Lighter Chili With Cocoa Powder

February 25, 2024   68 Comments

What is the key to great tasting chili? (cocoa powder) Many would suggest that you put a lot of meat and sausage to make it delicious….

Chili With Cocoa Powder

I was a believer in meat until I attended a chili cook-off at a friend's house. Of course, I was sure I had made the winner, until I tried the host's chili. Something was different about his recipe and I couldn't figure out what.

His chili won (argh) and I was flummoxed. I kept after him (calling, knocking on his door, e-mailing) and he FINALLY told me the secret. Cocoa powder.

Yes, a depth of flavor was achieved by adding unsweetened cocoa powder that you find in the baking section of the supermarket. Cocoa powder gives the chili a richness that makes POUNDS of meat unnecessary.

Since my family is trying to save money and eat less meat (my daughter went vegetarian), I decided to cut the ground beef that I add to my chili in half and add more beans. I was shocked to find out that no one noticed!

A couple of my favorite vegetarian standards are my cauliflower potato curry and my vegetarian black bean soup recipe.

This chili includes thirty-four percent of your daily value of iron and 13% of your daily value of calcium. You can keep all the ingredients in your pantry except for the ground beef (which you can keep in your freezer).

This is my dinner that I will make at the end of the week after not having a moment to make it to the grocery store. It is cheap, fast, and delicious and great for a crowd.

We will eat it over rice, pasta, with tortillas or just plain. You can add fresh salsa, avocados, a spoonful of plain yogurt, or anything else you can think of to mix it up.

What is your favorite chili recipe addition?

Chile with Cocoa Powder Recipe

3.6 from 136 reviews

(serves 8)

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1 pound ground beef (80% lean)
3-15 ounce cans different beans (black, kidney, white, pinto, etc.), drained and rinsed
1-28 ounce can plum tomatoes
4 tablespoons good quality chili powder
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon cumin
salt to taste
hot sauce (optional)


Brown ground beef in large sauce pan over medium high heat. When meat is brown, drain off the fat. Pour in tomatoes with their juices, beans and add spices. Heat to a simmer and taste for salt. Cook for about 10 minutes at a low simmer and serve!

Nutrition Facts

For one serving (about 1 cup): 228 calories, 4.4 g fat, 1.7 g saturated fat, 21.2 g carbohydrates, 3.8 g sugar, 24.2 g protein, 7.4 g fiber, 400 mg sodium, 2 Blue, 2 Purple, 3 Green SmartPts

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

Other posts you might like:

Cauliflower Potato Curry Recipe

This cauliflower potato curry recipe should be a standard dish in your house....

Vegetarian Black Bean Soup Recipe

This vegetarian black bean soup recipe should be printed out and put in your favorite recipe spot.....

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I actually use cracked wheat instead of beef, chop a carrot, add some corn, a green pepper and a jalepeno. My chili is thick and currently the favorite amoung my family of meat eaters. Liquid smoke helps too, of course. :)

Another great secret ingredient for chili is canned pumpkin. I use about a half a cup for a pot of chili. Adds fiber, vitamin A, thickens the broth and adds just a hint of sweetness to balance out the heat if I've gotten carried away with the chipotle chile powder.

I use ground turkey and turkey sausage. My family loves it! I am going to try the cocoa power with it now!

that is what the Cincinnati Chili's have as a secret ingredient - cocoa. You can do chili over spaghetti (wheat too) I think of Greek descent.

This sounds delicious!! The jalapeno sounds tasty too:)

This is a bit scary for someone with a cocoa allergy though, we wouldn't think to ask whether cocoa has been added to chili. I'll have to start asking no matter what it is.

Great served over a baked potato too!!

My friend Francine's mother made that recipe for me once. I have yet to taste a chili that matches that awesome.

Been putting cocoa powder in my chili for years!

Delicious...hit the spot. I used to buy the envelopes with the seasoning but no more. :)

This sounds great and can not wait to give it a try. The only problem I have is determining WHAT a serving size is? Thanks

@Lynn - Probably around one- one 1/2 cup of chili - this is the problem with home cookin' - I never measure. You could divide it into 8 right after you finish making it! (divide in half, divide in half again, divide in half again?)

sorry for not being more accurate. Thanks for the question.

Wow! Sounds great. I shall have to try it with my high school Knowledge Bowl team, we always make chili for our competition days. I think I will try the pumpkin idea too. Thanks for the great ideas everyone!

