Beef and Black Bean Chili

Preparation info

  • Makes

    3 Quarts

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Get in There and Cook: A Master Class for the Starter Chef

Get in There and Cook

By Richard Sax

Published 1997

  • About

Closely based on Deborah Madison’s black bean chili, which, she notes, has been served at Greens, the great vegetarian restaurant overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, every day since they opened in 1979. Deborah’s use of seasonings is masterful; particularly so is her use of a small amount of chipotle chilies (smoked jalapeños, available dried and canned and jarred in adobo sauce or without the sauce), a touch that has been widely copied across the country.


  • 5 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped coarse
  • ½ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt or sea salt, or to taste
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 4 teaspoons paprika, preferably Hungarian
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • ¼ cup best-quality chili powder, or more or less to taste
  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, chopped, with juices
  • 2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chilies, or to taste
  • pounds beef shin or chuck, cut in ¾-inch cubes
  • 2 cups dried black beans, sorted and soaked overnight, then drained (Dried Bean Basics)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • tablespoons rice wine vinegar or cider vinegar, or to taste
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley


    1. Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions; toss to coat and sauté, tossing, until they soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, cumin seeds, oregano, paprika, cayenne, and chili powder and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes longer to cook the chili and spices. Add the tomatoes with their juices plus about 1 teaspoon of the chipotle chilies. Simmer everything together for 10 minutes.
    2. In a large casserole or Dutch oven and working in batches if necessary to avoid crowding the pan, brown the beef in the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with salt and turn the beef cubes frequently until they are well browned on all sides, usually about 15 minutes.
    3. Add the vegetable-tomato mixture to the beef, along with the drained beans and the bay leaf. Stir everything to combine. Add enough cold water to the pot to cover everything by about 3 inches. Cover the pan and bring the liquid to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beans and beef are tender, usually about 1½ to 2 hours. Use a Flame Tamer if you have one.
    4. When the beans are cooked, degrease the chili, removing all the fat from the surface with a large metal spoon or skimmer. The chili can be made ahead to this point.
    5. Taste the chili and stir in another teaspoon of chopped chipotles, if you like. Season with the vinegar, more salt if needed, and the chopped cilantro. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Serve with bowls of the garnishes.