Cowboy chilli con carne


Nowadays you’d be hard pressed to find a chilli recipe that doesn’t include tomato in one way or another but how many tomatoes do you see out there in the desert? This is a good old fashioned cowboy recipe only using what would have been on hand: coffee, meat, beans and some spices.

Serves 4

Olive oil, to fry
1kg beef mince
2 red onions, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups strong black coffee (about 700ml)
2 fresh chillies (seeds removed), thinly sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp soft brown sugar
2 tsp chilli powder, or to taste
400g cooked kidney beans

Heat the fat in a large, heavy-bottomed pan on a high heat, then brown the mince in batches, stirring regularly: don’t crowd the pan, or it will steam rather than brown. Add the onions and stir fry until slightly browned.

Turn the heat down and add the garlic. Stir and cook until the onion has completely softened, then add the coffee and a generous pinch of salt and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.

Add the spices to the pan along with the sugar, fresh chillies and simmer for another half hour, adding a little water if it seems dry, or you prefer a saucier chilli. 10 minutes before the end of cooking, add the beans, taste, and adjust the seasoning and spicing if necessary. If possible, leave overnight and reheat to serve.


This recipe is adapted from Felicity Cloake’s Perfect Chilli Con Carne which has a very interesting section on the history of the dish.

Image via flickr