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Tomato paste (Recipe: Floribean chicken chili)

Updated and recipe revised October 2010.

Floribean chicken chili

If I could wake up tomorrow and be anything in the world, I'd be an artist.

Not just an artist.

A painter.

In my studio I'd have old coffee cans filled with brushes, a canvas on the easel, and a palette of paint blobs squeezed out of tubes: zapf green, alizarin crimson, yellow ochre, cerulean blue.

And tomato paste. If it's not a paint color, it should be. Everything about it -- the richness, the consistency, even the crinkly tube -- makes you want to squeeze a bit out onto a palette and push it into the canvas with a paint brush. Or squeeze a bit into a sauce or stew and push it around with a wooden spoon.

Tomato paste

Tomato paste, also sold as tomato concentrate, is a thick paste made by cooking meaty plum tomatoes for several hours, straining them to remove the skins and seeds, and reducing them further until they turn into a thick paste with intense flavor. Though the paste can be reconstituted into tomato juice or ketchup, it's most often added to the pan right from the tube or can.

Especially in the off season, when the tomatoes you buy in the market are so often disappointing, a tablespoon or two of tomato paste really improves the flavor in almost any recipe.

If you can find tomato paste in a tube (always available in the Italian foods aisle of my local grocery stores; the Amore brand is most common), you'll love the convenience of using just a spoonful or two at a time. Store the opened tube in the refrigerator; it will last for many months.

Floribean chicken chili

Floribean chicken chili

My husband Ted, an unrepentant Montreal Canadiens fan, reminds me that this week is the start of hockey season, so this chili with mango salsa topping is for hockey fans everywhere, and for my mango-loving fan in particular. It has lots of ingredients but, like all chili, is very easy to make, and it uses chipotles in adobo, which we found in the pantry earlier this week. Adapted from a recipe in Parade magazine by Sheila Lukins, the dish serves 6-8; can be doubled or tripled (and frozen).


2-1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts
1 onion, divided (half cut into two large chunks, half diced)
1 carrot, halved
2 celery ribs, halved
2 bay leaves
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3 black peppercorns
1 15-oz can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 4-oz can roasted green chiles
4 oz diced chicken andouille or other spicy sausage
2 tsp each ground coriander, cumin, and chili powder (mild or hot, to taste)
1 14-oz can crushed tomatoes
2 oz tomato paste
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp chopped chipotle pepper in adobo
1 tsp agave nectar or honey, or more to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
2 tsp cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup water

For garnishes (optional):
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1 ripe mango, diced
1 ripe tomato, diced
Chopped cilantro
Grated Monterey Jack pepper cheese or other cheese


Place chicken along with the two large chunks of onion, carrots, celery, bay leaves, lime juice, 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp coriander and peppercorns in a large heavy pot. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken to a bowl. Strain broth through a strainer lined with cheesecloth into another bowl, and set aside. Shred the chicken and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a heavy pot over medium-low heat. Add chopped onions, green chiles and sausage; cook for 8 minutes. Add 2 teaspoons each of coriander, cumin and chili powder; cook 3-4 minutes, stirring. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, vinegar, molasses, chipotle, agave or honey, and reserved chicken cooking liquid. Simmer 20-25 minutes. Add cilantro, beans and chicken. Cook for 10 minutes longer. Add cornstarch slurry to the stew and stir. Cook for 5 minutes until the stew thickens slightly.

The chili is quite flavorful on its own, but if you'd like to garnish, combine sour cream and chives in a bowl. In another bowl, combine mango, tomato and cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste (making a mango salsa!). Serve chili with optional garnishes and grated cheese.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

White chili
Turkey-green chile chili
South End Deep Root Chili
Root-vegetables-with-beef stew
Football season chili

Other recipes that use tomato paste:
Grilled tomato paste flank steak, from Use Real Butter
Com do ca chua (Vietnamese tomato paste red rice), from Wandering Chopsticks
Muhammara (Middle Eastern pepper and walnut dip), from Closet Cooking
Ciabatta with sundried tomato paste and Monterey Jack, from Our Life in Food
Cream of roasted tomato soup, from Andrea Meyers

Need more creative ideas for using tomatoes all year round? Get 25 Tomatoes, my e-book packed with fantastic recipes, full-color photos and a fun video tutorial. With the FREE Kindle Reading app, delicious tomato recipes will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

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.


Lydia, tomato paste is something I can't live without! The recipe sounds very nice!

I love these tubes. They´re very hard to find here, but last time I was in Portugal I stocked up. I keep them next to the harissa and the anchovy paste, and they look much prettier than my paintbox.

Lydia, let's paint together with tomato paste! Why not? It will be monocromatic, but that's OK..

Lydia- we are going to get you into this collab painting thing! Maybe we will all paint with our eyes shut and could start with tapenade, pesto and anything else colorful that smells good.

Wouldn't it be fun to make a painting with every food you can find in a tube - tomato, wasabi, olive, garlic, cippolla, anchovy and I'm sure there are more I don't have.