YES! I make my chili this way, it's sort of an Ohio thing. It's also amazing to add a little cinnamon! It adds such a deep flavor and is perfect for a nice cold day!

I always add cinnamon but haven't tried cocoa powder. Sounds good.

Thanks Lisa...yes, was hoping there was another magical way to figure the portion size..LOL...but dividing a 'half' a few times...lots easier than dividing the whole are brilliant! :)

Added a lot of eggplant to chili last summer as I planted too many eggplants. I was a big hit here. Been adding cocoa to chili for years and another secret is too make your own chili powder with the dried peppers from your garden and skillet roasted spices.

Cocoa - I would have never thought of adding it to chili but I'm definitely going to try it. If anyone has a recipe for homemade chili powder, please list it because I've been having allergic reactions to something in my chili & I suspect the problem may be the chili powder since the ingredients aren't listed on the containers.

We tried your chili last night and it was fabulous! Thank you soo much!

I love to add a touch of cinnamon and salsa to my chili.

I highly recommend Better Than Store Bought by Helen Witty and Elizabeth Schneider Colchie (1979) which is where I get my chili powder recipe or the basis for it as well as many other great items. Here is a sample of what is in the book. If I get a chance, which isn't like;y, I'll post the recipe. Google chili powder but many do not roast the whole spices and chilies before grinding to bring out that great toasted flavor.

Thanks Mark! I will check out this book asap.

I grew up in Northern Kentucky (right across the river from Cincinnati) Chili in that area almost always has chocolate in it :) Yummy :) If you ever go through the area try Skyline chili. Its not the traditional chili most are used to but very good.

Here's a homemade chili powder recipe

AB's Chili Powder Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2004

3 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced

3 cascabel chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced

3 dried arbol chiles, stemmed, seeded and sliced

2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Place all of the chiles and the cumin into a medium nonstick saute pan or cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, moving the pan around constantly, until you begin to smell the cumin toasting, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside and cool completely.

Once cool, place the chiles and cumin into the carafe of a blender along with the garlic powder, oregano, and paprika. Process until a fine powder is formed. Allow the powder to settle for at least a minute before removing the lid of the carafe. Store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.


Thanks, this recipe sounds awesome! I wasn't sure what ingredients were used for it. It sounds very quick & easy. I will never buy store-bought chili powder again.

Looks yummy, will have to try it.

Sounds yummy... and as far as the person who's allergic goes, it may be better if you DON'T know! They did a study in Japan where they told a group of people that they were putting something they were allergic to on their arms, and they used something innocuous and they all ended up with hives; they also put an allergen on another group of peoples' arms and told them it was something inert and they DIDN'T have a reaction.

I made this for the family in the middle of the holidays. We were having lots of big, decadent meals and wanted a break with something simple but filling. We served this with cilantro, avocado, low fat sour cream, cheese, and pico de gallo. It was a huge hit. I can't wait to make it again. Thanks for sharing.

I add everything from grated carrots, squash and always chopped frozen spinach. Sometimes I add ground gloves and a splash of vinegar. Every batch is different. The more veggies the better.

I actually bought a spice container that was discounted that was a chili cocoa powder base. No idea what to use it for. I just kind of looked at it like umm...this looks cool. I'll buy it and I might use it later on. This recipe might be the thing.

I am wondering your nutritupional opinion on meat substitutes, such as frozen "Boca crumbles" for recipes like chili. We have one vegetarian, but the others won't tolerate more than half of the meat substituted for beans. They will eat the meat substitutes though.

I'll try the cocoa powder! Have you tried all vegetables? Include Peppers! onions, garlic, carrots, corn, beans of course, puree & whole tomatoes, no oil, cumin, chili, coriander, oregano, s/plime juice. No meat required for true healthy & hearty bowl of chili for the whole family. For veg. daughter, sprinkle on nut cheese and dollop of soy sour cream/yogurt. I also add a non nutritive nacho chip [Late July restaurant-style].

