Chili sweet potatoes are our go-to for a rainy fall weekend – we give you a few meat and meat-free options, but they’re all tasty.
I’m a film editor and several times over the span of my career, I’ve thought about moving from New York City where I was born, to Los Angeles. Many of my friends and colleagues have done it, and most of them love it there.
It’s so beautiful, they say. True, I’ve been and it’s very pretty. There’s a lot more work and for the price of a Brooklyn studio, you can buy a three bedroom house with an avocado tree in the back! All true and, yes, this makes me jealous. And the best part? It’s warm all the time and it never rains! Aaaaaand you’ve lost me.
For me, one of the great joys of life is feeling the crisp, cool air of Fall. When the weather turns it feels like a shock, every time. Even better if that cool air comes with a blustery rain storm. The type of weather that practically forces you to cook something warm and comforting. To stay home and watch movies or play video games all day. (Nerd note: Matt and I are re-playing “The Last of Us” and, oh my god, it’s so good).
When I heard it was going to turn cold and rainy last weekend, I knew right away what I wanted to make; spicy chili with all sorts of yummy toppings stuffed inside a baked sweet potato.
I initially wanted to use Ancho and Pasilla chili powders, but the the Pasilla turned out to be hard to find up here in the Hudson Valley so I substituted a blend. Ancho chiles have a mild fruity, sweet, slightly smoky flavor that I just love but if you find a good blend that you like, you could just use that. Most of them include Anchos anyway.
Of course, this chili would be delicious on top of rice, on in a big tray of nachos, but I wanted to go the healthier route and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes is a great combination with the rich, spicy chili.
Note: Our chili sweet potatoes can be made either with beef or turkey or completely vegetarian / vegan (direction in recipe below). For the vegetarian version, we like a combination of pinto and black beans but red kidney beans are also a good option.
- If using meat, try to find coarse ground. It results in a better texture. If you don’t see it at the store, ask your butcher to grind some for you. For beef, you could also buy a whole chuck steak and dice it into small cubes.
- The chili can also be cooked in the oven (325ºF/160ºC) for 1 hour covered, 1/2 hour uncovered, stir occasionally.
- Or in a slow cooker (crockpot). Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker, cover and cook until the chili thickens and the flavors meld, about 8 hours on low or 6 hours on high.
- If you like things really spicy, add two chipotle peppers in adobo to the mix. You could also add a 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper.
- For the Sweet Potatoes:
- 4 medium sweet potatoes
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- For the Chili:
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 pounds ground beef or turkey, coarse ground, if possible (For vegetarian directions, see below*)
- 2 large yellow onions, chopped
- 2-3 jalapeños, seeded and chopped (leave in seeds if you like spicy)
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder
- 3 tablespoons chile powder blend
- 3 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups low-sodium beef, chicken or vegetable broth (473 ml)
- 1 15 oz can pinto beans, rinsed (425g)*
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes (with juice) (793g)
- 12 oz amber beer (Like Bass, Sam Adams, etc)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
- 2 oz finely chopped dark chocolate (70% or higher)
- Juice of 1 lime
- *For vegetarian version, instead of meat, use:
- 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, rinsed
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed
- Optional Toppings:
- Sharp cheddar cheese, grated
- Scallions, finely sliced
- Cilantro, coarsely chopped
- Tomatoes, diced
- Avocado, diced
- Radishes, thinly sliced
- Limes, quartered
- Sour cream
- Jalapeños (pickled or fresh), thinly sliced
- For the Sweet Potatoes:
- Preheat oven to 375ºF / 190ºC
- Scrub the sweet potatoes well and pat them dry with a dish towel. Place on a baking tray and drizzle a very small amount of vegetable oil. Using your hands, rub the oil in a thin, even layer all over the potatoes. Prick each sweet potato with a fork a few times and put them into the oven to roast.
- Depending on the size of your potatoes, they may take between 30 minutes to 1 hour for them to cook. Check at 30 minutes by squeezing a potato (using an oven mitt!). You can also insert a sharp knife or fork into the center. They should feel quite soft and the knife should easily glide all the way through. If not return to the oven and check again in 10 minutes. When done, cover tray with foil and set aside.
- For the Chili:
- In a large, heavy pot or enameled cast-iron dutch oven, heat the oil. Add half of the ground meat and cook over high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Brown the remaining ground meat and add it to the bowl with the first batch.
- (For vegetarian, skip above step, add the oil to the pot and follow directions below)
- Drain all but 2 tablespoons of oil and add the onions and jalapeños and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomato paste, chile powders, cumin and black pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add back the meat (if using) and stir in the broth, beans, diced tomatoes, maple syrup, beer, and vinegar.
- Bring up to a boil, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for one hour, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and simmer for 30 minutes longer, until chili is thick. Turn off the heat and stir in the chocolate until it’s fully melted. Add the lime juice, season with salt to taste.
- To serve:
- Slice open a sweet potato, season with salt and pepper, and mash the flesh gently, forming a pocket. Add about ¼ - ½ cup chili to the center and top with your favorite toppings.