After a warm and mild autumn this last week has felt cold, so Sunday was the perfect day for watching last week’s Top Chef featuring a chili cookoff. I got inspired to break out my crock pot and make some chili myself. I’ve been playing around with different versions for years. I avoid most ground meat, but I’ve used chunks of pork and steak off and on for years.

This chili takes about two days, but the result is well worth it. By cooking everything from scratch I get the best flavors and textures out of each ingredient, but if you want to speed this along you can substitute canned black beans (two cans) and store bought chili powder (about 2 tbs) and cook the whole thing on low for about four hours. I like to soak the beans one day and then cook the beans overnight, add the meat, vegetables, and juice and cook it all day and then have it for dinner that night. You’ll notice that my cook times don’t quite match that timeline – you can always stretch the cook time out if you lower the temperature.

Another reason I like this recipe is that it’s pretty cheap. Dry beans are an inexpensive source of protein, onions are cheap, and I like to buy peppers during the summer at the farmer’s market and chop and freeze them for the winter. The most expensive item is the steak, but since we’re slow cooking it, you can use a lean piece of meat. I recommend flat iron because you can often get it for around $5/lb or less on sale. If you like chunks of tomatoes, go ahead and add a can – I just prefer the juice for this recipe, but it lends itself to experimentation. I’m going to go curl up with a warm bowl of soup right now.

Black Bean and Steak Chili


2 cups black turtle beans

1 tsp dried oregano

1 bay leaf
1 clove garlic
1 ancho chili


1 lb flat iron steak
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs oil
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large red pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bottle tomato juice, approx. 46 oz
1 sanaam chili
1 ancho chili
1 tbs smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin


Put the beans in a bowl and submerge completely in water and allow to soak about eight hours. After soaking, drain the beans and rinse well. Put the rinsed beans and the next four ingredients in a large crock pot and add enough water to cover the beans by at least and inch of water. Turn the crock pot to high and cook for about 4 hours (or on low for about 8 hours).

After the beans are done cooking, break the remaining chilies into pieces and put in a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and paprika and shake the pan to keep the spices moving until lightly toasted. Pour into a spice or coffee grinder and process into a powder.

Dry and salt the steak on both sides and then add to the skillet over medium high heat. Cook the steak on each side for about 6 minutes or until deeply browned on both sides.

Put the steak on top of the beans and turn crock pot heat to low and cover. Deglaze the steak pan with about 1/4 cup of water and the soy sauce. Once that is nearly cooked down, add the oil, onions, pepper, and chili powder. Cook over medium heat until the vegetables are soften. Pour on top of the steak and then pour the tomato juice over top. Let cook on low, covered, for about 4 hours.

Remove the steak carefully and separate into bite-sized pieces with either a fork or knife. Add the meat back to the chili and stir well. You can serve it now, but I like it even better if I let it cook for a few more hours. Serve with hot sauce or make extra chili powder to add at the table.