By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Adlen Robinson: Secrets to the best chili

Thursday is National Chili Day. Everybody needs a good chili recipe — especially during these colder months. 

Chili is really more diverse than simply a “bowl of red.” You can certainly serve it in a bowl — just make sure you provide a lot of toppings for everybody to personalize their chili. 

Some suggestions for toppings include shredded cheese, minced onion, green onions, sour cream, cilantro, diced avocado, crushed tortilla chips and minced jalapeno. 

If you have leftover chili, make chili dogs or add some frozen corn kernels and make a tamale pie with a cornbread topping. Chili freezes beautifully, so feel free to double the recipe and freeze the leftovers. 

I have two big secrets for the best chili. First, use a variety of peppers. I like to use red bell peppers, poblano peppers and  jalapenos. Sometimes I roast a red pepper and/or a poblano and after peeling and deseeding them, add that to the pot. 

The other secret is to use a little unsweetened cocoa powder. I know that might sound odd, but think about Mexican moles — they always have a little bit of chocolate in them. The subtle cocoa just gives your chili a little something that keeps people wondering what that flavor is. Trust me, your chili won’t taste like chocolate. 

World’s best chili

1 ½ pounds ground beef or bison, preferably grass fed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and finely minced

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 tablespoons chili powder, more to taste

1 teaspoon ground cumin, more to taste

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican oregano

1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes, with their juices

1 can dark red kidney beans or black beans, rinsed and drained

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons Masa Harina (corn flour)

In a large pot, cook ground beef or bison until done. Drain off fat. Add olive oil, onions, red pepper, poblano pepper and jalapeno and cook until vegetables are soft, about eight minutes. Add garlic, and tomato paste and cook another minute. 

Sprinkle in chili powder, cumin, cayenne, unsweetened cocoa powder and dried oregano and stir to combine. Pour in fire roasted tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper to taste. If you like your chili spicier, add more chili powder and cayenne — again, taste for seasoning. 

In a small bowl, mix the Masa Harina with a little water and add to the chili. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can pour the whole pot of chili into your slow cooker and cook it on low all day until dinner. If the chili is too thick, add some water. 

Chili powder tip:

All chili powders are not created equal, which is why I say start with a little and add more to taste. You can also find interesting chili powders in most grocery stores now such as ancho chili powder or chipotle chili powder. Be on the lookout and experiment. 

South Forsyth resident Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at