Cherry Chili is now my favorite way to prepare a unique chili that is sweet and features spice, heat, heartiness and depth. The Polar Vortex makes me want to curl up in everything cozy and hold warm mugs and bowls of goodness. Use this recipe for your next chilly/chili day (or serve something delicious for the Super Bowl LIII!)
The cherries add a tasteful sweetness and a beautiful deep color.
Pro Tip: if you are trying to switch lean turkey for red meat, this is a great place to try it – you won’t notice the switch!
The Story behind Cherry Chili: Kitchen Innovation because Necessity is the Mother of Invention, and I’m hungry 🙂
It was B who first had the idea to put cherries in the chili. I was working on a deadline, and we were in on a Friday night. I thought he was going to run out and get take-out after seeing that we didn’t have anything in-house worth making, but instead, he pulled cherries out of the freezer, and ground turkey out of the fridge for an experiment that turned out to be a BIG HIT. Cherry Chili is a remarkably tasty dish, and I’ve since tinkered with the idea and put on my “kitchen lab goggles” to experiment and make it my own.
Cherry Chili Recipe
- 2 cups of frozen cherries (or fresh, if they’re in season)
- half a head of garlic, peeled, and thinly sliced (about 7 cloves)
- 1 pound of ground turkey or beef
- 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil)
- 2 large tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can of red kidney beans, washed and drained
- 1 cup of broth of your choice
- 1 green pepper, diced
- 1/2 tsp chili lime seasoning blend (Trader Joe’s)
- 1/4 tsp Blackjack Barbecue Dry Rub (optional)
- salt & pepper – I grind mine over it, usually about 6 full twists each
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon ghost pepper maple syrup
- half an avocado, sliced, for topping
- chopped chives for topping
- corn chips
- lime wedges
- shredded cheddar or jack cheese blend
- Peel and slice garlic.
- In a cast iron pan, heat two tablespoons of oil on medium heat with the sliced garlic.
- Add the cherries and gently press the cherries until cherries are soft and dark cherry juice fills the pan. This may take about 20 minutes. While you wait, proceed with the next steps.
- Chop the tomatoes and peppers, wash and drain the beans.
- Start the crock pot on low heat if you have time, but it does just fine on high setting for 3 hours. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, peppers, beans, and broth.
- Once the cherries have softened and are juicy, press them gently and spoon the cherries and garlic into the crock pot. Reserve the cherry juice and add the ground meat.
- Stir fry the ground meat, leaving them loosely in meat-ball sized chunks – don’t over ground them. I made sure the meat was fully cooked before putting it in the crock pot because I intended to eat it on the sooner side, but you don’t need to be as concerned if you are leaving it to slow cook for longer.
- Add generous twists of ground salt and pepper to the meat soon after you add it to the cast iron pan.
- Next, add cayenne pepper, chili pepper, chili lime seasoning, and blackjack barbecue (optional: if you have something like it – or use a chili starter or taco seasoning), cinnamon, more salt and pepper, and ghost pepper maple syrup.
- Add seasoned meat to slow cooker, stir, and cook for the remainder of the selected setting.
- Top with your choice of toppings: sliced avocado, a squeeze of lime, crunchy corn chips, or fresh chives.
- I also served it with homemade buttermilk chive biscuits and homemade whipped ghost pepper maple butter!
Here are a few of my favorite helpful items I used to simplify the process.
Cleaning & seasoning a cast-iron pan can seem daunting at first. I’ve had this pan for 6 years and hadn’t used it super often until this year. I love it!
Pro Tip: Here’s my trick: after cooking, I boil hot water (our kettle is the most versatile and used kitchen tool we own, after this AMAZING cast iron pan we got as a wedding gift from our friends in Germany) and pour it on the food residue. Then I scrape gently until the food is softened, wipe with a paper towel, rinse once, then add a little soap and water and gently wipe with a sponge. It generally comes off quite well. I wipe the pan dry, and then I add a little oil (1/4 tbsp) onto the pan and wipe to “season” the pan.
(I’ve had ours for at least 3 years, and it is just fine)
(I have this one, but when it is time to upgrade, I’d love a temperature adjuster for my different teas!)
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Whether you’ll be gathered to watch the big game this weekend, or cozied up under a pile of blankets to recover from the Polar Vortex this week, save this recipe and grab the ingredients to pop into the crock pot! YUM!
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