18 months and 17 days. That’s how long it took before we got a proper chili recipe on this blog. This is such a simple, classic, delicious, hearty dish that it really is a disservice to you all that I haven’t posted one until now. Nevertheless, the recipe we have here was worth the wait. I promise.
There are a few things that make this chili really different and amazing. First, it calls for chopped walnuts. That might sound strange at first, but these little squiggly bits soften in the stew and create an amazing ‘ground meat’ like texture. We’re also adding a ton of fresh veggies and the perfect spice mix. And as the title says, this version is gently cooked to perfection in your trusty slow cooker.
In fact, this was the first recipe that really made me a believer in the power of the slow cooker. They have always seemed kind of antiquated and unnecessary when you could just crank up the heat on a burner for an hour or two and be done with it (especially considering that I’m not exactly breaking down tough animal proteins or anything like that). But this recipe changed my perspective. After about 4 hours, I gave it a taste and it was “meh” – cooked thoroughly but not super flavorful or interesting. Then everything changed in those last 2 hours. It became much thicker like a stew, the flavors changed, and it started screaming CHILI all over my tastebuds. Slow cookers, people… they’re not so bad.
Makes 4-6 servings
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 green bell pepper
- 2 carrots
- 2 small zucchini
- 1 cup diced walnuts
- 28 oz can pinto beans
- 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1+ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- Avocado for garnish
Okay, this seems like an overwhelming number of ingredients – especially for the *One* Ingredient Chef 🙂 – but it’s actually really simple. All we have to do is sauté the veggies quickly, then dump everything in a slow cooker for about 6-7 hours and it’s done.
Step one of any delicious chili is to spice the vegetables first. Just like with a curry, it’s essential that you sauté the veggies and thoroughly spice them first in order to develop maximum flavor. So first, prep all the vegetables – dice the onion (but save a small piece for garnish), mince the garlic, chop the bell pepper, slice the carrots, slice the zucchini, and chop the walnuts into fairly small pieces.
Then, heat a large skillet with a drizzle of vegetable oil and add everything from step one into the pan and allow it to cook 4-5 minutes until the onions become translucent. Add half of the chili powder (1 tablespoon), a teaspoon each of cinnamon and cumin, and a few pinches of salt. Cook for another 4-5 minutes until you have something that looks and smells delicious (and would make great veggie taco filling on its own):
Finally, add this into your slow cooker along with all the other ingredients – diced tomatoes, pinto beans, the remainder of the chili powder, dried basil and oregano, cocoa powder, and a bit more salt. Note: Don’t drain the tomatoes or pinto beans – they will add just the right amount of liquid to this chili.
Set your slow cooker to low/medium, walk away, and let this cook for at least 6 hours. Before serving, give the soup a taste and feel free to adjust the seasoning: you can add a little more salt or spices to boost the flavor if needed.
Serving with a slice or two of avocado and just a taste of finely-diced raw onions is absolutely not optional. Trust me 😉