(Mostly) Bean Chili

The hamster wheel in my head has been turning quite a bit since I saw Forks Over Knives a few weeks ago. I’ll do a review as we get closer to the new year, but in a nutshell – the film gives a powerful argument that our diet should contain mostly plant-based, whole food dishes.

One of the points made in the documentary is that most non-western diets use meat sparingly, more for flavor than for substance. With that idea in mind, I wanted to experiment with a chili that used a little bit of meat for flavor but was mainly plant-based. I also wanted to experiment with using grains in chili, so this one uses some barley. For simplicity’s sake, I used canned beans, but this could easily be done with with dried beans if you want to cut out the extra salt and preservatives.

We all loved this recipe. It made a ton, so we have half of it in the freezer for another cold day, with plenty still in the refrigerators for lunches this week.

Yield: Approximately 20 (1-cup) servings


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 3/4 pound of ground round
  • 1/4 cup dried barley
  • 3 cans of beans (I used canellini, navy, and “small red” – in the mexican foods aisle at our grocery store)
  • 2 large (28-oz) cans of diced tomatoes
  • 1 large (28-oz) can tomato puree
  • Water
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1 Tablespoon honey
  • 3 Tablespoons chili powder (+ extra for seasoning the beef)
  • 1.5 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • A pinch of plain paprika
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Prepare the barley according to package directions. Set aside.
  2. In a large stockpot, cook the onions and bell peppers in olive oil over medium-low heat. Move the veggies to the side of the pan.
  3. Add beef, seasoning with a pinch of salt, a little pepper,  a pinch of chili powder and a pinch of paprika. Cook until the meat is browned.
  4. Add tomatoes, wine, spices, beans, barley, honey, and a pinch more of salt and pepper. Fill one of the 28-oz cans with water, then add water to the chili. Increase heat and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  5. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 45 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.

One thought on “(Mostly) Bean Chili

  1. Pingback: If You Enjoyed “The Tyranny of the Home-Cooked Meal” | The Reluctant Hippie

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