Cincinnati Chili

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

Welcome to Claire's: 35 Years of Recipes and Reflections from the Landmark Vegetarian Restaurant

Welcome to Claire's

By Claire Criscuolo

Published 2014

  • About

Many years ago, a favorite customer of ours, Joe, told us about a chocolate-infused black bean chili that he enjoyed at a couple of restaurants when he lived in Cincinnati. To please him, I developed this recipe to remind him of his old hometown. This chili is made up of two components, the mole and the bean chili. Serve it alone or with brown rice or corn tortillas. Add a simple salad of organic mixed greens with sliced avocado, red onion, and tomatoes, dressed with a dressing of extra-virgin olive oil and lime juice, and you’ll have a delicious and healthful supper in less than an hour. The mole was inspired by my dear friends in Mexico and it can be used separately as a dip with corn tortillas or as a sauce over enchiladas, grilled fish, or soy chicken patties. If you plan to use the mole as a sauce, just thin it a bit with a little more grapefruit juice or a vegetable broth until it is thinned to your preference.



  • 1 pasilla chile pepper, stem removed
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3 large pitted prunes
  • 1 medium yellow organic onion, cut into thick ribs, separated
  • 2 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 medium tomato, cut into thick slices
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds, about 1 ounce
  • 2 trans fat-free corn tortillas, torn into pieces
  • 1 large ripe (yellow/black) plantain, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • Juice of ½ grapefruit (about cup)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ medium organic yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium organic carrots, diced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 15-ounce can organic black beans
  • 2 cups water


  1. To prepare the mole, heat a large griddle pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chile pepper and toast lightly for about a minute, using tongs to turn frequently until just evenly toasted and not burned. Pour the ¼ cup of water (careful, it will sizzle) over the chile pepper. Using the tongs, move the chile pepper around until it softens and most of the water evaporates, about a minute. Remove the softened chile pepper from the pan and transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the 3 prunes. Set aside.
  2. Arrange the onion, garlic, tomato, sesame seeds, torn tortillas, and sliced plantain on the hot grill pan. Grill for about 4 minutes, until you’ve charred some parts of each ingredient, using the tongs to turn individual pieces every minute or so. Remove the 2 cloves of garlic and peel them, then return them to the grill pan. Set aside. Cover the processor and process on high for about 30 seconds to chop the chile pepper and the prunes.
  3. Using the tongs, add the charred ingredients to the processor. Add the chopped dark chocolate. Add the grapefruit juice and a little salt and pepper. Cover and process for about 1 minute, until finely mixed. It won’t be smooth, but it will be blended like a rough paste. Set aside.
  4. To prepare the chili, heat the olive oil in a medium-size heavy pot over medium heat. Add the onion and the carrots. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions have softened slightly. Add the beans and their liquid and the 2 cups of water. Cover the pot, and bring to a medium boil. Once it reaches a boil (in a few minutes), cook for about 7-8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender. Stir in the mole, using a rubber spatula to scrape the processor bowl. Stir well to combine. Continue cooking, uncovered, for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently until mixed into the bean mixture, then occasionally until heated through. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot.

“As a graduate student I spent hours at Claire’s. Her corn walnut muffin was a version of my childhood favorite— with less sugar and more protein. It was healthy and deliciously familiar. And it eased my transition to more conscious and healthy eating. At Claire’s you find healthy favorites conceived and prepared with love. Nothing could taste better.”

Frank Mitchell, Yale graduate and Claire’s customer and friend