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Chocolate Chili: What Your Grandmother Didn’t Know

Chocolate Chili is a basic chili recipe with a small amount of chocolate added to smooth out the flavors and create depth. Even Grandma won’t be able to identify the secret ingredient.

a bowl of Chili with Chocolate garnished with sour cream cheese and cilantro

Chocolate? Seriously?? In chili???

Yes! Don’t let the chocolate scare you off.

Why add chocolate to chili?

The taste will be unrecognizable. But somehow, mysteriously, chocolate adds depth and smoothness to chili. It blends and melds the chili spices together to add a sort of umami flavor.



Freshly ground meat is always the best if you can get it. No surprise there.

For me, chili is a chance to clean out the freezer. Besides ground beef, try adding leftover beef roast or grilled meat, ground up in the food processor.

Ground turkey will substitute for the pork. Have some frozen pork chops or loin chops that need to be used? Barely thaw them, cut into 1-inch chunks and use your food processor to process them into ground pork.

I don’t have a hunter in my family, but ground deer or venison is a viable option when available.


Substitute frozen onions for fresh onions if you are sensitive to fresh onions. If I’m in a hurry, using frozen onions is a timesaver. Also, they’ve never made me cry.


Since this recipe was first published, I’ve changed the way I put this chili recipe together. The spices go into the pot after the onions have been softened in oil but before the meat is added. This gives the spices a chance to “bloom” and intensifies the flavor.


My favorite tomatoes are the Red Gold Brand. Use your own favorite. I use one can of crushed tomatoes and one can of diced tomatoes. Suit yourself or use what you have in the pantry.

Corn Masa:

If you don’t have corn masa hanging around the house and don’t want to buy a whole bag for two tablespoons, you can substitute flour or even leave it out.


This recipe for chocolate chili calls for semi-sweet baking chocolate. If you prefer, use bittersweet or dark chocolate for less sugar.

Cocoa is a possible substitute for solid chocolate. I have not tried it with this recipe, so I can’t give you a specific amount.

Have you ever tried the Chocolate Hummus sold at Trader Joe’s? (I see that other stores have versions of this product, but I haven’t tried them so can’t recommend them from personal experience.)

Chocolate Hummus from Trader Joes

This may sound crazy but instead of hummus and corn masa, dump a container of this chocolate hummus into your chili. It is the BOMB! I’m tellin’ ya. Stir it in. It couldn’t be easier.

The flavor is indescribable. The velvety smooth beans in the hummus give the chili some body and thickness while the chocolate smooths out the flavors and ties it all up with a scrumptious bow. Can I freeze this chocolate chili recipe?

Yes. Divide chili into smaller packets and store them in the freezer. Making chili ahead is just one of the methods I employ to make homemade food convenient.

Frozen chili will store for at least 6 months.


  • Add more tomatoes for a chili that feels lighter on your tummy.
  • Make Texas chili and step up the heat. Add hot sauce, chopped jalapenos, or some chopped chipotles.
  • Add pinto beans to your chili. Some would scoff, but they probably wouldn’t add tomatoes either.
  • In case you missed it above, substitute Chocolate Hummus for the corn masa and semi-sweet chocolate.
  • Keto follower’s favorite: Add more veggies by filling your bowl with a couple of scoops of mashed cauliflower before you add the chili. In essence, you are using the chili as gravy.

Recipe Tip

Right before I was ready to publish this recipe, I read the following on one of my favorite blogs. According to the Kitchn website:

“Stirred into the pot right before serving, a spoonful of vinegar brightens up the finished product and gives it that full, rounded taste that was missing.”

I tried it and they are right!

I like an aged balsamic vinegar the best for this purpose. Red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar would also work.

This makes a lot! What else can I do with this chili recipe?

  • Try adding warm chili to a lettuce salad with a little cheese and a few tomatoes.
  • Pour over a hot dog or hamburger. Add shredded cheese and mustard, if desired.
  • Make breakfast for dinner by adding some chili to your fried eggs and eating with a tortilla.
  • Make chili enchiladas. Fill corn tortillas with chopped onions and Cheddar cheese and roll. Line up enchiladas in a casserole dish. Cover with chili and lots more cheese. Bake at 350 degrees F until the whole thing is hot and melty. Please invite me for dinner.
a bowl of beefy chili with a spoon and condiments

What can I serve with Chili?

