With a hint of cocoa powder, espresso, and honey, this unique Chocolate Chili recipe is rich and complex-flavored without being overly heavy. It comes together in 1 pot in just 30 minutes!
If you’re looking for an easy, fun, and delicious meal to make for your special someone, look no further!
There are three unique ingredients here that make this chili something special. And they just happen to be perfect for Valentine’s Day, date night, etc.
Chocolate, coffee, and honey!
Most of us know about chocolate’s claim to fame as an aphrodisiac. But supposedly coffee and honey are as well (you can read more about their aphrodisiac qualities on PBS). This chili has it all!
If the whole chocolate/coffee thing sounds like a weird combo in chili, remember Cincinnati Chili, which also boasts chocolate. Yes, you can very slightly taste the coffee in this dish. However, I think it perfectly complements the beef and black beans.
And the cocoa powder and honey only add to the overall complexity of this chili! They provide additional layers of flavor, and help to create a balanced profile. You can’t pick out a sweet chocolate flavor at all.
I also added another special ingredient here – hickory smoked sea salt – which can just as easily be replaced with smoked sweet paprika if you can’t find it.
The best thing of all though? This one-pot 30-minute Chocolate Chili recipe means the cook gets a little time to relax too.
Why Do You Put Chocolate in Chili?
First let me clarify. It’s not like we’re adding a bag of chocolate chips or a couple candy bars to our chili, lol!
Just 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder is all you need in this chili.
The first thing adding chocolate to chili does add richness to the dish as the chocolate marries with the spices. Cocoa powder also adds depth; it’s another layer of flavor that you can’t necessarily put your finger on, but you know there’s a special ingredient there. Additionally, it helps create balance by cutting the tomato’s acidity.
Chocolate in chili somehow pulls out the other flavors in the dish and enhances them.
The Best Chocolate Chili Recipe
- Olive oil
- 90% lean ground beef
- Green bell pepper
- Canned crushed tomatoes
- Instant espresso powder
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Chili powder
- Dried oregano
- Coarse salt
- Hickory smoked sea salt
- Ground black pepper
- Bay leaf
- Canned black beans
Step 1: Brown the Meat and Aromatics:
Heat the oil in a 5-quart pot over high heat. Once hot, add the beef, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover the pot and cook until the meat is browned, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Step 2: Add Everything Else and Let it Simmer:
Add the crushed tomatoes, water, espresso powder, honey, cocoa powder, chili powder, oregano, coarse salt, smoked salt, black pepper, and bay leaf. Cover the pot and bring it up to a boil, then turn the heat down so it doesn’t boil over, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking.
Step 3: Serve:
Serve topped with any garnishes you like.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Additionally, this meal freezes really well! Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
What Should I Serve with Chili?
- Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread
- Cornbread Muffins
- Baked potatoes
- Sweet Potato Fries
- Steamed rice
- Cauliflower Rice
More 30-Minute Beef Dinner Ideas
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30-Minute Chocolate Chili Recipe with Coffee and Black Beans
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 pounds 90% lean ground beef
- 2 medium-large yellow onions chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper chopped
- 6 large cloves garlic minced
- 28 ounces can crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pure honey
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon hickory smoked sea salt see Note
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 30 ounces no-salt-added black beans (2 15-ounce cans), rinsed and drained
Optional Topping Ideas:
- Chopped parsley or cilantro
- Shredded or crumbled cheese
- Sour cream
- Heat the oil in a 5-quart pot over high heat. Once hot, add the beef, onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cover the pot and cook until the meat is browned, about 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, water, espresso powder, honey, cocoa powder, chili powder, oregano, coarse salt, smoked salt, black pepper, and bay leaf. Cover the pot and bring it up to a boil, then turn the heat down so it doesn't boil over, and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the beans during the last 3 minutes of cooking.
- Serve topped with any garnishes you like.
- Nutrition Information: The nutritional information for this recipe was calculated without the optional topping ideas.
- Hickory Smoked Sea Salt: If you can’t find this, substitute 1/4 teaspoon smoked sweet paprika and add an additional 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt.
- Storage: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
- Freezer-Friendly: This meal freezes really well! Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months.
Can I put this in a crockpot?
Margo, Yes, this chili works well in a slow cooker. Reduce the water to 1/2 cup. If you want, you can sauté the beef, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a skillet and then add everything to the Crockpot. Or skip the sautéing step and just add everything directly to the Crockpot. It cooks on LOW for 5 to 7 hours, or on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours.
can you use cayenne instead of chili powder?
April, I typically like to use a combo of ancho chili powder and chipotle chili powder when I make chili; I’ve never tried it using just cayenne, but if you want to give it a try, know that cayenne will be quite a bit more spicy-hot than chili powder so you may want to use less (depending on personal preference). Let me know how it goes if you give it a try!
Do the crushed tomatoes go in at step 2? It’s not specified.
Audrey, Yes! Sorry about that, I just amended the recipe above. Hope you enjoy it if you give it a try! :)
Yes to everything about this. Love, love.
Gerry @ Foodness Gracious says
This looks absolutely delicious!!
Nicola - Pink Recipe Box says
I’ve never tried introducing espresso powder to a chilli recipe before – I’m very intrigued!
Looks really, really good, and something I have wanted to try (black beans instead of kidney beans). Wish I had a bowl right now!
Mary B. says
Man oh man I want to try this…but I’m not sure how it will go down with my picky eaters!!! Hmmm…
Marissa | Pinch and Swirl says
This looks so hearty and delicious, Faith – such a creative twist on chili!
Becky Winkler says
This sounds great! I’ve put cocoa in my chili before but never coffee, but I’m sure it benefits from a mocha twist.
This chili looks extremely good. Lovely flavours!