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Canned black beans (Recipe: South End Deep Root Chili)

Updated October 2011.


Once upon a time, a woman named Mary entered a chili contest, a benefit event for one of her causes, and she enlisted the help of her sister and two friends to come up with a signature chili.

She'd seen a recipe for a black bean chili in a magazine, and we started from there. (Cat's out of the bag now...I was one of the recruits.) We worked on our recipe, tweaking a bit, having fun, and — in a stroke of genius — adding some pasta at the end, until we all were pleased with it.

On the day of the contest, I prepared a large vat of our concoction, which we named South End Deep Root Chili in honor of the mega-toothache Mary had on the day we first tested our recipe. Off she went to the contest. There were nine other entrants, all of whom had made traditional chili.

The cook at the station next to Mary's came over for a taste.

"That's not chili," he proclaimed. "It's going to win, but it's not chili."

And win it did. The prize was a crockpot, which the four of us agreed to share (!). I don't know what became of the crockpot, but the chili has become a house favorite, and that's the primary reason canned black beans are always in my pantry. (I stock dried beans, too, and I'll write about them at a later date, but for this chili the canned beans work well.)

Black beans

Black beans — a.k.a. turtle beans, black Spanish beans, Tampico beans, or Venezuelan beans — are native to Peru, and were introduced to Europe in the 15th Century by Spanish explorers returning from their voyages to the New World. Portuguese traders brought the beans to Africa and Asia, which explains their popularity in the cuisines of almost every culture. An inexpensive source of good protein, black beans are important in the cuisines of Mexico, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

Black beans' high dietary fiber content makes them a good choice for those with high cholesterol or blood sugar control issues. Research now shows that the darker the seed coat of the beans (and how much darker can you get than black?), the higher the level of antioxidants. They're also rich in iron, tryptophan, manganese, folate — and a one-cup serving provides 172% of the recommended daily amount of molybdenum, which breaks down the sulfites found in prepared foods and red wine.

Canned black beans have many uses, from salad to soup, to feijoada, the national dish of Brazil. However, for Moros y Cristianos, the famous Cuban black beans and rice dish, start with dry beans, so you can control the texture and the saltiness of the finished dish.


South End Deep Root Chili {vegan}

This recipe, which appeared in my cookbook, South End Cooks: Recipes from a Boston Neighborhood, is unconventional but delicious, and like all chili recipes, proportions are not important.

From the pantry you'll need: onion, garlic, cumin, canned black beans, vegetable stock, honey, chili pepper or hot sauce, lemon, canned tomatoes, orzo or other small pasta, kosher salt, fresh black pepper.

Serves 8-10; can be halved, or doubled.


1-1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice
4 cups diced onion
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
6 Tbsp minced garlic
4 tsp ground cumin
10 tsp chili powder, or to taste
4 cans black beans, drained, rinsed and drained again
28 oz vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
4 tsp lemon honey (or 4 tsp plain honey + 2 tsp fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice)
1 small dried chili pepper, crushed, or hot sauce to taste
1 28-oz can diced or chopped tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup orzo (or other tiny pasta)
1/4 tsp salt (taste first if using storebought stock)
Black pepper to taste
Monterey Jack cheese, grated (for garnish)
Sour cream (for garnish)


Preheat a large heavy pot or Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add apple juice and bring to a boil. Add onions and sauté, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Add celery, carrots, garlic, cumin and chili powder. Continue stirring for 3 minutes. Add black beans, stock, honey, lemon, chili pepper and tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure the beans don't stick.

Add orzo, salt and pepper, and continue cooking, covered, stirring frequently, until the orzo is cooked (8-10 minutes).

Serve hot, topped with Monterey Jack cheese and/or sour cream. Can be made ahead; cool, cover and refrigerate.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More black beans:
Moros y cristianos, from The Perfect Pantry
Quick and easy black bean and peach salsa soup, from Soup Chick
Crockpot black beans with cilantro, from Kalyn's Kitchen
Quick black beans with cumin and oregano, from Orangette

South End Deep Root Chili: a #vegan black bean chili with a funny name (and you'll learn why).

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I've just discovered your blog and I love it! What vivid photos and what a great and fresh approach. I will be lurking here often.

P.S. The writing is good, too.

Mimi, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. I hope that you'll de-lurk from time to time, when I post about some of your favorite pantry items!

This is my all time favorite salad to add crunch to any meal or to bring to pot luck:
Whisk together 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, 1 clove of garlic (minced), and 2 teaspoons of sugar. Combine one 15 oz can of black beans (rinsed and drained), 1 cup of white corn niblets, 1 cup of chopped red bell pepper and 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, and toss with the dressing.
I have never had any leftovers to take home after bringing this dish to potluck.

Oh how I miss black beans. I can't find them anywhere in London. I make everyone who visits bring me a can in their luggage.

South End Deep Root Chili is a winner at my house too. Here's a new twist I came up with last winter when I only has one viable celery stalk and one very lame carrot in the crisper: one leftover baked sweet potato peeled and diced added just as the orzo finishes cooking. Since then I have experimented with adding butternut squash (pretty good) and summer squash (not so good.)

Black beans are one of my very favorite foods. There was a sale at the store last week, I have 8 cans in my pantry.

I've just recently found your blog, and really enjoy it! I finally tried making this chili over the weekend- and it was a huge hit. Even the husband, who agreed it wasn't "real" chili, but loved it anyway.

Rebecca, welcome to The Perfect Pantry! I'm so glad you tried this recipe; it's one of our favorites, even if it isn't "real"!

Power of the picture: I've read through this recipe many times, and thought I should make it, but the photo is the clincher! It's in progress right now...

Susan, it's so true. I wish I'd taken photos of the cooked dishes from the beginning, but this gives me a great excuse to revisit some favorite recipes that have dropped out of my regular rotation. Hope you enjoy this one; I think it's just your kind of chili.

I've always loved chili con carne and I agree with the gentleman at the contest, yours is not chilli, it is unorthodox. But it sure is a winner, just the way I love food, unorthodox.

I'm sorry, this is the first time I think I've ever not understood a recipe ... but how does one saute onions in 1 1/2 cups of apple juice? Sauté requires oil, no? If you've brought the apple juice to a boil, then you're boiling the onions and they will never brown, no? Please explain how I'm miss-reading this recipe for South End Deep Root Chili. Thank you, love your site & all of the recipes I've tried so far.

Lynn, technically you are correct. The onions will not brown, but they will soften, and that's what you want. You will need to stir, as you do when you sauté in oil. I hope you'll try this recipe; it's a winner.

This was the best chili I've ever had!!!!!!!!!!

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