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Better Late Than Never: Hot Cha-Cha Chili Seasoning Mix

130116 chili mix

Procrastination: It’s all the rage.

When December 21 arrived and with it the start of Harry’s school vacation, I gave up on the idea of sending out Christmas and Hanukkah gifts to my editors and clients. I’d spent so much time dithering about what to make, I’d missed my chance to actually make anything. Instead, I decided to pretend I’d held off on purpose and send New Year’s gifts. Pretty sneaky, sis.

Then, of course, I had to decide what to make. Those Sesame Almond Crackers were lovely, but they didn’t seem like enough. If I was going with the New Year’s idea, it all had to tie together. A quick troll of Etsy, and I had my answer: I’d make something spicy, and pair it with this funky little postcard.

Homemade chili seasoning mix was an easy choice. I already had a pretty killer formula, using a pair of ingredients that make it memorable: Aleppo pepper and cocoa powder. It’s warm and cozy and perfect for deepest, darkest winter. Even if you’re not looking for an (ahem) New Year’s gift, you’ll want to keep a supply on hand. Talk about a super-simple, just-got-home-what-should-we-eat weeknight dinner that’s also spectacularly tasty…

All I needed was a buttload of spices and some cute packaging, and my little flavor bombs were ready.

Of course, I didn’t count on those postcards being hand-made in Belgium. And taking three weeks to arrive. My “New Year’s” gifts just went out on Monday. If you’re a recipient, now you know my embarrassing little secret.

But really, I only procrastinated because I was going above and beyond on your assignments…

130116 chili mix packaged

Hot Cha-Cha Chili Mix
Makes enough for 12 batches (single batch quantity in parentheses)

1 1/2 cups chili powder (2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup Aleppo or ancho chili powder (1 tablespoon)
3/4 cup cocoa powder (1 tablespoon)
1/4 cup ground cumin (1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup oregano leaves (1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup dehydrated garlic (1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup onion powder (1 teaspoon)
1/4 cup salt (1 teaspoon)

  1. Whisk together all ingredients in a large bowl.

To use:

  1. Brown 1 pound ground meat (beef, bison, turkey, etc), and drain any excess fat. Add 1/3 cup of the spice mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes, then add 1 cup of water and the contents of a 28-ounce can of tomatoes (yes, including the juice)—crushed is easiest, but you can also use whole tomatoes and crush them with your hands before adding. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add a 15-ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained, then simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes. Taste, and if it’s too spicy, add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar. Serve with brown rice, tortillas (or chips), avocado, cheddar cheese, sour cream, diced red onion… Y’know, the usual.

MAKE BABY FOOD: Unless you know your baby is a spice fiend, this one’s probably not for the under-one crowd.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Ellen

    I have all of those things in my spice cabinet/cupboard, AND it’s 24 degrees outside in IN. Guess who’s having chili tonight? 🙂

  2. Maggie

    Debbie, thank you for the recipe; I look forward to trying it! What brand of “dehydrated garlic” do you recommend? I’ve had a hard time finding one with much flavor.
    Many thanks!

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Hi Maggie! This particular batch I bought at a fabulous store on the west side of Manhattan that sells bulk spices, but in the past I’ve been pleased with the quality from Penzey’s.

  3. Morgan

    Just made this tonight and we loved it! It’s going to be my new go-to chili recipe. I didn’t have dried garlic powder on hand so just put fresh, minced garlic in the pot when I sautéed the beef. I also doubled the kidney beans since I had them…and my goal is to add more beans to our meals this year!
    Thanks so much, Debbie! It’ll be handy to have this chili powder blend for the future, too.

    1. Debbie Koenig

      Yay, so glad I posted it in time for your dinner! Using fresh garlic is totally cool–I used the dehydrated to make it super-super-easy.

  4. Maggie

    Dear Debbie,

    Many thanks for your quick response to my question about sources of flavorful “dehydrated garlic” — and for suggesting Penzeys!


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