Black bean chilli

This recipe for black bean chilli is one I adapted from a recipe in the Green’s Cookbook, a classic vegetarian cookbook from the well-known San Francisco Bay restaurant.

I made the chilli as the veggie alternative at a meal with family and friends on the eve of our wedding when the vegetarians were having to fight the meat-eaters off it. In my mind, that’s a real testament to an excellent vegetarian recipe.

The flavour of the different types of chillies (some smokey, some sweet, some spicy) are what makes this dish sing so it’s well-worth sourcing the right ones. If you’re struggling, a good source of chillies and all things Mexican is MexGrocer. People of Bristol could also try Arch House Deli.

The recipe uses chipotle en adobo, something I first came across when reviewing Mexican Made Simple. I made my own following the recipe in the book and am now addicted to the stuff but, to make life easier, you can buy it in a can on MexGrocer. When you see it referenced in recipes, it can be confusing until you understand what it is. It is in fact whole chipotle chillies which are kept en adobo, a sauce made of pureed chipotle chillies, among other things. Some recipes call for you to use one or more of the chillies, some just the sauce and some, like this one, both the chillies and the sauce.

You can use two 400g tins of black beans (drained and rinsed) in place of the dried beans. You’ll need to add fresh water when the beans go in place of the cooking liquid.

Serves 3-4


200g dried black beans, soaked overnight in a couple of changes of water

2 bay leaves

2 dried de arbol chillies

1 dried ancho chilli

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 inch piece of cinnamon stick

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tsp paprika

1 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 chipotle chilli en adobo and 2 tsp of the sauce

salt and pepper

2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

your choice of any combination, or all, of the following garnishes: grated cheese, roasted green chillies, sour cream, thinly sliced red onion, tomato salsa and guacamole


  1. Start by cooking the beans in a large pan of fresh water with a bay leaf for around 1.5 to 2 hours or until they start to soften. Drain the beans but keep the cooking liquid.
  2. In the meantime you can crack on with the chopping and preparing the sauce. In a dry frying pan slowly toast the whole chillies, cumin, cinnamon, bay leaf and oregano. This can take up to 5 minutes and you know when they’re ready because they start to turn a little darker and smell irresistible. Grind to quite a fine powder in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar then stir in the powdered spices and set aside.
  3. In a large pan, heat the oil then add the onion and gently cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly, until the strong fumes have dissipated.
  4. Stir in the ground spices before pouring in the tomatoes and adding the chipotle. Bring to the boil then let it gently simmer for around 30 minutes. The sauce thickens and the colour deepens.
  5. Season with salt and pepper then tip in the beans and a few ladlefuls of the bean cooking liquid. Cook gently with the lid on for another hour, or more if you have the time, stirring occasionally and adding extra bean cooking liquid if it’s needed.
  6. Check for seasoning then stir in the chopped coriander before serving with rice, bread, tortilla chips or jacket potatoes and your choice of garnishes.