Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

I really love black beans (I may have mentioned this), and I think that black beans and sweet potatoes are an amazing flavor combination.  So this chili makes a natural pairing - I am almost surprised that I didn't come up with this a lot sooner than this year.  I had made chili with sweet potato or winter squash in it before, but usually multi-bean chilis with a lot of other stuff going on to distract you.  This version keep the focus on the black beans and the sweet potatoes, and it is earthy with hints of smoky sweetness.  It is moderately spicy, hot enough to be interesting but not so hot that it should make anyone squeamish.  I have made this chili several times this winter and finally remembered to write the recipe down, so I feel like it is already an old favorite and really overdue for posting here (especially considering the number of friends that have asked for the recipe).

I also realized that, since all our everyday plates/bowls/mugs are pretty much pots that I made, I am frequently posting pottery photos along with my recipes but rarely say anything about it.  So I may start highlighting some of the pots, too, and giving a bit of a backstory.   This bowl is one that I made in college, when I was first experimenting with carving on my pots.  I really like the simple basketweave type hatching pattern that I made on this bowl, and how it subtly shows through the matte glaze.  There is actually a small matching plate so I kind of think of this as a soup and salad set.  The earthy beige/brown color of this glaze is a great match for hearty bean and lentil soups like this one.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
Makes 4 quarts
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil (or less, if desired)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground chipotle chilis (optional)
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and finely chopped into ~1/2"-1" pieces
  • One 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (or two 14 oz cans)
  • 3 cans black beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 lb bag of dried black beans, cooked (not drained)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (optional)
Like most soups, this soup is best if you let it simmer for several hours (or simmer for a while and then refrigerate and serve the next day).  If you have a slow cooker, it is easy to start this soup on the stovetop and then transfer it to the slow cooker to simmer away.  If you don't have a slow cooker, you can also easily make this on the stovetop and just simmer it there.  If you are going to transfer to a slowcooker, start the first step in a large skillet, but if you are planning to cook entirely on the stovetop, you can start in a large stockpot/soup pot.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and saute until soft.  Add the peppers, celery, garlic, herbs and spices, and saute for another 5-10 minutes, until onions are slightly browned and vegetables start to soften.  If cooking in a slow-cooker, transfer this mixture to the slow cooker and add the sweet potatoes, tomatoes, beans, and tomato paste.  If the herbs/spices are stuck to the pan when you transfer the mixture, add some water to the skillet to loosen and add to the slow cooker.  If cooking on the stove, just add the ingredients to the pan and stir to loosen anything that has gotten stuck to the pan.  Add water until it is chili consistency - 6-8 cups if you used drained canned beans, and 2-3 cups if you used cooked dried beans and added their cooking water (or whatever amount seems to get you to the right consistency.  Simmer for at least 1 hour, ideally 2-4 hours or longer (Note - 1 hour may not be sufficient in a slow cooker - 3-4 hours or longer in slow cooker is probably best).

Note on optional ingredients:
  • The chipotle peppers add the slight smoky flavor and are really delicious.  If you don't have them though, you can make this without and just add a bit more chili powder.
  • If you omit the tomato paste, this is more like a black bean soup than a full blown chili, but also very good.  This is actually what I did the last time I made the soup.


  1. I love sweet potato black bean chili! I usually use the chipotle peppers in adobo sauce and it ends up super spicy. Thanks for the new recipe!

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  3. I sent this along to my sister in law and we plan to make it soon.... sweet potatoes are not on the ingredient list. Can you update?

  4. Petra, thanks so much for pointing that out, I can't believe I completely left the sweet potatoes out!! eep... fixed it now :)

  5. We're making it for Super Bowl along with a meaty chili I can't wait!

  6. Thanks for sharing this great recipe. I think I am going to make it tonight. Time to re-energize my spirit :)


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