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Tricolor veg chilli

A good veg chilli should be so darned good even the passionate meat-lovers enjoy it (and I count myself among them).  This recipe is the culmination of years of finessing and has the wholesome richness of a meat dish without, well, any meat!  It takes a little patience (the texture is best if you dice the peppers into small cubes) but it’s really worth it.  If you want this to be child friendly feel free to leave out the chilli powder.  You can serve with rice, but this is extra level if you serve it on a bed of lime Doritos!

Serves 4 to 6




Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan.

Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes until softened.

Add the cumin, chilli powder, chilli flakes, paprika, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon. Stir well and cook for a few more minutes.

Add the three peppers, another pinch of salt and some ground pepper. Cover the saucepan and cook for at least 10 minutes until the peppers are softened.

Add the chopped chilli and the garlic.

Add the tomato purée, stirring well until everything is coated.

Add the can of chopped tomatoes.

Add the sugar, the balsamic vinegar, and the Tabasco.

Add about 3½ fluid ounces / 100ml water and stir well, adding more seasoning.

Simmer for around 30 minutes but top up with more water if it becomes too dry.

Then add the black beans (making sure they have been drained and rinsed).

Simmer for a further 15 – 20 minutes.

At the last moment before taking off the heat, break up the chocolate into small lumps and stir into the chilli. Make sure it melts and mixes in, turning everything thick and shiny.

After serving out, garnish each portion with the coriander.


You can serve this with a stack of tortilla chips, sliced avocado, and wedges of fresh lime to squeeze over the chilli.


The International Chili Society [1]  asserts that a recipe of meat, beans, peppers, and herbs was used by the Incas, Aztecs, and Mayas long before Columbus discovered America. But it was the cattle drivers and trail hand that did the most to popularise it throughout the US Southwest in the 19th century. As cattle trail chilli grew in popularity, so towns along the trail in Texas began to open chilli parlours. Frank and Jesse James were passionate chilli devotees and once spared Fort Worth from shooting and looting because of the excellence of its chilli parlour. The James gang had dropped in, as was their custom before a raid, but abandoned their plan to rob the bank because “anyplace that has a chili joint like this just oughta’ be treated better.”