Kel’s Award Winning Black Bean Chili

I’ve been making my black bean chili for years, ever since I had my first taste of it at Mitch’s Tavern on Hillsborough St. I’ve been going to Mitch’s since I was an undergraduate at NCSU, and while I like a number of things on the menu, this is my favorite! My recipe is based on Mitch’s, but I have made a handful of changes. Both versions are great!

I entered my recipe in the Alexander Family YMCA’s Third Annual Chili Cook Off earlier this week, and walked away with 1st place! The event was held at the Brickhouse Sports Pub (a great sports bar across from Meredith College) and 100% of the proceeds went to YMCA’s “We Build People” campaign. There were also prizes for the best salad, cornbread and dessert. What a great local cause! This was the first time I’ve ever entered a contest like this, so it was exciting (and surprising) that I actually won. But that’s because this chili is fantastic!


  • 4 cans (15 oz. ea.) black beans, drained
  • 1 lb. sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 lb. hot Italian sausage
  • 2 lbs. Roma tomatoes
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 10 oz. can diced tomatoes and green chilies (I use Rotel)
  • 14 oz. can beef broth (I use 99% fat free)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 1 cup sweet onion
  • 7-9 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (use gloves when working with hot peppers)
  • 2 banana peppers, seeded and minced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Hot jalapeno pepper sauce to taste (I use Smack My Ass and Call Me Sally)


Remove casings from sausage and brown, crumbling it with a  spoon as it cooks. Drain well.

To easily remove the skins from the Roma tomatoes, slit an “X” at the top of each tomato and boil for 1-2 minutes. Place the tomatoes in an ice bath to stop them from cooking. The skins should come off easily. Remove the seeds and roughly chop.

In a large skillet, heat the vegetable oil. Add the celery,  onions and garlic, sauté for 3-5 minutes, until onions become translucent.

In a large pot, mix together the Romas, crushed tomatoes,  beef broth, Rotel tomatoes with chilis and the sausage.

Mix in the beans, and add the sautéed vegetables.

Stir in cilantro, basil, jalapenos and banana peppers.

Add the sugar, cumin, chili powder, salt, red and black pepper and hot sauce (I add this in small batches, depending on how hot I want the chili to be.)

Simmer for a couple of hours. I like to make this a day ahead so that the flavors have time to intensify.

Serve with salsa, shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced jalapenos and tortilla chips.

Here are just two of the desserts at the Cook Off – a wonderful banana pudding and a scrumptious carrot cake!

Bon appétit!

Eat, drink and be merry!

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7 Responses to Kel’s Award Winning Black Bean Chili

  1. Rose says:

    Congratulations! But no surprise to me that you one first place – I have had your black bean chili many times and love it!

  2. Mandi Woomer says:

    It’s been awhile since I had your black bean chili, I think it was at the Pub if that tells you anything. But I remember it was yummy! Looking forward to having it again soon! Thanks for the recipe, have you every used ground Italian sausage or do you always get the links and remove the casings?

  3. Thanks, Mandi. Actually the sweet Italian sausage I used was already ground – what a time saver! Same with the canned beans (being a time saver, that is.) I’ve tried using the dry beans numerous times – the results are usually good, but every now and then I wind up with a batch that just won’t have the right texture. I prepare them the same way each time, so I don’t know what the problem is, but I didn’t want to risk it this time.

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