Leave out the tomatoes, meat and beans and the sauce that is created is very close to our Mexican family enchilada sauce recipe. And, in fact, Texas enchilada sauce is often red chili. For traditional Mexican sauce, leave out the meat, tomatoes, beans, and add chicken broth, onion, oregano and a little flour and top your enchiladas with the sauce. We don't use meat in the sauce for traditional Mexican enchilada sauce but it is fine for Tex-Mex. One of my secrets has always been cocoa powder. This gives the sauce a nice bottom note. If you make enchiladas, always use corn tortillas for traditional Mexican style. And, Texas chili never has beans and beans are fattening. My doc has corn, rice and beans off my list for losing weight.

I have long been a fan of adding cocoa powder to my chili - it was one of those instinctual decisions. Sometimes I also add a pinch of cinnamon. One thing that my family ... half vegetarian, half meat-eaters ... can agree on is soy crumbles. Adding these to chili [with or without beans], lasagna, enchiladas, and so on, and letting the flavors cook into the crumbles, gives a taste and texture just like ground beef. This way, everyone is happy, and I only have to make one dish for everyone.

@ Sharon Sherrill, Are soy crumbles like soy curls? I received my first bag of the curls yesterday fom Amazon and plan to try to mimic BBQ beef. The hardest part of eating without any animal products having been raised on, and living in a heavily touted meat/dairy culture, is finding good substitutions. There are a lot more to choose from in the recent years, and it's fun to experiment.

Hi Barbi ... I have never heard of soy curls! Sounds awesome though... I will check into those. Crumbles are available in grocery stores in the frozen section with the veggie burgers and other meat replacement products. I know Morningstar Farms and Boca make them, and they come in a bag. Thy basically can replace ground beef... and they do, very well. Good luck with your exploration!

Hi Sharon! Well Friday I tried the soy curls and have to say I was pleasantly surprised, the texture was very close to chicken. I used the recipe below which I will tweak to lessen the ''sweet'' and I added a pinch of poultry seasoning in the marinade. I served it w fresh-ground sesame seeds [and steamed broccoli]. I'm putting Crumbles on my grocery list this week, thank you for the tip! Sounds like it would do great in a bolognese make-over which is so similar to chili :) We're all trying to be meatless around here. Even most of my friends are trying it.…

Hi again Barbi - That orange sweet sour recipe looks delicious. Thanks for sharing! I am ordering the soy curls to check them out, looks like they can be another way to have good-tasting meatless protein in our lives. Happy holidays, by the way!

Hi Sharon, Happy Holidays to you and Snack Girl and her many followers! It's a great bunch of followers of all the ways to get healthier. This is my 3rd or 4th time trying to go plant-based and with so many resources out there, I'm finding it easier and fun. Every little change has huge health benefits. :)

My mother-in-law taught me to put a Hershey chocolate bar in my chili and it's wonderful! I can't wait to try your recipe because I know I will definitely enjoy it.

P.S. I'm so glad I found your blog!

In Mexican cuisine, one of the most brilliant sauces is Red Mole .... made with dark chocolate in it (plus a kazillion other spices). Will definitely try the cocoa in my chili to see if I can get a little of that Mole flavoring. Thanks in advance for the recipe.

How much cocoa do you put in the chilli?I'm making turkey chilli tomorrow and want to try it with the cocoa

For decades I've put a couple of tablespoons of Asian fish sauce in my soups, stews, and chilies. It adds a depth of flavor that is unmatched. It has become the secret ingredient of many top chefs.

Now that 99% turkey and chicken are zero Smart Points on Weight Watchers, I'm going to use 1 pound of 95% lean ground beef and 1 pound of the 99% ground chicken. I am going to also add a cut up red and green pepper and 1 onion. Points will still be 2 per serving, however after bulking it up, that 1 cup will be more like 1-1/2 to 2!!!

Cant wait to try this. If i use ground chicken or turkey does it make it 0 smart points?


Does it make a difference which cocoa you use? Regular or Dutch processed?

@Pauline - yes!! This would be zero smart points with ground turkey breast or chicken breast. Great question!

@Brenda - no - it does not matter. I probably use the cheapest here. Thanks for the question!

I always put cocoa in my chili and also cinnamon to add to the flavor.

If you did use 3 cans of beans, how much meat would you use? 2#? Just a curious TX girl!

I made this exactly as you posted and it was yummy! Will definitely make again, but need to adjust the WW SmartPoints: 80/20 ground beef is 30 SP per pound, which would make 8 servings 4 SP each. But totally worth it!!!

I put a little to much cocoa in how do I balance it out. Thanks

If adding cinnamon-how much would be used?

