Chilli Con Carne

Childhood memories and cowboys.

A really good chilli con carne is a comforting soul food that I can enjoy the whole year. Comforting, but not boring, as I feel a proper chilli con carne needs to be on the edge of being almost too hot. The slightly painful tingle in your mouth is what really elevates this dish from an ordinary stew to something special. Get yourself a spoon and some handkerchiefs to wipe away the sweat and let’s dig in!

One of my earliest childhood memories evolves around chilli con carne. When I was a little kid, my parents had a friend from Chile who played in a band. It was my birthday and they invited him and his band to our flat without me knowing anything about it. As you can imagine, as a little kid, I was pretty excited when all those “exotic” people suddenly were here, playing for me at my birthday. Pretty cool!

My mother made chilli con carne and the whole band, including our friend from Chile, was ecstatic about it. And I was too! As a child of the eighties, chilli con carne was as foreign, unusual and exotic as it could be. Especially cumin was a spice that hardly anybody even knew that it existed.

This is not the original recipe of my mother, because I had to adapt it a little to make it fit my dietary needs. I left out the canned corn, that is very popular and really tasty, but contains way too many carbs for me. If you have the macros left, feel free to add them. Also, the beans were reduced for pretty much the same reason. And before you ask, yes, beans contain some protein, but they contain way more carbs.

The green pickled chillies aren’t needed for this recipe, I just happend to have them at home and wanted to use them up. Same goes for the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Just add some fresh or dried chillies for the heat instead and you are fine.


  • 2,6kg Stewing beef
  • 480g Butter beans (canned)
  • 220g Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 100g Green pickled chillies
  • 230g Onions
  • 70g Garlic
  • 680g Passata
  • 30g Cooking fat
  • 500ml Water
  • Spices like cumin, origano, (smoked) paprika, salt and pepper


  • Preheat your oven to 150°C and set a roasting tray on high heat. Cut the stewing beef into mouth sized chunks and fry them in the tray without any fat. You may have to do this in several batches. Don’t overfill the tray otherwise you will steam the meat instead of frying it.
  • Meanwhile peel and finely slice the onions and the garlic. Remove the browned meat from the tray, add the cooking fat and fry the onions and garlic over medium heat until sweet, soft and brown. 
  • Add the spices to the onion-garlic mixture and fry for a few minutes. Go big on the cumin! You can use ground or whole cumin, both are fine. I recommend smoked paprika, it gives such an awesome depth of flavour.
  • Add the passata, water or stock, peppers in adobo sauce, the drained butter beans and the pickled chillies. Taste and season well.
  • Cover with a lid, tinfoil and/or wet baking paper and let cook in the oven for about 4 hours or until completely tender at 150°C . Season to perfection and enjoy! Just be careful not to burn your mouth with the first spoon.


100g of chilli con carne have the following macros:

  • 110kcal
  • 12,6g Protein
  • 3,1g Carbs
  • 5g Fat

Change it up

You can add more onions or beans if you like. I have already mentioned that canned, or even better, fresh corn makes a great addition. By the way, corn is one of the few vegetables that provide umami taste! I think adding root vegetables could be very nice, especially sweet potatoes would be great here for sure.

Some people like adding cocoa powder and/or chocolate to their chilli and I also really like doing it. It adds a slightly bitter and sweet taste at the same time. Only use very dark chocolate for this purpose, milk chocolate is way too sweet. Jamie Oliver also uses coffee instead of plain water for more depth of flavour and I think it’s a great idea! You can imagine cowboys sitting around the fireplace, and when they need some liquid for their chilli, the only thing available there is coffee from the tin can. Oh, speaking of cowboys, I have also added whisky, tequila or even mezcal to my chilli and they all work great. Especially the mezcal adds a smoky touch.

Garnish with some lemons, limes, fresh koriander or parsley leaves. Finely sliced spring onions work great. Basically you want something fresh, pungent and a little sourness as a contrast to the deep earthy flavour of the chilli.

I hope you enjoyed this recipe and if you did, please leave me a comment or share it with your friends. Perhaps somebody also has some nice memories attached to this dish and is happy to have them brought back to live this way again.

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