Ancho Espresso Vegetarian Chili

One of our favorite kitchen gadgets is our Nespresso machine – we often opt for a perfect double shot in the morning over a pot of drip coffee… in fact, Karen can’t start her day without it!  The smooth intense flavor of a strong espresso satisfies those coffee taste urges in the most efficient way! Our love for espresso certainly doesn’t stop with the cup-full of caffeine itself, it easily finds its way into our desserts. However, when searching for a vegetarian chili recipe, we came across this post from The Kitchn, we had to do a double take. Espresso in chili?

Espresso in chili is right.


Without a beef component to anchor the flavor, vegetarian chili often lacks that hearty depth of richness we crave in a steaming bowl of chili – but this combination of spices and espresso delivers!  The tomato base is transformed into a mellow, smoky broth which elevates the other components.  We altered the recipe by adding more vegetables without diluting the intensity of the flavor.  Swapping out a portion of the onions for red pepper, zucchini, and yellow squash kept the consistency chunky but brought in some brightness and more nutrients.

Ancho chilies are not too spicy, we chose to use ancho chili over the spicier chipotle in the original recipe to embrace the smoky rich flavors of the espresso. The chilies should be easily found dried whole at most grocery stores.

We finished off the chili with a sprinkling of scallions for some bite and shredded monterey jack cheese for some added creaminess. The beans and toppings provide enough protein and hardiness that the guys don’t miss the meat at all!

The chili pairs perfectly with cornbread, which adds a nice sweetness. When we make our cornbread, we sometimes (oftentimes) get lazy and turn to a boxed mix, however we amp it up by adding real corn to the mix, definitely give it a try.

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¼ C olive oil

1 ½ medium sweet onion, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 small yellow squash, diced

1 small zucchini , diced

3 15 oz cans beans, rinsed and drained (black bean, kidney bean, butter beans) any combination works

1 ½ Tbsp ancho chili powder (ours wasn’t very spicy, so we added liberally, but if using a spicier chili, pay attention to the spice level)

1 ½  Tbsp chili powder

2 ½ Tbsp espresso powder

1- 26 oz carton Pomi strained tomatoes

1- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbsp honey

1 tsp cumin

¼ tsp cinnamon

1½ tsp salt

½ C water


Heat a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add ¼ cup of olive oil. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes to soften. Add the red pepper and saute’ 4 more minutes.  Add the zucchini and yellow squash, cook to combine.

Meanwhile, place one large dried ancho pepper in the oven at 350 and roast to reconstitute flavor, about 5 minutes watching for it to puff up and the aroma to release, remove and grind to a powder in a mini food processor or spice grinder

Mix in the espresso powder, and chili powders to pot and cook for a few minutes to combine.

Add tomatoes, honey and garlic. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the beans, 1/2 cup water, salt, cumin and cinnamon. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered and stirring often, for about 30 minutes, or until mixture thickens a bit more.

Taste and adjust salt if necessary


2 thoughts on “Ancho Espresso Vegetarian Chili

  1. Beautiful photos! I am so enjoying this!!!Thanks.
    What is espresso powder? Is that the same thing as you make the coffee with?

  2. Hi! The original recipe called for instant espresso powder – we used regular espresso beans and ground them in our spice grinder to a powder and used that! You can pick up a small amount bulk easily if you don’t have beans on hand!

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