I just eyeball the cinnamon as well as the cocoa powder, depends too how big of a batch you are making, it kinda hard to put too much.

Wonder if you could use carob powder instead. Taste is similar and it’s healthier.

I will definitely try this recipe. I usually make my chili with ground turkey, which is a big hit at large gatherings. At home I changed it up & made it vegetarian by omitting the ground turkey and adding 1/4 cup of quinoa. This makes a nice thick chili.

Every chili I've made my husband would say "yeah it's good". But I made this one from the first time you posted it, and he said "this one's great!" I can't tell you how many times I've made it, but now I make double batches and freeze them in quart baggies for him. This came in handy when I was in the hospital, and times when I don't want to cook.

Thank you great recipe!


OMG…….this was the best. I am 63 years old and never have eaten chili. I have tasted it but never eaten it. I can sit here this moment in time and say this not only was delicious but wicked simple to throw together. Too bad all of our dinners can't come together this quickly and taste this good. No doubt the magic ingredient was the Cocoa powder. I highly recommend everyone to make this dish. You will Not be disappointed. Thanks for sharing it with us.


I am a volume eater and knew I would want more than a cup of chili. I also don't eat 80% lean ground beef. Here's what I did:

I used 96% lean ground beef and sautéd it with a cup of chopped onion and two chopped medium size poblano peppers. There's enough fat in the beef that you don't need any in the nonstick pan. Sauté the ground beef, peppers,and onion together. I also added some garlic. Everything else I kept the same.

I entered that revised recipe into the WW recipe creator at 4 servings. It came out to four blue points. (Who knew that 4 tablespoons of chili powder is three points!!)

I think it has made enough for four 1.5-cup servings. It's simmering on the stove now and smells sooooo good. That chocolate addition is wonderful. Thanks, Snack Girl!

Me again. If I remember the next time I make this, I'm going to weigh the empty pan or container I'm going to store the chili in, then weigh the pan or container full of chili so I can know how many ounces the chili weighs. Then I can divide by 8 oz and know how many servings it makes. Because it seems to make much more than four servings.

Also, I love to add the Walmart brand beans--one can each of black, navy, and tri-color beans.

This lasts a long time in the fridge and is great for a quick meal.

I also save all the liquid drained off canned beans. Pour into a freezer jar, label it "bean juice", and when there is enough in the jar I make soup. Add beans, or meat, or lentils, or barley, or pasta...or anything else.

I actually use the pound of chicken breast. I could’ve actually ground myself in my food processor but I decided to browned it cut it up in bite-size pieces. This took me absolutely five minutes to put together. Zero points on my PP weight watcher program

I am going to try this tonight. Just a quick question, though. It sounds like it will be really, really thick with no broth. But maybe the tomatoes thin things out. Anyway, just wondering. Can't wait to try

I double this recipe and freeze it in quart baggies for large servings for my husband. This way he can have chili whenever he wants, which is more frequently than I want it. I make this about 2x a month. I added to this recipe- tomato sauce, beef broth, ancho chili pd, diced canned chiles, smoked chili pd. It's perfection it's the only chili my husband will eat. This last batch I used vegan grnd "meat" instead of beef, and he loved it just the same. I've made this recipe at least 15x since it was first published.


@Linda Snodgrass Sabor, it is a thick chili. I like that and think the can of tomatoes with juice add enough liquid. But for sure you could add some broth or water or whatever liquid you prefer.

I did just make it it is so thick. I added some vegetable broth and I think I will have to add more. I could not find plum tomatoes in a can so I just used diced tomatoes, but that was not enough liquid. Looking forward to having this tonight, though. Thank you.

I just made this chili, and I was so excited to try it. We did not like it at all. At first it was way too thick, so I just added a small amount of vegetable broth to make it a better consistency for our tastes. But there is way, way too much cumin. It is actually bitter tasting. I was a little shocked by 1 tablespoon of cumin, and I should have not put that all in, but I like to follow the recipe exactly at first. So I started adding more broth, more beans, more tomatoes, and it is still awful. I am so disappointed. I know I am in the minority here. I wish I could give a better review.

I found myself without chili powder,so I substituted Spanish Paprika and oregano. I also added corn. Reviews? the best they ever tasted. Now I just add them to your recipe.


Here in Nebraska, chili and cinnamon rolls frequently paired together...maybe the cinnamon is why??

Think I'd add onions, too.


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