Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

There are chili recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation, kept locked away in boxes and in the minds of the people in on the secret. There are chili recipes that require hours and hours of work and combinations of mysterious flavors that unite to form something considered by its makers to be the absolute perfect chili. These chilis exist, and this recipe is not one of them.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

Instead, this is a weeknight chili, something that is delicious, hearty, warming, and healthy, making the most of the spices that go into its making. The earthiness of black beans and the sweetness of sweet potatoes combine to make a vegetarian chili that ends up tasting much more delicious than you’d imagine from its simple ingredients. Chipotle powder provides a smoky spice, while ground cumin and Vanns Dark Chili Powder give it that chili-flavored backbone that we all want from such a dish. Top with a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkling of cilantro leaves, and a slice of your favorite cornbread (mine is here), and you have a surprisingly complex, inexpensive, and easy weeknight chili.

I’ve given you instructions on making it with both dried and canned beans. If you have the time, the dried beans are worth it, as you cook them with some spices that multiply the delicious flavor of the dish. But canned beans will give you a tasty chili too, don’t worry.

Spices used in this recipe

Cinnamon Sticks
Salt, Kosher
Cumin Ground
Chili Powder, Dark
Cumin Ground
Chili Powder, Chipotle
Salt, Kosher


  • 1 lb. dried black beans or 3 15-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 Vanns Cinnamon Stick (if using dried beans)
  • 4 tsp. Vanns Kosher Salt (if using dried beans)
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin (if using dried beans)
  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, stemmed, seeded, and minced
  • 1 tsp. Vanns Ground Cumin
  • 2 Tsp. Vanns Dark Chili Powder
  • ½ tsp. Vanns Chipotle Chili Powder
  • 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup cilantro stems, chopped finely
  • Vanns Kosher Salt
  • 1 12-oz. bottle dark beer
  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
  • ½ lime, for serving
  • sour cream, for serving


  1. If using dried beans, the night before making chili, place black beans in bowl with 2 tsp. kosher salt and cover with water by 1 inch. Soak overnight.
  2. Two hours before you want to serve the chili, drain and rinse the soaked black beans. Place them in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Add cinnamon stick, 2 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. cumin. Bring to a boil over high heat and reduce to a gentle simmer, skimming off any foam. Simmer until tender but not mushy, about 1 hour. Start testing for doneness at 30 minutes -- the time it takes depends on the age of the beans. While the beans cook, prepare your other ingredients. Once beans are done cooking, drain.
  3. If using canned beans, skip the above steps and start with step 4.
  4. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or other large pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and starting to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, minced jalapeno, cumin, chili powder, and chipotle powder and saute for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes, drained beans, cilantro stems, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and beer. Simmer on medium high for 10 minutes, and then add the sweet potatoes.
  5. Reduce heat to medium low and gently simmer for about 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are cooked through but not falling apart. Adjust seasoning.
  6. Serve chili in bowls, garnished with cilantro leaves, a squeeze of lime juice, and sour cream if you like, or whatever other chili toppings might be your favorite. Corn bread on the side never hurts!

Serves 8. Adapted from Serious Eats.

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