I remember an interesting young woman in my freshman class at RISD doing her color study assighnment using different jams and jellies on toast . She mounted them on board for the critique. It was just beautiful!!

Anh, this is a great recipe, not too heavy for a chili.

Lobster, you are such a wonderful artist, I'm sure you could make tomato paste look great!

Laura, Mary, Pauline: I feel a painting-with-food session coming on!

It could painting by numbers, no, painting by flavour :)

Fantastic chilli recipe, mmm.

I'd have to retire my wooden spoon if I couldn't get tomato paste in a tube... the cans are fine for those 'big' recipes but the tube gets used...
Can I come play in your loft? I'll bring sienna...

Painting with tomato paste sounds fun!! Do you remember that guy named Gallagher who would smash things like watermelon and they would splatter all onto a canvas? For some reason, I was reminded of him by this post! Hehe. Nice chili recipe.

This is one of the best inventions ever. I used to feel so guilty about throwing out almost full cans of tomato paste because the recipe only required one or two TBSP and I never used up the rest in time. When I first saw this tube on food network (where else?), it reminded me of Korean pepper paste tubes. It was HUGE when it first came out because Koreans could now travel to foreign country and not be deprived of their second main staple, red pepper paste. :p

Hmmm...I have not seen this around in the regular grocery stores. When I get hold of it, I will make sure to keep my toothbrush out of sight. I won't want to be brushing next morning with tomato paste frothing from my mouth :O

Lydia, talk about a canvas of colors and flavors, this chili looks so exotic! It might even convince me to watch a little hockey.

as an artist, i will someday paint with tomato paste...for you...blessings, rebecca

Kelly-Jane, oooh, painting by flavor -- I think you're on to something!

Katie, there will be an easel for you right next to mine.

Hillary, I'm embarrassed to admit that I do remember him! I was thinking of something a bit more...well...artistic, I guess!!

Stacey, I can't even count how many half-used cans of tomato paste I've thrown out over the years. I think the first time I really noticed food in tubes was in Europe, where I could find all sorts of deli things, like tuna fish, in a tube. I thought that was so clever.

Tigerfish, the tubes are getting easier to find now -- used to be just in Italian markets. I can find it on the tomato aisle of my regular grocery store, with all of the Italian packaged foods.

Callipygia, trust me, the chili tastes even better without the hockey.

Rebecca, welcome to The Perfect Pantry, and thanks for leaving such a beautiful comment.

You made me realize why I'm so fond of the tomato paste tubes. It's not just the practicality, I can see that they are like have tubes of paint in one's hand. You do feel almost like an artist!

Sounds wonderful. Just my sort of recipe! So flavourful!

I always used to think of it as paint when I was a kid.

And, I know you would be a terrific artist. My sister keeps talking about this paste~we are off to Italy soon and this is on her list~it must be a wonderful invention in the food world!

I feel the same way about mustard powder. When you mix with water what I really eant to do is paint it onto canvas - not food.

Sher, I think I just love the squiggly thing that happens when you squeeze the tomato paste tube!

Truffle, this is really one delicious chili.

Peabody, my mother was such a limited cook that I can't remember anything other than tomato paste in a can, and even then she didn't use it very often.

Jann, do stock up! I love the tube because I don't waste any tomato paste, and it lasts in the fridge forever. Have a wonderful trip!

GBVC, I hadn't thought about dry mustard, but you are absolutely right -- and how about green wasabi powder? I do think we're on to something with this painting-with-food idea!

Can you believe that I only just discovered tomato paste in a tube yesterday. I picked up a tube at our local Italian supermarket along with some sundried tomatoes. This chili sounds delicious with all its complex flavours. A real tribute to all those hockey widows out there...wink...wink...

I agree with you that tomato paste adds a lot of colour to our dishes, it really boosts the look of them!

i have been looking for tomato paste in a tube for so long! i always have to buy it in the small can- and never end up using it all before it goes bad. i usually go to whole foods or east side market- do you know if they have the tubes there?

i am so glad that you are going to food for thought- i would love to meet up there and say hello! and feel free to tell anyone you know who wants to go about the contest on my site!

Valli, welcome to The Perfect Pantry. Is there a club for chili-making hockey widows? If so, sign me up.

Valentina, both color and flavor, I think -- a little squirt of tomato paste here and there really does work wonders.

Stacy, I don't know about WF or East Side (though I'm sure East Side would have it), but for sure Tony's Colonial on the Hill, and regular grocery stores like Stop & Shop and Shaw's have it in the aisle with canned tomato products.

You paint with tomato paste I'll bring the spicy mustard and wasabi.

Sandi, you're on! Smocks for everyone!

I need to find me one of these! This is incredibly convenient, I don't know why it did not come in tubes more because you always use a little.

Veron, this brand and the Amore brand are available in regular grocery stores and Italian markets. Once you've switched to the tube, you'll never buy cans again.

Lovely recipe! Just make sure you find organic mangoes - the conventional ones are all GMO!

Freeze your left over tomato paste, in small containers of 2 Tbsp.

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