Black Bean Chili

This great vegetarian chili is from The Greens Cookbook, from Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.

John Melquist of Trukenbrod Bread says this is his favorite black bean recipe by far. He’s been making it for years and highly recommends it. The thick chili is a meal in itself, especially served along with fresh cornbread. It can be thinned with stock, water or tomato juice to make a very flavorful black bean soup as a complement to a meal.

Recommended Garnishes:

  • Green chiles (2 poblano or anaheim) roasted, peeled and diced or 2 oz canned green chiles, rinsed well and diced
  • 1/2 cup grated muenster cheese
  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
  • 1 T fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped


  • 2 cup black turtle beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 tsp oregano leaves, dried
  • 4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 Tbsp (or more) chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp corn or peanut oil (we use sunflower or olive oil)
  • 3 med yellow onions diced into 1/4 in squares
  • 4 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 lb tomatoes ripe or canned; peeled, seeded, chopped and reserve juice
  • 1 Tbsp (or more) rice wine vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp cilantro chopped


As always, sort through the beans. 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 while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. (Alt: pressure cook)

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 375ºF. To make the chili powder, put the dried chile in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes to dry it out fully. 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 a spice mill.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the onions over medium heat until they soften. Add the garlic, salt, ground herbs, and chili powder and cook another 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their juice. Simmer everything together for 15 minutes then add this mixture to the beans, and, if necessary, enough water so the beans are covered by at least one 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 season to taste with the vinegar, additional salt if needed, and the chopped cilantro.

Prepare the garnishes. If you are using fresh green chiles, 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 creme fraiche or sour cream, the green chilies and a sprig of fresh cilantro.

Entree Soup beans entree fall soup gluten-free soup tomatoes vegan winter soup

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