Catalan Chili

Preparation info

  • Serves


Appears in

Everything on the Table

Everything on the Table

By Colman Andrews

Published 1992

  • About

In describing the sofregit and another basic Catalan “sauce” called the picada (a paste of ground nuts, chocolate, garlic, fried bread, and other ingredients) in my book Catalan Cuisine, I suggested that both might be used with some success in certain non-Catalan dishes. “Like what?” asked a friend of mine recently. Like this, for instance.


  • 1 tablespoon lard or bacon fat
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 pounds lean pork, finely chopped or coarsely ground
  • 1 pound mild pork sausage (preferably Spanish-style botifarra or Italian sausage without fennel seeds), removed from casings and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon mild paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne or spicy paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper 4 to 5 cups rich beef stock
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried red chili flakes (optional)
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 10 to 15 almonds or hazelnuts (or a combination of both), lightly toasted
  • 1 small slice fried sourdough bread*
  • 2 ounces cooking chocolate (Ibarra brand, e.g.), grated
  • 2 sprigs parsley, minced


In a large heavy skillet, melt the lard and approximately 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Brown pork and sausage in the hot fat. Transfer the meat to a Dutch oven or stewpot, and add cumin, paprika, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, and salt and pepper. Stir well. Deglaze the skillet with 3 cups stock and add to the Dutch oven or stewpot. Simmer, partially covered, for about 3 hours, or until meat is almost falling apart. (Add more stock as necessary; the chili should be thick and moist but not soupy.)

Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, make the sofregit by cooking onions over lowest possible heat in about half an inch of olive oil, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour. Add oregano and chili flakes (if desired), then continue cooking for another 1 ½ hours, or until onions are very soft and dark golden brown. Stir in tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes longer.

While onions are cooking, make a picada by crushing minced garlic in a mortar with a bit of salt, then pound in the nuts, fried bread, and chocolate until very well mixed. Add parsley and barely enough olive oil to cover the picada, then work in oil to form a thick paste. (All ingredients should be amalgamated completely and nuts should be thoroughly crushed.)

About 30 minutes before chili is done, stir onion mixture into it. Adjust seasoning. Remove cover and continue cooking, skimming excess fat off surface if necessary. About 5 minutes before serving, stir in picada.

* Quickly fry a piece of good French bread, with crusts trimmed off, in olive oil until lightly browned on both sides.
Here are three other onion-based recipes of which I’m quite fond: