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Pinto Bean Chili with Pan-Roasted Spices and Chipotle


Pinto Bean Chili with Pan-Roasted Spices and Chipotle

Although I’ve created many recipes for different kinds of chili, the one I love most is this pinto bean chili with pan-roasted spices. Dry-roasting cumin and coriander seeds in a hot pan gives these two spices a depth and nuttiness that permeates the dish.

As I hand-grind the roasted spices in a mortar, the whole kitchen comes alive with their intense aroma. (Any recipe that starts this way, in my book, is a good dish!)


*Note: To double the recipe, double all the ingredients and cooking times, except for the last stage. Once the beans are added to the chili-tomato base, add 5 minutes to the cooking time or cook the beans for 25 minutes.


  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium-sized Vidalia onions, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ -1 teaspoon ground chipotle, or to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • One 4 ½-ounce can chopped green chiles
  • One 28-ounce can whole peeled plum tomatoes, puréed coarsely in a food processor
  • 1 1/4 cup tomato juice
  • 6 cups cooked pinto beans, cooking liquid reserved
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tequila
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 6 scallions, trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/8-inch slices


Heat a small, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and coriander seeds and cook until they turn a dark color and are fragrant, about 2 minutes, shaking the pan constantly and taking care not to burn the spices. Transfer to a mortar and grind until coarsely powdered.

Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and onions and sauté until the onions have softened and begun to caramelize, stirring from time to time, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the roasted seeds, chili powder, chipotle, garlic, and green chiles and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the puréed tomatoes and tomato juice, mix well and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the beans and return to a boil. Reduce heat again, cover and simmer for 20 minutes until the chili has thickened, stirring from time to time to prevent it from sticking to the pan. (If chili gets too thick, thin with a little reserved cooking water from the beans.)

When the chili is ready, remove from heat. Add the salt, tequila, and cilantro and stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Spoon the quinoa into large bowls, top with the chili, and garnish with a little sour cream and scallions. Serve immediately.