On a cold day there is nothing more comforting than the aroma of Mexican-inspired chilli welcoming you into the kitchen. Not only is chilli con carne and its vegetarian counterpart a comfort food—simple, satisfying and easy to make—but it also provides so many nutrients that it’s a must for everyone to cook.

The common ingredients in most chillis are beans, tomatoes, chillis (fresh, dried or powdered), onions, garlic and cumin. From that simple base, there are countless variations depending on personal taste, dietary preferences and geographical differences.

  • Vegetarian Chilli
  • Pumpkin Turkey Chilli
  • Red Chilli with Chicken and Chocolate
  • Green Chilli with Portobello Mushrooms

Cooking dried beans

The flavour of cooked dried beans always seems fresher than that of beans in tins, and their texture also seems more pleasing. If a few easy steps are followed, they are easy to prepare, are cheaper than tins and allow you to control the sodium content.

  1. Pick over beans to remove any foreign matter (sometimes little stones find their way into the bags), place in sieve and rinse under cold water.
  2. Soak beans from 6 to 8 hours (overnight) in plenty of cold water so the beans are covered by about 8 cm.
  3. Drain and rinse beans.
  4. Pour into large pot or Dutch oven and add enough water to cover the beans again by about 8 cm.
  5. Bring to a boil. Partially cover, turn heat down to a simmer and cook until tender, anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/4 hour. Tasting them close to the end time will ensure they are perfectly cooked.
  6. Drain and rinse.

The benefits of beans

Beans are an excellent source of fibre, providing an average of 6 g of fibre per 1/2 cup (125 ml). Both insoluble and soluble fibre are present, which may help to lower cholesterol, improve glucose control and prevent colon cancer and diverticular disease.

Furthermore, beans generally contain no cholesterol, are low in fat and are high in vitamins and minerals such as folate, thiamine, manganese, iron and magnesium. They are also a good source of lean protein.

Tip: chilli cooking and storage

Ideally, chilli should be made one day ahead to let the flavours develop further. Chillis are usually made in large quantities, as they can be frozen for up to three months and defrosted in the refrigerator before heating.


Garnishes can go under, over, on the side … there are no rules!

All chillis can be served with one or more of the following side dishes as garnishes:

  • chopped avocados
  • sliced green onions
  • grated cheese of your choice
  • sour cream
  • tortilla chips
  • corn tortillas
  • rice

You can also use side dishes to change the degree of spiciness (heat) in your chilli. If it is hot, you can cut up some fresh capsicums that will help bring it down a notch. Conversely, you can add jalapeños or crushed chillis if you want to increase the heat.


Beans can be substituted for one another in recipes according to preferences. It will slightly affect the flavour of the chilli, but the nutritional content will remain high.

Meat can be added to or removed from chilli without jeopardising the flavours. If you use cooked meat, make sure it is added with the beans and not at the beginning of the recipe as you would with uncooked meat.


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