Hawaiian Chili

Winter. Cold. Indoors. Fireplaces. Big, wool blankets. Hot, crusty bread. Aromatic spices and sharp, simmering tomatoes. That’s what I think of when I think of chili. So what do you do when you’re feelin’ chili in the middle of July? Have cold chili – sounds weird but it’s actually good – or twist chili into something super summer friendly. That’s what we did with this Hawaiian-inspired chili recipe.

As with most of my recipes, this one can be customized. If you have a favourite chili recipe that differs from this in the amounts or kinds of veggies, spices, beans, tomatoes, beef, etc., by all means, work with what you like. 

You can have some fun experimenting with varying ingredients in chili too. Red kidney beans are typical but maybe try chickpeas or white kidney beans or a bean medley. Always keep in mind that when using canned beans, the sodium levels will differ depending on the beans that you go with. If they’re “no salt added,” you may find you need to add more salt when cooking with them. If they’re normal, add little salt at a time until you taste it after adding the beans.

If you’re on a health kick or just enjoy a ton of veggies in your chili, you can load it up with whatever you like. Remember that different vegetables have different cooking times, though. If you’re adding root vegetables like carrots or parsnip, dice them up and add them earlier on, even with the onions, as they need a little longer to cook. If you’re looking at zucchini or eggplant, they’re pretty fast-cooking so you can add them a little later, about 10 minutes or so before it’s finished simmering. If you’re into greens like kale or spinach, those need only 1 or 2 minutes to wilt and cook so they can wait until you’ve added the pineapple juice and tidbits.

I am a big fan of varying sources of heat in my chili. In this version, I do chili powder and chili flakes but you can add hot sauce, sriracha, sambal or cayenne, or nothing if you’re not a fan of heat. You can even add your favourite barbecue sauce for a smokier summer potluck dish.

Instead of using all ground beef, try using half ground beef and half ground pork, cubed ham or bacon lardons. These will all add varying texture and flavour. Be careful, again, on the sodium levels. Ham and bacon are salty already so they will change the amount of salt you need to add to the chili as well.

There are a ton of variations and combinations of ingredients for chili but the important part of this recipe is the pineapple juice and tidbits that add a surprising sour sweetness like Hawaiian pizza.

We like to serve this with crusty garlic bread, sour cream or plain greek yogurt, green onions and shredded cheddar cheese on top, but you can play around with your own toppings as you like. You can add fresh cilantro, salsa, bacon bits or chives, as a few ideas.

Alright, here we go.

Hawaiian Chili

Yield: 4 portions .     Prep time: 5 minutes .     Cooking time: 45 minutes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lb lean ground beef

salt and pepper, to taste

1 medium onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes, or to taste

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 can (796ml) plum tomatoes

1 can (540ml) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup pineapple juice, from canned pineapple below

1 can (398ml) diced pineapple tidbits, drained (or 1 cup fresh pineapple, diced)

  1. In medium pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat. Add ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Wooden spoon in hand, brown the ground beef thoroughly, stirring often, breaking it up into small pieces, 8 to 10 minutes. Add onion and garlic and continue to saute until they become soft and translucent, about 3 minutes. If your pot becomes dry, add water one tablespoon at a time, as necessary; nothing should be sticking to the bottom of the pot yet!
  2. Add chili powder, cumin, chili flakes, and tomato paste and cook out, stirring constantly, until everything becomes dark brown and aromatic, about 2 minutes. It’s ok if this begins to stick to the bottom of the pot a little bit but scrape it off with the wooden spoon as you go so nothing burns. Stir in plum tomatoes and kidney beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it becomes slightly thicker than your desired consistency, 30 to 40 minutes. Remember that you will be adding pineapple juice which will thin it down slightly.
  3. Just before serving, mix in pineapple juice and tidbits and heat through, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately.

That’s it: our fun, modified version of chili, perfectly summer appropriate.

Happy cooking!

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