I wanted to create a vegetarian chili that is deeply flavored with real chiles, and spicy enough to make smoke come out of your ears. I think I’ve finally cracked the code with the recipe below. It includes six types of peppers, including smoky chipotles, along with pan-charred onions and serranos, beer and a hint of chocolate – resulting in a chili that is intense, complex and spicy.

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Total: 3 hours
  • Active: 2 hours

Ingredients (20)

  • 1 1/4 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 large dried ancho chile
  • 1 dried guajillo chile (or sub another ancho)
  • 12 ounce bottle beer, divided
  • 1 very large white or yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 fresh serrano peppers
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, preferably Mexican
  • 1 package chicken-style seitan, chopped
  • 1 4-ounce can fire-roasted green chiles
  • 1 chipotle pepper, from canned chipotles in adobo
  • 2 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups reserved bean cooking liquid
  • 1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate


  1. Soak the beans overnight, or use the quick-soak method (see below.) Drain, cover beans well with fresh cold water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer. When the beans are nearly tender, add 1 teaspoon of salt. Continue cooking until tender, about 1 hour total (cooking time will vary based on the type and age of beans.) Drain beans, reserving cooking liquid.
  2. Heat a cast-iron pan until very hot. Add the dried chiles and press down with a spatula and cook until the peppers begin to soften and are beginning to blacken, about 1 minute. Remove from pan, cut off the stems and shake out the seeds. Tear the chiles into pieces and place in a blender along with 1 cup of the beer, and puree until smooth.
  3. Re-heat the cast-iron pan over high heat and add the onion slices and Serrano peppers. Cook for about 10 minutes, turning the onions once, until they are well charred and soft. Remove the onions and chop. Cut the stems off the serranos and chop. (For a milder dish, slice the peppers lengthwise and remove the seeds before chopping.)
  4. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy pot or dutch oven. Add the garlic, celery and bell peppers and sauté for about 10 minutes. Add the prepared onions and serranos, cumin, black pepper and oregano and cook for 2 minutes. Add the seitan, fire-roasted green chiles, chipotle and chile puree and cook 2 minutes more. Add the remaining beer, tomatoes, bean cooking liquid and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add cooked beans and cook 10 minutes more. Stir in chocolate and serve,
  5. Note: to quick-soak beans, put them in a large pot and add cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil and boil rapidly for two minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour.