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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Chipotle Chili Recipe

A chipotle pepper is really just a jalapeno. No, really, it is. A smoked jalapeno. Jalapenos are sneaky little guys. They can be mild or hot, you never know until you taste them. Jalapenos go from being juicy, crunchy and green to red if left to ripen, then when dehydrated and smoked they turn dark reddish-brown and distinctly smoky. Native to Mexico, twenty percent of jalapenos grown there supposedly end up as chipotles.

Chipotles aren't as trendy now as they were a couple of years back, but they are still as wonderful a chile to cook with as they ever were. You can buy them dried whole, in powder, in paste or in "adobo", a sauce of tomatoes, vinegar, spices, garlic and as if they needed it--more chilies. They are smoky and mellow and only when prepared in adobo does the heat drastically intensify.

But I like the heat so I don't shy away from chipotles in adobo. It's also a very convenient way to use chiles. Over time a dried chile or chile powder can lose it's flavor. Not so with the canned version. It remains lethal until aided by the vinegar, it eats its way through the can...

Just once though I'd like to be able to use a whole can of chipotles in adobo. Don't get me wrong, it's delicious stuff, but so darned hot I've never managed to use more than a tablespoon in any given recipe. I'm sure the seven ounces in a typical can could kill a man. So here is one of those recipes that only uses a scant tablespoon of chipotle in adobo.

Normally, every time I make chili it is a different recipe. But Lee pleaded with me to write down the recipe for this last batch so I could make it again sometime. I hope you'll like it as much as he did.

Chipotle Chili
4 servings


1 Tablespoon oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 lbs pork butt or shoulder, cut into chunks
2 teaspoons pasilla chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 small yellow or red pepper, chopped
2 Tablespoons tequila
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Tablespoon finely chopped chipotle chilies in adobo (or less if you don't like it hot!)
1 (16 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained
1 Tablespoon masa harina flour mixed with 2 Tablespoons water

Toppings (any or all of the following)
sour cream or plain yogurt
chopped cilantro
chopped green onions
grated jack cheese


Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Toss pork with chili powder and cumin; add to saucepan one batch at a time. Cook and stir until browned. Remove from pan and repeat until all the meat is browned. Add onion and garlic to the empty saucepan; cook until softened. Deglaze pan with the tequila. Return meat to the pan. Add the chopped peppers, orange juice and chipotles; bring to boiling. Lower heat and simmer, covered, about one hour or until pork is fork tender. Add beans; heat through and cook for a few minutes. Add the masa and water mixture to thicken. Cook another 5 minutes. Ladle into bowls; top with toppings as desired.