My Recipe Box

Chicken & Pinto Bean Chili


Serves eight.

Yields 10 cups.

New Mexico red chiles are common dried chiles found in many grocery stores. You can also use a couple of chilcostle chiles or tiny cascabels in place of some of the New Mexico red chiles for a more complex flavor. To order chiles by mail, try Coyote Cafe General Store (; 800-866-4695) or Pendry's Chile Supply (800-533-1870).

  • 8 dried red chiles, such as New Mexico red, stemmed and seeded
  • 1 Tbs. cumin seeds
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. fresh oregano leaves or 2 tsp. dried
  • 1 lb. dried pinto beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 fresh jalapeños (preferably red), stemmed, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 lb. skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 Tbs. salt
  • Shredded sharp Cheddar or Cotija cheese for garnish

Cover the chiles with about 4 cups boiling water and steep until soft, about 15 minutes. Reserve 2 cups of the soaking liquid and then drain the chiles. In a blender, purée the chiles with the reserved liquid.

Meanwhile, toast and grind the cumin seeds and toast the oregano as described at left (don't toast dried oregano). Put the beans in a stockpot and cover them with 7 cups water. Add the chile purée, toasted ground cumin, toasted (or dried) oregano, onions, carrot, garlic, jalapeños, and chicken thighs. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, skimming any foam. Remove the chicken thighs when cooked, 25 to 30 minutes. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, pull the meat from the bones into large pieces and set aside; discard the bones. Continue cooking the beans until tender, another 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Return the chicken to the pot to heat it thoroughly. Season with the salt, adding more to taste. Serve in bowls topped with the grated cheese.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : with 3 Tbs. cheese, Calories (kcal): 470, Fat (kcal): 13, Fat Calories (g): 110, Saturated Fat (g): 7, Protein (g): 41, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 3, Carbohydrates (mg): 48, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 2, Sodium (g): 1990, Cholesterol (g): 115, Fiber (g): 16,

Photo: Laurie Smith

While the flavor of this chili is excellent, there must be an error in the recipe. I've made this chili twice and both times the beans resisted cooking and were not soft enough (yes, they were presoaked) even after 2-3 hours of cooking/simmering. And I love pinto beans so I was disappointed. Beans cannot be cooked with salt or acid. This I know, but I followed the recipe anyway. I think the acid contained in the peppers is preventing the beans from cooking properly. I recommend cooking the beans separately (with just a bit of oil and diced onions) from all of the other ingredients and adding them to the chicken and spices, adjusting the amount of liquid, accordingly. With this adjustment, I would give this recipe 5 stars.

This chili is a real crowd pleaser - I've "won" a couple of informal cook-offs with this and the other recipes from this article. Using actual dried chili peppers - and lots of it - means the final flavor is much more deep and satisfying than most other chilis out there. When I'm in a hurry, 1lb dried beans = 6 regular size cans.

This is one of my families favorite chilies and a regular at our table. I found this when looking for chilies that use whole dried chili peppers rather than canned seasoning mixes and I've never looked back.

This is an excellent recipe. Tried it once, then again. 2nd time I added a can of tomato paste because here in Texas chili just is not chili without some kind of tomatoes. For a cold day its great.

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