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Greens Chili

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili
From The Greens Cookbook, page 109

Black Bean Chili has been served every day since Greens opened in 1979. It has a woodsy campfire quality and a complexity of tastes from the various smoked and roasted chilies. In addition to serving these beans as chili, we also use them as an ingredient in the Black Bean Endhiladas and the Black Bean Chilaquilas. It is worth making double the amount and freezing half to have it available to use in other recipes.


  • 2 cups black turtle beans, soaked overnight
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 4 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 4 teaspoons paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 chili negro or ancho chili, for chili powder, or 2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoon corn or peanut oil
  • 3 medium yellow onions, diced into ¼-inch squares
  • 4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ pound ripe or canned tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped; juice reserved
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chopped chipotle chili
  • About 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro, chopped


  • ½ to ¾ cup jack or cheddar cheese, grated
  • Green chilies: 2 poblano or Anaheim, roasted, peeled, and diced, or 2 ounces canned green chilies, rinsed well and diced
  • ½ cup crème fraiche or sour cream
  • 6 sprigs cilantro

Sort through the beans and remove any small stones. Rinse them well, cover them generously with water, and let them soak overnight. Next day, drain the beans, cover them with fresh water by a couple of inches, and bring them to a boil with the bay leaf. Lower the heat and let the beans simmer whie you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Heat a small heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and when they begin to color, add the oregano leaves, shaking the pan frequently so the herbs don’t scorch. As soon as the fragrance is strong and robust, remove the pan from the heat and add the paprika and the cayenne. Give everything a quick stir; then remove from the pan – the paprika and the cayenne only need a few seconds to toast. Grind in a mortar or a spice mill to make a coarse powder.

Preheat the oven to 375F. To make the chili powder, put the dried chili in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes to dry it out. Cool it briefly; then remove the stem, seeds, and veins. Tear the pod into small pieces and grind it into a powder in a blender or spice mill.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and saute the onions over medium heat until they soften. Add the garlic, salt, and ground herbs and chili powder, and cook another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, their juice, and about 1 teaspoon of the chipotle chili. Simmer everything together for 15 minutes; then add this mixture to the beans, and, if necessary, enough water tso the beans are covered by at least 1 inch. Continue cooking the beans slowly until they are soft, an hour or longer, or pressure cook them for 30 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Keep an eye on the water level and add more, if needed, to keep the beans amply covered.

When the beans are cooked, taste them, and add more chipotle chili if desired. Season to
taste with the vinegar, additional salt if needed, and the chopped cilantro. Prepare the garnishes. If you are using fresh green chilies, roast them over a flame until they are evenly charred. Let them steam 10 minutes in a bowl covered with a dish; then scrape off the skins, discard the seeds, and dice.

Serve the chili ladled over a large spoonful of grated cheese, and garnish it with the crème fraiche or sour cream, the green chilies, and a sprig of fresh cilantro.

Though served in a bowl and eaten with a spoon, this chili is a great deal thicker than most soups – thick enough in fact to be served on a plate right alongside fritters or cornbread. It also, however, can be thinned considerably with stock, water, or tomato juice, to make a much thinner but still very flavorful black bean soup. When thinned to make a soup, it can be served as part of a meal rather than a meal in itself.

Makes 8 cups