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Monday, February 26, 2024

The key to good chili is all in the beans – Daily Freeman

Beth Dooley | Star Tribune (TNS)

There’s really no such thing as “The Best Chili” — everyone has a favorite go-to recipe. Whether it’s beef, turkey, chicken, red beans, black beans, white beans, vegan or vegetarian, a good chili is heady and fragrantly spiced. And it’s as personal and soul warming as a hug.

For a subzero night, my version relies on white beans and corn, mildly spiced and tamed with lime. It’s a bit lighter and brighter than the more popular red chili, and it’s finished with a dollop of cilantro yogurt to freshen things up.

The key to this beautiful bowl of beans is to cook them from scratch for flavor that’s deeper and more complex than those that come from a can. Canned beans often have a metallic taste, can be too salty, and tend to turn to mush in the pot. You can infuse the beans as they cook by simmering them with aromatics — onions, garlic, peppers, herbs and chiles. The bonus is a pot full of delicious beans AND broth to use for soups, stews and sauces. As long as you’re at it, make a big batch. Cooked beans and bean broth both freeze beautifully.

When shopping for beans, avoid those in a plastic bag on the bottom of the grocer’s shelf; there’s no way to tell how old they are. I prefer beans from the bulk bin of the co-op because they’re “fresher” and I can choose the quantity and variety I want. Store dried beans in a covered container in the pantry; they will stay fresh for a long, long time. Easy, forgiving and extremely healthy, beans are an essential pantry staple.

I’m ready for that big bowl of chili — and an even bigger hug.

Light Bright White Bean Chili

Serves 6.

This big steaming bowl of warmly spiced white beans is as comforting as a hug on a blustery winter night. It’s great the day it’s made and even better the next day. Plus, extras freeze beautifully. Serve it with a big dollop of cilantro-flecked Greek yogurt or sour cream. Start this recipe at least 6 hours in advance to give the beans time to soak. From Beth Dooley.

  • 2 c. dried white beans (cannellini, navy, etc.)
  • 3 yellow or white onions, diced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
  • 10 c. vegetable or chicken stock, or more as needed
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tsp. dried
  • 1 tbsp. fresh oregano leaves, or 1 tsp. dried
  • 3 tbsp. ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice, to taste
  • 1/4 c. finely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
  • 1 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream


Put the beans in a large pot or bowl and add enough water to cover the beans by 3 inches. Soak for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain and reserve.

Film a Dutch oven or large deep, heavy pot with the oil and set over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fennel and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño, and continue cooking until fragrant.

Add the beans to the pot along with the stock, parsley, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, cumin, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, adding more stock if needed, until the beans are tender and the mixture has thickened, about 90 minutes. Season with the lime juice and more salt and pepper as needed.

In a small bowl, stir 2 tablespoons of the cilantro with the yogurt.

Serve the chili garnished with more chopped cilantro and a dollop of the yogurt.

Beth Dooley is the author of “The Perennial Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.

©2024 StarTribune. Visit at startribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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