  • Saltines are traditional.
  • Cornbread is my choice. Here’s my favorite Cornbread recipe.
  • If you like Mexican food, try topping your soup with sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, corn chips, jalapeños, guacamole, green onions, fresh chopped tomatoes, or cilantro. A combination of any or all of these things makes an instant party.

How To Make Chili with Chocolate

softening onions in a Dutch oven

#1 Add oil to your pan. When it glistens add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

blooming the spices

#2 Add spices and keep stirring to bloom the flavors.

frying the meat

#3 Add raw meat to spices and brown in the pot.

adding tomatoes and bay leaf

#4 Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Stir. Cook for 1 hour. 2 hours is even better.

Adding corn masa and semi-sweet chocolate

#5 Add corn masa and chocolate. Stir until smooth.

chili in a serving bowl

#6 Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves before serving.

What would you like to serve with your chili?

Pin the picture below to save for later.

Pinterest Image of Chili with Chocolate

Did you try this recipe and enjoy it? Consider helping other readers (and me) by returning to this post. Leave a rating on the recipe card itself underneath the picture. Although always appreciated, comments aren’t required.

If you have a question or tip to share, please leave it in the regular comments after the recipe so I can answer back. Or, email me privately: paula at

Thank you for visiting!

a bowl of chili with chocolate

Chili with Chocolate

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

A classic chili with chocolate added. You can't taste it but it mysteriously adds depth and smoothness to the flavor.


  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped onions (1 medium onion)
  • 2 teaspoons salt (divided)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 4 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 6 tablespoons chili powder
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cans (28 ounces each) peeled and diced tomatoes
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons corn masa (“Masa Harina de maiz”)
  • 2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate baking bar
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • A spoonful of vinegar (balsamic or apple cider) (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add onions. Cook until softened for 2-3 minutes.
  2. Add coriander, cumin, salt, oregano, and chili powder. Cook until the spices are fragrant. Stir often so they won't burn.
  3. Add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  4. Turn up the heat to medium and add meat to the pot and brown. Season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  5. Add tomatoes and bay leaves. If you want the tomatoes to disappear into the chili, crush them with your hands or use a potato masher. Or put them in the blender for a few seconds.
  6. Simmer chili for 1 hour. Two hours is even better.
  7. Remove bay leaves and stir in corn masa until smooth; then add chocolate.
  8. Optional: Add 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
  9. Continue simmering for 10 more minutes to combine flavors.
  10. Freezes well.


  • If you don’t have corn masa hanging around the house and don’t want to buy it for just two tablespoons, you can substitute flour or even leave it out. Add flour along with the spices before the hour-long simmer.
  • Fresh onions can be substituted for the frozen. I prefer frozen because they are milder and easier on the digestive system after the freezing process-and they’ve never made me cry.
  • Step up the heat by adding hot sauce, chopped jalapenos, or some chopped chipotles.
  • I like to add beans to my chili when eating it straight in a bowl. Some would scoff, but they probably wouldn’t add tomatoes either.
  • This chili is even better the next day which will also give you a chance to remove any congealed fat off the top that you don't want.
  • If this chili is too rich for you, add 2-3 cups of water or more tomatoes. It will be more like "Wendy's chili" if you've ever tried that.
  • Substitute 8 ounces of chocolate hummus for the masa and chocolate bar.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 512Total Fat: 30gSaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 136mgSodium: 620mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 43g

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

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Laura Linder

Wednesday 18th of October 2017

I'm looking forward to being on your email list!


Tuesday 13th of October 2015

I made this Sunday night and we ate it for dinner Monday, we loved it! I only used 4 tbsp chili powder (2 dark la mesa, 1 regular chili powder, 1 aleppo chili powder), and 1 oz baking chocolate, and it turned out great! I also diced a large carrot and 2 stalks of celery very fine. Husband said it's a keeper recipe :)


Saturday 31st of January 2015

Is it possible to make this in a slow cooker instead of a dutch oven? I have a slow cooker, but no dutch oven.


Friday 30th of January 2015

Love the shoe picture and your comment about it. :+)


Thursday 15th of November 2012

no beans? not chili!