I’ll eat chili any time of year, I’m not too picky. But winter really seems to hike up the expectations in my family for more frequent preparations of chili on my part.
But as I continue to learn about what constitutes real food, and contemplate what I should prepare and serve to my wife and kids, I’ve started going through the process of evaluating all of my recipes to make sure they meet my new standards.
Luckily, a meat based chili con carne recipe comes with very few issues that pose any kind of problem for my current dietary needs.
I’ve never been a fan of beans, any kind of beans, so I’ve never worked too hard on finding a chili recipe that I love that included beans. But now that I’ve read quite a few articles discussing how beans may not be such a great option for many people’s diets, I feel even better about always making beanless meat chili! I’m not sure I buy all the fear mongering about beans, but I just don’t like them very much, so it makes it even easier to leave them out of my chili.
Some people, who follow a Paleo diet, have eschewed beans due to the fact that they weren’t likely eaten in any appreciable amount until the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago, way after the Paleolithic period for which that specific diet was named. I’m not going to skip a food item just because cavemen didn’t eat it how many thousands of years ago. But I’m also not searching for any particular reason to include beans in my diet, so I might as well join the Paleo diet, for this recipe at least, and prepare a beanless chili.
Another reason for me to pursue a Paleo chili con carne recipe is to find a great use for homemade bone stock. The original recipe that I found for this chili, from Cook’s Illustrated, used water as the base liquid when simmering the chili for hours. But that seems like such a wasted opportunity to me, especially after having read so many articles (like this one, or this one, or this one) on how awesome homemade chicken bone broth or stock is for our everyday nutritional needs.
If I have some homemade chicken stock available and I’m not making my beef stew, or decide to make a fresh batch just for this recipe, why not go ahead and take this opportunity to get some healthy chicken bone broth into my family? Plus, I feel it just makes the finished product much richer and with a heavier mouth feel, and not quite as thin as the water only version.
Once you make the decision to go with chicken stock, there are not many ingredients in this paleo approved chili con carne that need a lot of review. All of the spices should be straight forward and easy enough. I try to get my garlic, jalapenos and onion from the organic section at my local grocery store, along with the canned tomatoes. If you are worried about the BPA levels in your canned foods, there are plenty of manufacturers who sell canned tomatoes packaged in BPA free containers.
Arrowroot is used in this recipe as a thickener, in place of either flour or corn starch. For me, both modern white flour and corn starch are simply way too processed and tough on the body to digest to be considered suitable thickeners. When you find some time, check out a comparison between corn starch and arrowroot, and I’m willing to bet that you will switch as well. Plus, for those of us who would like to reduce our carb intake, as well as caloric intake, arrowroot has about 15% as many carbs and calories for an equal sized serving of cornstarch!
I think I have covered all of my chili ingredients now, except my cooking fat, and the beef. I’ve covered beef before, my views aren’t too insightful and I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. Try to get as humanely raised beef as possible, not only because you won’t have to feel guilty about the life it lead to become your dinner, but because responsibly farmed beef is actually more nutritious for you. If you are a fan of grass feed beef, by all means, chop it up and use it in your chili. If not, use the highest quality grain feed beef you can source. It may be a little harder, and more expensive, but I believe it is possible to find fairly responsibly grown beef that hasn’t been grass fed their whole life.
Lastly, I wanted to think about what fat or oil I was going to use to get my chili started. Most recipes that I’ve seen call for a few tablespoons of Canola oil, or some type of vegetable oil to brown their beef in. That’s not an option in my house, as we have totally removed those items from our house.
What about olive oil? While I have plenty of olive oil on hand, I have mixed feelings about cooking with it, as some people believe it tends to break down and become rancid at higher temperatures. Having said that, I’ve read plenty of articles that indicate olive oil is just fine for cooking, even up to its smoke point, so chalk this up to a confusing point. For me, olive oil is best used in salad dressings and dips, or for some very low-temperature saute action, where I can taste the flavor of the olive oil. I guess I could go with coconut oil, but even coconut oil will start to smoke and break down when cooked too high and for too long.
One solution I’ve used is bacon grease to brown my beef in for this recipe that I have salvaged from baking trays after recent breakfasts. It heats easily, is very stable, and for an added bonus, gives a little bacon flavor to the whole dish. I call that a win win! If using bacon grease isn’t your thing, it’s always hard to go wrong with using ghee or avocado oil, both solid choices!
Paleo Style Chili Con Carne
- 3tablespoonsancho chili powderor substitute 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
- 3tablespoonschili powder
- 2tablespoonsground cumin
- 2teaspoonsdried oregano
- 4lbsbeef chuckpre-cut from the butcher greatly reduces prep time!
- 1tablespoonsaltfor seasoning the beef
- 2-4tablespoonscooking fat
- 2jalapenosdiced (the more seeds and inner white membrane you keep, the spicier your chili)
- 1can diced tomatoes28 oz
- 8-10cupshomemade chicken stockif store bought, I prefer Kettle & Fire brand
- 3tablespoonsarrowrootmixed with 1/4 - 1/2 cup water or stock
- Place your chili powders, cumin and oregano in a small bowl, and add 1/2 cup hot water
- Cut your beef chuck into bit sized pieces (whatever size that means for you and your family!), removing excess fat and any connective tissue
- Heat large dutch oven over medium to medium high heat on stove, and add your cooking fat
- Add beef pieces to dutch oven in batches, taking time to ensure each batch becomes nicely browned on the outsides of each piece, add more fat to the pan as needed during the cooking process
- Once all of the beef has been browned, remove from pan, and add a bit more fat if needed to keep the pan from drying out and burning
- Add chopped onions to pan, and saute for 5 minutes or so, until they soften and start to brown
- Add minced garlic and diced jalapenos to the onions, cook for just a minute or two, until they become very fragrant
- Add the chili powder paste you mixed up earlier, stir in and coat all of the onions with the mix, cook a few minutes until the powder becomes very fragrant
- Add the tomatoes and beef and mix completely, then add chicken stock and stir again
- Add the arrowroot to water and make a slurry mixture, and set aside to use later
- Let chili simmer on the stove for two to three hours, scraping off any scum or excess fat that floats to the surface
- Towards the end of the simmering, about 15-30 minutes before you want to eat, add the arrowroot slurry to your chili
- Make sure to prepare more chili than you will initially eat, because this Paleo Chili recipe makes wonderful leftovers!
One last note, for anyone who has made it this far down the page… if and when I am looking to make this a one pot meal, and I’d like to see a few more vegetables on my plate than the original recipe calls for, I simply add some extra peppers and carrots and feel like I’m eating a small salad along with my chili. I haven’t really figured out a good way to get my leafy greens in here, kinda feel that would be pushing it too far.
For instance, the last time I made this chili, I added the following items, above and beyond everything listed in the recipe above…
3 carrots, chopped
2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped – Anaheims would work as well
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
…and then served it over riced cauliflower, with a few slices of avocado on top.