Chocolate Chili

With this year’s Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day only one day apart, I decided to make a big vat of chocolate chili to celebrate both. This recipe has been a winter favorite for so long, I don’t remember where the recipe came from. (I mean it is handwritten on a recipe card. Although I treasure these recipes, I haven’t hand-copied – or even more antiquated, clipped out a recipe from a newspaper – in a loooong time.)

From an herbalist’s perspective, dark chocolate is a perfect pairing with mid-February. Late Winter/early Spring is Kapha season in Ayurveda. This time of year is characterized by damp cold (as opposed to the drier cold of Autumn/early Winter). Damp cold personifies the cool, heavy, slow, and dense Kapha qualities. Too much Kapha energy can lead to feeling lethargic, heavy, or dull. To counter an excess of Kapha, you’ll want to balance your system with food and practices that are the “opposite”, or warming, drying and stimulating.

Astringent, bitter, and pungent herbs and foods contain these energetic qualities and are traditionally used to counter Kapha and help balance the body at this time of year. Yummily, chocolate chili checks the boxes for all three:

Beans (astringent): Astringent, or “drying” foods, help tighten and tone our tissues.

Cocoa powder and dark chocolate (bitter): Bitter foods purify the blood, and stimulate the secretion of bile from the liver and gall bladder as well as peristalsis.

Cayenne pepper and cinnamon (pungent): These pungent herbs aid digestion, stimulate circulation, and help expectoration by breaking up mucus in the gastrointestinal tract and in the lungs.

Not coincidentally, February is also Heart Health Month in the United States. Cacao (from which chocolate is made) is high in flavanols and antioxidants, which help protect against heart disease. Whatever our view of Valentine’s Day, we could certainly all benefit from some heart self-care. Although it might have sounded over-indulgent at first, obviously “chocolate chili” equals “good self-care.”

Here’s to a healthy heart!



2 T. oil
1 small onion, finely chopped (3/4 c.)
1 lb. ground turkey (or plant-based “meat” works well, too!)
1 T. cocoa powder
1 T. chili powder
1/2 t. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground allspice
1/2 t. ground cinnamon
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes
6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 c. water
2 oz. dark (baking) chocolate
15 1/2 oz. canned dark red kidney beans, undrained


  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and stir to coat. Cook until softened.
  2. Add turkey. Cook until no longer pink and drain.
  3. Reduce heat to low. Stir in cocoa powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, allspice, and cinnamon.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste and water. Cook about 30 minutes, stirring a few times.
  5. Increase heat to med-high. When it simmers, turn to low. Break chocolate in pieces and add to chili.
  6. Add beans and stir until mixed. Simmer for another 30 minutes.
  7. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed.