret ingredient that made the difference for me was baked beans—a shock, considering I thought baked beans on their own were gross. But to this day, I remember how sweet and smoky the chili tasted.

I was sitting in a cabin in middle-of-nowhere Minnesota the first time I tried a chili recipe I actually liked.

The secret ingredient that made the difference for me was baked beans—a shock, considering I thought baked beans on their own were gross. But to this day, I remember how sweet and smoky the chili tasted.

I’ve been searching for a comparable recipe ever since, and I think I’ve found it. Aside from my personal nostalgia, this recipe also has a few other things going for it: It doesn’t call for any kidney beans, which I appreciate (I had a bad experience with kidney beans as a kid), and it’s gluten- and dairy-free, so it’s a great option if you’re cooking for people with varying dietary needs.

This recipe only has two steps and doesn’t say whether or not to drain the ground beef. I did, and then I added my garlic and shallot. I made that mixture in a skillet and then added it to a pot with the rest of the chili. I put the lid on the pot, turned it on medium-low heat and let it go for 30 minutes.

To answer some pertinent questions: Yes, this still tastes like regular chili, and no, it’s not too sweet. I noticed the smoky taste more than the sweet taste. I put in only one tablespoon of brown sugar, but you could leave it out if you prefer. The liquid is a deep reddish brown that reminded me of barbecue sauce in appearance and texture. I loved this chili.

When I make it again, I might throw another bean in—maybe a butter bean or something that’s got a little more heft to it.

If you want to make this recipe in a slow cooker, the instructions are pretty similar: Make the ground beef mixture, and then add the other ingredients and cook on low for four to six hours.

RECIPE
INGREDIENTS:
1 pound ground beef
1 large shallot or small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
29-ounce can tomato sauce
15-ounce can Bush’s Vegetarian Baked Beans
15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 to 2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less)
Toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, tortilla chips, sour cream

DIRECTIONS:
1. Brown ground beef, shallot or onion and garlic in a large skillet over medium high heat, seasoning with salt and pepper.

2. Add the remaining ingredients, then simmer for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice.

SOURCE: iowagirleats.com

Where to buy

The Repository
Select Rite Aid Stores
Spee-D Foods
Buehler's Fresh Foods
Fishers Foods, including 44th Street NW, Tuscarawas St. W, Fulton Drive, Lincoln Way E. and Cleveland Ave. NW locations
Aultman Hospital Gift Shop
Mercy Medical Center Gift Shop
Gervasi Vineyard Marketplace
Carpe Diem Coffee Shop, downtown Canton and Belden Village Mall locations
News Depot
Avenue Arts Marketplace
Yum Yum Tree Alliance
Grapes in a Glass