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Nothing beats a big, bowl of chili with a slice of cornbread drenched in honey on a chilly, wet day! We've had a lot of that kind of weather lately, and this Meaty Mushroom Chili has been keeping my family fed, happy and warm!
It should come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading this blog for very long that I'm a big fan of mushrooms. I mean, just check out my ground beef stroganoff, beef steak pie, or cheesy tortellini & chicken pumpkin alfredo bake recipes, all of which feature mushrooms as a key player in the dish.
I just love their, and it doesn't hurt that they add extra servings of low calorie, nutritious vegetables to a dish.
That one time my chili won an award in a chili cook-off
I haven't always had the best of luck with making homemade chili from scratch.
Years ago I entered a chili cook-off on a lark, mostly because it was a social function and my mom asked me to make a pot of chili to take with us since my family was going and Paul and I happened to be staying at my parent's house in between taking the California Bar Exam and doing some extended traveling in Europe, Asia and Africa before starting our first real jobs out of law school.
I kind of threw that pot of chili together without a plan (or much previous chili making experience) and didn't realize until right before judging time that I had added way too much heat in the form of a ridiculous amount of cayenne pepper to my batch of chili. It was a great lesson in taste-testing as I go.
At that point, it was too late to pull out of the contest. Mostly because while I had gone to get ready for the party, my mom had headed over and entered that pot of chili on my behalf, even though I distinctly remember telling her that she should just enter it under her name so I wouldn't be associated with it.
I actually ended up winning a dubious prize for the "spiciest" chili category.
It was incredibly embarrassing and I'm fairly confident that I skewed the results in all other categories since I can't imagine how anyone's tastebuds could function for at least a few hours after sampling some of what I had prepared that night.
Strangely, as soon as the winners of each category were announced, a handful of spicy chili-loving folks descended on my pot of chili and devoured it. Which was plain crazy to me because even though I like spicy foods, the level of heat in that stuff was just outrageous.
Anyway, never you fear if you prefer less spicy chili. This meaty mushroom chili is super mild and won't cause any five alarm fires in your mouth.
Both my kids ate it without batting an eyelash or commenting once about it being "too spicy" and they tend to be pretty particular in that regard. (And if you DO happen to like it spicy, then by all means, start adding cayenne pepper into the mix.)
Meaty Mushroom Chili Breakdown
Honestly, this is a pretty classic chili recipe with traditional chili flavors and textures, with the one important adjustment of blending chopped button mushrooms into the ground beef before cooking!
It's a smart move in terms of flavor (I'm obsessed with the umami that mushrooms add to any dish), health (mushrooms are low in calories and provide important nutrients like vitamin D, B vitamins, antioxidants and potassium), and even dollars (adding mushrooms to meat adds bulk and volume, stretching the recipe into more portions without stretching your wallet).
Plus, when cooked this way, the mushrooms mimic the meat they are being blended with and you don't even notice they are there, which can be really good for picky eaters who might not have embraced the mighty mushroom in all of it's deliciousness yet.
So really, calling this mushroom chili is almost a misnomer. You won't find any big slices of mushrooms in here unless you decided to add extra sliced mushrooms for that very reason. If you made this chili for your family and didn't mention mushrooms to them at all, they would never be the wiser.
Aside from some initial chopping, making a batch of this chili is easy as can be. You just brown the blended ground beef and mushrooms together in a dutch oven or large skillet, then transfer it to a bowl and use the same pan to cook a little bacon, then soften the onions, garlic, bell pepper, and jalapeno before adding everything together, along with some cans of diced tomatoes, beans, and spices, then letting it cook for a couple of hours so that the flavors can really blend.
You could even transfer all of it to a slow cooker after the initial browning steps and let it cook all day so it's ready in the evening when you get home from work or after-school activities.
Serve it up plain, topped with all the things (sour cream, shredded cheese, diced avocado, jalapeno slices, tortilla chips, etc.) and a slice of perfect cornbread, or over baked potatoes or hot dogs. Or use leftover chili to make a batch of chili cheese dip for the big game!
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Meaty Mushroom Chili
- 1 ½ pounds ground beef
- 12 ounces button mushrooms washed and chopped
- 4 slices bacon chopped
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 red pepper diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 jalapeno seeds and membranes removed, diced
- 3 Tablespoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 14 ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
- 2 16 ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 16 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup beef broth
- In a large skillet or dutch oven, combine the ground beef and chopped mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat until meat is browned and no longer pink. Drain off any fat and transfer the meat to a bowl.
- Add the chopped bacon to the same skillet or dutch oven and cook until crispy, then transfer to the bowl with the meat and mushrooms using a slotted spoon adn drain all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon fat.
- Add the onion, pepper, garlic, and jalapeno to the bacon fat in the skillet or dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and begin to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the seasonings and spices until evenly distributed.
- Return the meat and mushrooms back to the dutch oven (if using) or transfer everything to a slow cooker and add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, kidney beans, pinto beans, and broth. If finishing on the stovetop, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered for 2 hours. If using the slow cooker, cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours.
- Serve garnished with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, diced avocado, jalapeno slices, and corn chips.