Temperatures are dropping, leaves are falling, snow boards and ski slopes are looming. It’s time to make a big pot of chili to warm your belly and your soul. It’s surprisingly easy and I’m going to show you how with my chili con carne with pinto beans recipe.
Trekking up to northern Arizona with my parents, grandparents, little brother, and sister to play in the snow is one of my fondest and most vivid childhood memories. It wasn’t so much the snow I was fond of. Being born in Phoenix, I think I’m actually allergic to it. No, it was my mom’s chili that made the trip so special for me. While my brother and sister sledded down snowy slopes, threw snowballs at my dad, and built a snowman, I sat with my mom and grandparent’s in their warm camper eating hot chili and listening to stories of WWII. Yes, I’m a snow wuss, but you can see why I appreciate chili so much. Besides the fact it’s so delicious, it’s pure, unadulterated comfort.
Chili con Carne
There are a whole lot of ways to make a dish with as storied a past as chili con carne. No one is exactly sure who invented it. Some say a beautiful nun in Spain teleported herself to America in the 17th century, proselytized the Natives, and wrote down a recipe for chili that included venison, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. Who knows, right? But, probably not. I mean, really. What’s a Spanish nun who never set foot in the U.S. or Texas got to do with it? Seems a little farfetched to me. I bet she didn’t even have a Texas accent.
Then there’s the whole “with beans” and “without beans” debate. I like chili both ways, but I like it with beans the best. They add such a nice, creamy texture, they taste good, and they’re good for you. What’s not to like? Some people like their potatoes mashed and some people like them fried. Either way, they’re still potatoes and chili con carne’s still chili – with beans or no.
Homemade Pinto Beans
Now, I’m not averse to making things easy, but if you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you know the aroma of food cooking is very important to me. A house filled with the smell of tortillas cooking, bread baking, or pinto beans simmering on the stove is a home. So, I don’t eat beans from a can mostly because I like to smell them cooking. Canned beans just short-circuits the whole experience for me. Besides, I think they taste much better home-cooked. Slow cooking is good cooking and it’s just not that hard to cook a pot of beans. Of course, if you’re really short on time and want to use canned beans, by all means, use canned beans, but I’m going to show you one way to make your own.
About Those Pinto Beans
Pinto beans are the most common bean crop in northwestern Mexico and in the United States. Cultivated for thousands of years in the central and south Americas. Migrating native traders spread them throughout the surrounding regions. Spaniards took the beans back to Spain in the 15th century. They have since spread throughout much of the world.
You can use pinto beans, part of the regional identity of the southwestern United States, not only to make chili con carne, but refried beans for burritos and tostadas and as a side dish often served with rice. In the southern U.S., people traditionally serve them in a bowl in their own broth or heaped over cornbread. This makes a delicious, healthy, and low-cost meal. Add some fried potatoes with onions and you’ve got yourself a feast!
Pinto beans are nutrient dense, serve as an excellent and inexpensive source of protein. Distinctive in their appearance with their beige background and brown speckling, “frijol pinto” literally means “painted bean.” Store uncooked, dry beans indefinitely in a cool, dry place. Older beans may lose some nutrients and take a bit longer to cook. Having them around, though, is great insurance against food emergencies. If you have water and fire, you can survive on pinto beans for a very long time.
The Secret Ingredient
This chili con carne recipe, inspired by my mom’s chili recipe – which she learned from my dad’s mom – may be a bit different than others you’ve seen. It includes, among other things, condensed tomato soup for flavor and thickness and, the secret ingredient, El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce for heat. First, let me say, I’m not being paid to promote El Pato sauce. It’s what makes this chili our family’s chili. I buy it every time I see it. I never want to run out of El Pato sauce.
In case you were wondering, El pato, means “the duck” and a duck adorns the cans of the El Pato brand. One small yellow can of El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce, made by a family-owned company in LA for over 100 years, gives the perfect amount of heat and flavor to a pot of chili. They say it’s the first hot sauce made in the US to be used in Mexico. For real. It’s that good. However, before you go cracking open a can and slurping it down, let me tell you, it’s mostly used in recipes. It really shines in chili con carne. Although, I have dipped a few tortilla chips into it in a pinch. I won’t lie.
I can’t wait to hear what you think of this chili con carne with beans recipe, a favorite in my family for around 60 years and now, with a few tweaks of my own, I hope it’s served in our family and yours for 60 more.
Looking another great ground beef recipe? Try my Gram’s Easy American Chop Suey. It’s the epitome of comfort food. Or, for something super healthy and incredibly delicious check out my Ukrainian Borscht recipe!
Nutritional values are approximate and are based on online calculators.
12 servings per container
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Total Fat
- Saturated Fat 9.78g 49%
- Trans Fat 0.89g
- Cholesterol 100mg 34%
- Sodium 457mg 20%
- Amount Per Serving% Daily Value *
- Potassium 839mg 24%
- Total Carbohydrate
- Dietary Fiber 1.3g 6%
- Sugars 4.89g
- Protein 27.99g 56%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.