Chili-Style Beans on Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sharp Cheddar

Chili-Style Beans on Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sharp Cheddar

I got it in my head to do some kitchen travel, to Texas for chili.

I love the kind of chili we eat around these parts. Made with chili powder from the supermarket, ground beef or chicken, and canned beans 100% for sure if you want them, our “Yankee chili” is delicious. And in general, I’ve got no problems with bastardized fusion food, so long as it’s tasty. But that doesn’t mean my mouth doesn’t water when I have a chance to learn about the real thing. 

The real thing: chile con carne, “meat and chili peppers.” A bowl of Texas red, filled with plenty of dried chiles and nary a tomato. I’ve read about the stuff, I’ve written about it too. But purchased the right chiles, rehydrated their crinkly skins, blended them into a smoky paste? Not yet. Not til now.

I ordered my chiles online, because that seemed easier than rummaging around groceries, and so I relied on descriptions and labels to purchase four different kinds of dried chiles, each, I’m sure, beloved to Texans for different reasons but each similarly crinkly and dark to me. (Though I love grocery shopping in general, I can’t get over how easy it’s become to source shelf stable ingredients that are local to somewhere else. It’s changed my cooking more than anything. Mine are from Melissa Guerra.)

I took these mail-order chiles from San Antonio. I toasted them, I soaked them. And then I did the strangest thing. I added them to a pot of simmering Rancho Gordo pinto beans.

I made a vegan dish.

Based on Texas chili.

But to spare me from disdain, I’ve called these chili-style beans, rather than try to pass them off as some vegetarian chili situation.

The beans, which grow rich and smoky but not exactly spicy, cook for a while, I won’t lie. (Good slow cooker candidate though!) That’s why the serving suggestion is ridiculously easy. Roast two sweet potatoes until they’re steamy and sweet, then use the beans as a hearty filling for them. A little grated cheddar to melt on top and a huge portion of sour cream if you’re me, and a good and chili-inspired dinner is here. Just don’t invite the Texans.


Chili-Style Beans on Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Sharp Cheddar
Adapted from Homesick Texan

The only pepper that’s at all spicy is the chile de arbol, so if you’re nervous about having any kick at all, you can leave that one out.

1 pound dried pinto beans, soaked 12 to 24 hours
2 anchos
1 pasilla
1 guajillos
1 chile de arbol
1 large onion diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
¼ teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
tiny pinch cinnamon
1 bottle beer
1 tablespoon chipotle in adobo
Salt to taste
Lime juice or cider
4 sweet potatoes
4 ounces grated sharp cheddar
Sour cream (optional)
Cilantro, for garnish

Take a heavy frying pan and heat it up over medium heat. In the dry pan, place the the dried chiles–anchos, pasillas, guajillos and chiles de arbol–in it to toast. Cook for 2 minutes a side, watching carefully so they don’t burn. Remove from the the heat and pour water in to cover the chiles. Set aside, letting them soak while you do other prep.

In a big pot, heat a little neutral oil over medium heat and cook the onion until translucent, 10 minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 1 minute, then add the coriander, cumin, and cinnamon. Drain the beans of their soaking water and put them in the pot. Add the beer and then pour in water water to just barely cover the beans. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, rain the soaking chiles and discard the soaking water. Place them in a blender with the chipotle chile and adobo and 1 cup of fresh water. Blend until smooth, then add to the pot with the beans. (If there’s paste stuck in the blender, add a little more water to loosen it, then pour that into the pot too.)

When the beans begins to boil, turn the heat down to low and let the pot simmer on the lowest possible flame for 4 to 5 hours, covered. Taste occasionally to see if the beans are soft yet and the flavors are right. As the beans get soft, you can start adding salt – about 1 1/2 teaspoons will be about right. You can also add more chiles, or cumin. If the beans are very liquidy towards the end, remove the lid and let them cook down. When done, add about 1 teaspoon of lime juice or vinegar to make the flavors pop.

When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the sweet potatoes on rack with a pan underneath. Cook about 1 hour, until a knife easily goes all the way through. Cut each potato in half and scoop a lot of beans on top. Sprinkle with cheese. Dollop with sour cream. Garnish with cilantro.

Posted in: Cooking For Two
  • Amy Basso

    What a creative idea! I never know what to do with sweet potatoes, except bake them or mash them! Thanks for sharing!

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