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Lighter Beef Chili

Cocoa powder adds depth but not sweetness to the chili. Briefly heating the cocoa, chili powder, and tomato paste before adding the beef releases their aroma.Healthy Habit: For beefy flavor without excess fat, pick ground sirloin instead of chuck. We've added extra portions of traditional (and nutritious) ingredients, such as beans and tomatoes.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6
Lighter Beef Chili

Source: Everyday Food, 2008


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, such as safflower
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 pound ground beef sirloin
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes in juice
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • toppings, such as reduced-fat sour cream, sliced scallions, and baked tortilla chips, for serving (optional)


  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add onion and garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes.

  2. Add tomato paste, chili powder, and cocoa powder. Cook, stirring, until mixture is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add beef, and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 5 minutes.

  3. Add tomatoes (with their juice) and beans. Bring to a boil over high; reduce to a simmer, and cook until chili is slightly thickened, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with toppings, if desired.

Reviews (25)

  • cec145 4 Jan, 2014

    I really like this recipe, but I did make some changes. For the amount of meat, I double the beans and tomatoes. Sometimes I throw in a can of kidney beans with the pintos, maybe a can of tomatoes with green chilis with the regular ones. I use a whole (small) can of tomato paste. If I have chipotle chilis in adobo around, I put in a couple of tablespoons of adobo, or you can add a sprinkle of red pepper flakes for some heat. I also make it with ground venison.

  • liz_alchemist 14 Mar, 2011

    I love the idea of cocoa chili, but it is a bit bland. I added a lot of hot sauce. However, I will give it credit: this is a quick dinner to whip up without a grocery store trip.

  • Lololaura 8 Feb, 2011

    I made this chili over the weekend and thought it would be good but it was bland bland bland! We didn't even eat it, just chucked it out. Really dissappointed in this reciepe. I feel like if a receipe is going to be posted, you shouldn't have to tinker with it.

  • anna3456 8 Apr, 2010

    WIth all the positive comments, I was expecting this to be really good. Unfortunately, it was not. I followed the recipe, buit it was bland. My husband said that canned chili would have tasted better. I'm going to keep looking for a chili recipe...this is not it.

  • SharomfmMaine 16 Mar, 2009

    Deliscious and easy to make!

  • JoShannyU 19 Oct, 2008

    This chili is incredible. I made it for my neighbors and it was so easy to make. They went home w/the recipe.

  • VegasShopper 5 Oct, 2008

    This is a kind of mole chili. Interesting. Suggest using tomatoes with no salt added. Beans, too if you can find them. Then add salt to your taste or health requirements. Chuck usually has too much fat, but ground round should be okay and a little cheaper than sirloin. Choose a round steak then ask the butcher to trim the fat and grind it coarse. Definitely add cumin.

  • auntdelite 5 Oct, 2008

    I just don't think Chili is Chili without the Cumin. This is a must as far as I'm concerned.

  • blackbeetle 12 Sep, 2008

    scary face is right...cumin and cayenne and paprika.

  • kiltfire 1 Mar, 2008

    I left the cocoa powder out and instead added cumin and cayenne and paprika. I also added jalapen n n n o peppers as chili just isn't chili without the heat.

  • far3v 28 Feb, 2008

    I followed this recipe exactly, and it was only OK. I felt like it was missing something. Sounds like the people who liked it a lot tinkered with it, so it may be worth a shot to do some altering. I probably won't make it again, though.

  • icensnow 3 Feb, 2008

    This chili was great!! Topped it with a little light sour cream and fresh tasted amazing!! My whole family keeps asking for more!

  • JoShannyU 29 Jan, 2008

    This was excellent. I used Hunts/DelMonte tomatoes seasoned w/chili seasonings

  • gretabelle 24 Jan, 2008

    I loved it and it made my house smell so good after cooking it.

  • becky_s 17 Jan, 2008

    I made this with dried black beans - no meat. My tummy has been a little tender lately, and wanted something spicy. This was just the ticket (add some diced jalepenos on top!)

  • amybpardo 11 Jan, 2008

    I love this recipe. It is really easy, filling, and flavorful. I will be adding this to my rotation.

  • SarahR 10 Jan, 2008

    I made this this morning - the first time I have ever made chili from scratch. Easy and quick, but tastes great. I had heard about the cocoa powder and tasted it in others' chili, but had not made it for myself. So good. Can't wait to top it with sour cream!

  • BlondeTaz 9 Jan, 2008

    I just finished making this recipe. Delicious. I made a few adjustments since I like strong flavors. I boosted the chili powder a bit, tossed in some cumin, a dash of red wine, and some beef broth. Also, I used just one can of spicy chili beans since I am not a huge bean lover. The flavor was full and smokey. Yummm.

    This recipe is a keeper.

  • delraybuzz 9 Jan, 2008

    The recipe leaves the salt content up to the cook. I cannot have ANY salt, and in chili, I substitute white or cider vinegar carefully to taste, and do not miss salt at all! The cocoa has been in my chili for many years, and we love it, as do all our guests!
    Wish nutritional info were included in ALL recipes!

  • jonetpwhite 9 Jan, 2008

    It needs salt. I'm always amazed at these recipes that call for some many ingredients but no salt. Salt brings out the flavor of food. You don't need a whole lot just to get the flavor that is missing because so much of the fat is omitted (fat equals flavor.)

  • Ellen8 9 Jan, 2008

    I made this over the weekend and it was ok but really seemed to be missing something. Maybe I am just not use to a healthier form of chili. It just not the same rich taste of regular chili.

  • bp5simp 9 Jan, 2008

    Need fat content. Instead of using ground beef, try using ground turkey, and omit the vegetable oil. Onions when sauteed over low heat will soften and even carmellize on their own. Add garlic for about 1 minute, then add tomato paste and seasonsings. I would add cumin as well to boost the flavour. Add ground turkey to the mix and stir until smooth, then add beans and tomatoes.

  • bronxgal 8 Jan, 2008

    This certainly sounds delicious, but need to have nutritional information. The beef would have to be at least 98% fat free. Need heart healthy information.

  • LKStephens 8 Jan, 2008

    I think this chili sounds delicious but I would like to know the nutritinal info including sodium.

  • mosimpkins 8 Jan, 2008

    I love the idea of this and it sounds terrific, but can we get some nutritional values..such as fat an calories please?

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