Chili is one of the best meals for the cold dark days in the middle of winter. They’re hearty, spicy, flavorful, and comforting.I used to make chili from those packets of chili mix that you can get at the grocery store, the ones that are full of MSG and preservatives and who knows what kinds of scary chemicals. I used them because I thought they made making chili easy. HINT: making chili is easy anyway. I mean, how much harder is it to measure out a teaspoon of this, a couple tablespoons of that, than ripping open an envelope of mystery powder? There are so many benefits to mixing the spices yourself rather than relying on the packet: you can adjust the flavors to your liking, you avoid consuming nasty chemicals like MSG, the spices in your cabinet are probably fresher and better tasting than a packet that’s been sitting in the grocery store for who knows how long.

Stepping down off my soap box…

This recipe caught my eye because it’s unlike any chili I’d ever had – it includes cocoa powder in the list of spices and it’s served over spaghetti. I guess this is pretty common in Ohio, but for this Jersey girl, it sounded very unusual and intriguing. The cocoa powder adds a subtle dark chocolatey note to the chili that’s really delicious.

This recipe has a long list of spices, so it could be expensive to make this if your spice cabinet is rather small, but I had everything except for the chipotle chili powder so it was a very reasonably-priced meal. Plus none of the spices in this recipe are uncommon, so if you do have to invest in some spice jars to make this, you’ll easily find other recipes to use them in. The long list of spices gives this chili a deliciously complex spicy flavor.

So here’s the cast of characters: a lot of spices, salt, cocoa powder, canned crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar, an onion, some garlic, and of course BEEF. This is a very beefy chili, and the beans are served as a garnish.

You start by chopping up an onion.

Then throw your beef into a big pot.

Add your chopped up onion…

And the minced garlic…

And cook it all up until the beef is browned and the onion is soft.

Now, you’re supposed to add the chili powder with the onion and garlic and cook them all up together, but I forgot so I added it at this point and let it cook up a bit before going on to the next step. It was fine, but: don’t be like me! Follow the recipe!

After you drain the fat from the beef, add the tomatoes. I used crushed tomatoes, but you could also used diced.

Here are all the beautiful spices and the cocoa powder all in one little dish. I measured these all out in advance because mise en place makes my life so much easier. Plus I love having all my ingredients all set up, chopped and minced and ready to go in their own little dishes, because other than making the cooking flow much better, they all look so pretty in their raw stage. And I get to pretend I’m on a cooking show.

Stir in the spices,  cocoa powder, salt, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, and let it simmer for an hour covered, and another half hour with the lid off. And that’s all there is to it! Chop up an onion, mince a few garlic cloves, measure out some spices, mix everything together in a pot and then just sit back and let your house fill with yummy smells. Easy peasy.

Mm, that’s some beefy, spicy deliciousness right there.  Now, to be clear, when I say “spicy,” I don’t mean that this dish is anywhere near a 4-alarm type of chili. It has a nice kick to it but the flavor is a complex melding of spices. This isn’t a hot-hot kind of chili.

And here’s your secondary cast of characters; don’t forget about these guys! Cook up the spaghetti. Drain, rinse, and heat up the beans (I nuke mine in the microwave). Grate up the cheddar cheese. And, well, open up the sour cream.

Serve the chili on top of the spaghetti and then add the toppings of your choice – I like to add the beans, then the cheese, and then the sour cream. You can also serve it with chopped onions, but James and I aren’t big fans of raw onion.

This is a delicious dish! And it makes a lot – James and I probably ate it for dinner for four nights. But we never got tired of it because it’s so good.

The recipe comes from Rachel at Coconut & Lime, so please head over to her blog to get all the details and then MAKE THIS CHILI. It’s so good. You’ll be so glad you did.