Recipe: Zero Alarm Chili

On friday, I started sneezing at 8am.  I didn’t slow down until 8pm.  Despite working from home and generally avoiding sick people, there was one inlet for infection that I forgot:  I pick up medications at my local pharmacy.  I often have to wait in line at the pharmacy counter, surrounded by red-nosed, snuffling, coughing sick people.  I will admit to occasionally cringing and trying to overcome the urge to flee so that I don’t get sick.  Unfortunately I must have touched something that a sick person touched, and not been diligent about washing my hands before touching my face, so I picked up a lovely headcold.  Luckily it’s remained here in my head and is not too bad (knock on wood).

Anyhoo, before I got sick I was going to post this recipe for my “zero alarm chili”, which I’ve had in my recipe book for a while, and is gluten free.  I could have sworn I had posted it before, but I can’t find it in the archives so I guess not.  This is a recipe I made up myself, based loosely on a recipe for vegetarian black bean burritos I got out of a cookbook a ways back.  If you want to make a vegetarian version of this recipe, just leave out the ground meat and substitute another can/couple of cups of black beans.  If you like spicy food (which I do not), you can spice it up with extra spices, extra spicy salsa, throw in some chile peppers, etc.

Just a note: all pictures here are of me making a double batch.

chili ingredients

Ingredients (for a double batch)

Ingredients (for a single batch)

  • 1 medium onion
  • 2T oil (canola or olive is what I use)
  • 1T cumin (I have a big container from the local hispanic supermarket in our old neighborhood)
  • 1T chili powder (I have this from the dollar store, it has…very subtle flavor [read: dollar store spices are generally old, crappy, and mostly tasteless])
  • 1T garlic powder (the one I use is organic, has great flavor)
  • 1lb ground turkey
  • 1 can (or 2 cups pre-prepared) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (or 2 cups) diced tomatoes
  • 1 small can (or 1 cup) tomato sauce
  • 2T salsa (I use a very mild salsa)
  • 1/2 can tomato paste
  • Foolproof Brown Rice (optional)
  • Cheese (optional, I love a good super sharp cheddar mixed with some monterey jack.)


  1. Pre-prepare the brown rice.  I start cooking the chili once the brown rice is complete.
  2. Start by heating oil over medium high heat in a pan.  add onion, sautee until onion softens and becomes translucent, stirring occasionally.
    soften onions

    Softening the onions in 2T of oil.

  3. Add cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.  stir frequently and let onion soak up some of the spices for about 3-5 minutes.
    chili add spices

    Letting the spices meld with the onion

  4. Add crumbled ground turkey and brown, stirring occasionally.  Skip this step if you want the vegetarian option.
    chili add meat

    Browning the meat

  5. Once the meat is browned, add black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and salsa.  Stir to combine.
    chili add tomatoes

    meat with tomatoes & beans added

  6. Taste.  Add more salsa/cumin/chili powder to taste.
  7. Lower heat to simmer, cover, and stir occasionally.  About 10 minutes should do.
  8. Spoon about half a can of tomato paste into the chili and stir to combine and thicken.
  9. Serve chili over a bit of rice, top with some good sharp cheddar for flavor and some monterey jack cheese for melty stretchiness.
chili finished

Completed Chili. Yum!

This recipe is cheap and easy, and a good tasty solid meal for us non-spicy mostly-Italian-food-eating New Jerseyans.  I’ve always gotten good reviews.  I made this for our housewarming party this year, threw it in a crock pot to keep it warm for the day and it was very well received.  I almost always double the batch when I’m making it, I get 6 or so days of dinners for two out of a double batch.  Some day I hope to have fresh ingredients rather than canned, but for now I’ll go with this.

Leave a Reply