Beef and Bean Chili with Pickled Onions


The subtle, smoky heat of chipotle peppers and the bright snap of pickled onions make this rich stew one of our favorites, and Shawn often requests it.

Unlike other chili recipes that use ground meat, this one calls for cubes of stew beef that, combined with the cornmeal used to thicken it, give the chili a rustic feel that reminds me of cowboys eating around a campfire. This chili is hearty enough to serve on it’s own – no need for rice – but I like to have a few corn tortillas on the side to help sop up the last bits of sauce.

Don’t be tempted to skip the onions – they’re what makes this dish, and it just isn’t the same at all without them.


Tip: I almost always buy packages of pre-cubed stew beef for this recipe, but I find that it’s best to cut each cube into two or three pieces before cooking. Otherwise, they’re too big and I need to use a knife in order to eat my chili. Cutting the cubes into smaller pieces also increases the surface area of the beef, making more room for the other flavors. If you can’t find pre-cubed meat, you can use a chuck roast or any other cut of meat suitable for stewing/braising.



Beef and Bean Chili with Pickled Onions
For the Chili:
  • 1-1/2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced3 chipotle peppers, chopped + 1 Tbs adobo
  • 1 tsp each: cocoa powder, ground coriander, dried oregano
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped

For the Onions:
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 allspice berries
  • 2 juniper berries
  • 1 bay leaf
To Make the Chili:
  1. Heat a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add half of beef to pan; cook 5 minutes or until browned. Remove beef from pan. Repeat with remaining beef.
  2. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook for 4 minutes, or until softened. Add the beef, chipotles and adobo, and spices. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.**
  3. Stir in red wine, lime juice, beef broth, and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and using your spoon to break up the tomatoes.
  4. Stir in the cornmeal and beans. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.
  5. Serve the chili topped with picked onions and any other toppings of your choice.
  6. ** At this point, you can transfer the beef to a crockpot and cook it, along with all of the remaining ingredients except for the cornmeal and pickled onions, on high for 8 hours. Add the cornmeal 30 minutes prior to serving.

To make the onions:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Immediately remove from heat. Store onions in the liquid until ready to use.
  2. They will keep well in the refrigerator for several days.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 455 Fat: 6.5 Carbohydrates: 50 Fiber: 16 Protein: 42




  1. I’ve recently fallen in love with both pickled onions AND chili but somehow haven’t thought to combine the two yet. This chili sounds delicious, especially with those big hunks of meat!

  2. I will no way in hell skip the onions. In fact, I think my chili would be pickled onions WITH a dab of chili. ;-)

  3. This looks so comforting, like you just want to curl up on the couch with a big bowl of it. And it’s so cold out, I DO want to do that! ;)

  4. Hey L! I was looking to make this recipe, but I wanted to clarify one ingredient. Are the chipotle chiles from the can?

  5. This looks like a heartwarming dish. I love the pink color of pickled onions on the top. I’ve never pickled onions, and this will be my first try. Hope I can succeed.

  6. Lauren, I love this kind of recipe. I also love the thought you put into its construction. Everything you post shows that same kind of care. I love your photos today, especially the one of the chili in the pot. It looks like real food from a real kitchen. I hope you have a great day. Blessings…Mary

  7. What a great recipe! I am always on the lookout for things that can be made in big batches and set aside and this looks perfect. Intriguing the addition of pickled onions – love them too!

  8. Nice chili recipe! I love the avocados and adobo in it… I’m making some now… altered yours a bit. Check mine out when you have a chance.. Nice to *meet* you! :)

  9. Chili Dude says:

    What a great idea, pickled onions in chili, I will have to try that. I am going to make your chili recipe Friday. Thanks

  10. Nice, I made this on monday and it was one of the best chilis I ever ate.


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