Spicy and soothing, this is winter comfort food
When the weather turns cold in our part of the world, we like to head south of the border. Culinarily speaking, at least.
Mexican chorizo sausage makes a dynamite chili – especially when you combine its spice with sweet potatoes. Add some tomatoes, beans, and jalapeño pepper for a dish that will warm your heart and make your taste buds smile.
You like to smile, don’t you?
Recipe: Chorizo and Sweet Potato Chili
Chorizo originated on the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal each make their own versions). Old-world chorizo is a pork-based hard sausage that’s stuffed into casings, then cured and smoked. Like salami (which it resembles), old-world chorizo doesn’t require cooking before you eat it.
New-world chorizo, which originated in Mexico, combines ground pork with seasonings. It’s not cured, so it needs to be cooked before you can eat it. Mexican chorizo is sold in casings and in bulk. The type sold in casings may be dried, but the bulk form is fresh – which means you want to cook it within a day or so of buying it.
This chili uses Mexican-style chorizo. We get ours at a local supermarket (they make their own bulk chorizo, and it’s pretty decent). Any Mexican grocery store with a meat department will carry it. Or you could make your own – see the Notes for a recipe.
Prep time for this dish is 15 to 20 minutes. Cooking time adds about 30 minutes. But this dish tastes even better if you make it a day ahead, then reheat it when you’re ready to serve.
This recipe makes about 2 quarts. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container. Or you can freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months.
- 1 large onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers (to taste)
- ~1 pound bulk Mexican-style chorizo (if it’s in links, remove it from the casings)
- ~1 pound sweet potatoes
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt; see Notes)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons mild or medium chile powder (see Notes)
- 2 teaspoons dried cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 14-ounce can diced tomatoes (double this if you wish)
- 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans (pinto beans or black beans would also work well)
- ~4 cups beef or chicken stock, or water
- ½ bunch cilantro
- Peel the onion, cut it in half through the poles, then cut it into thin slices or dice of about ½ inch. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and mince it finely or cut it into thin slices. Set aside.
- Wash and dry the jalapeño pepper(s). Cut off the stem ends. Then cut the peppers in half lengthwise. With a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds and white membrane (the oil from the seeds carries much of the jalapeño heat; you can leave the seeds in if you prefer). Mince the peppers finely (reserving a few rounds for garnish if you wish). Set aside. Then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the spicy jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Place a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium stovetop heat (use one that holds at least 4 quarts). Add the chorizo to the cooking pot (break it up with a large spoon until it crumbles into smallish pieces; you don’t want big clumps of sausage). Cook the chorizo, stirring occasionally, until it’s browned.
- While the chorizo is cooking, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into dice of about ½ inch. Set aside.
- When the chorizo is browned, pour (or spoon) off any excess grease, leaving about a tablespoon of grease in the cooking pot. Push the chorizo to the outside edges of the pot, then add the chopped onions and salt to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes (until the onions start to become translucent.) Then add the chopped garlic and jalapeño, and cook for an additional minute.
- Add the chile powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Stir to combine with the chorizo and onions. Add the diced tomato, chopped sweet potatoes, beans, and stock (or water). Bring the mixture to a simmer, then set a timer for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash the cilantro and chop it finely.
- When the timer goes off, taste the chili. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. You can let the chili simmer for a bit if you’re not yet ready to serve.
- When ready to serve: Add the chopped cilantro to the chili, stir to combine, and ladle up. We like to garnish this dish with jalapeño slices (see Notes for additional garnish ideas).
- Exact quantities aren’t critical in this recipe. So change things around to suit your own taste.
- You could garnish this chili with chopped cilantro if you prefer. Or sprinkle on some grated cheese (cheddar works, as does Mexican cotija cheese). A dollop of sour cream or yogurt would be good too. And maybe some oyster crackers. Even chopped onion or scallion. If it sounds good, it probably will be.
- Don’t like cilantro? Skip it or substitute parsley. (We like the flavor and color that cilantro gives the dish.)
- Chile (with an e) powder is made from dried ripe (red) chilies. Chili (with an i) powder is a mix of chile powder plus other seasonings, usually cumin, coriander, oregano, and salt. Lots of salt.
- We use chile (with an e) powder in this dish. If you don’t have chile powder on hand, you can substitute chili powder – we suggest about 3 tablespoons. If you go that route, leave out the cumin, coriander, and oregano (which are already incorporated in the chili powder). And maybe cut down the salt.
- BTW, we like to use a medium Hatch chile powder in this dish. But ancho chile powder is good too (it’s rather mild, though, so you might want to add some cayenne or hot sauce). Dried chipotle chile powder is also wonderful.
- This recipe makes a moderately spicy chili. Feel free to adjust the amount of chile powder to your taste.
- You could also add a bit of cayenne for more heat. We often put a bottle of hot sauce on the table for those who want lots of heat.
- We like kidney beans in chili, so that’s what we use. But pinto beans and chorizo pair really well, so you might prefer to use them. And black beans and pork (especially with sweet potatoes) always work well together.
- We use canned beans because they’re convenient and usually good quality. But use dried (cooked) beans if you prefer.
- Want to make your own chorizo? Here’s how: For each pound of ground pork (you could also use ground chicken, but pork has better flavor), you’ll need 2 to 3 tablespoons ancho chile powder (to taste; can also substitute a spicier chile powder), 2 to 3 teaspoons dried oregano, 2 tablespoons paprika (smoked is particularly nice), 1 tablespoon dried cumin, 1 to 2 teaspoons dried coriander, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (red wine vinegar works too). Mix the ground meat with the other ingredients. You can mix it all in a bowl with a spoon, but it’s easier to just knead all the ingredients with your hands (use disposable gloves to keep your hands clean). When all the ingredients are well combined, wrap the chorizo in plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight so all the flavors blend together. You can also freeze freshly made chorizo for up to a month.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we recommend. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Yum,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “I never sausage a wonderful chili. One of your best creations!”
“Not too much work, either,” I said. “Making this chili was no chorizo.”
“Your puns are like sausage,” said Mrs K R. “I don’t want to see them being made.”
It’s getting chili in here.
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