Committing to healthy eating doesn’t mean you can’t warm your body and soul with your favorite comfort foods. If chili is one of your winter go-to dishes when you need some delicious soothing, you’ll be pleased to discover that chili is actually an inherently healthy choice. Here are our good-for-you chili recipes and cooking tips.
Healthy Chili Tips
1. Make a Big Batch
Like most soups and stews, chili actually tastes better the next day. Cook it at least a few hours before you plan on eating it, if not a day or two in advance, and certainly make a large batch so you have enough for a couple of days or to freeze for later.
2. Use Quality Ingredients
Even though chili is a seasoned melange of simmered vegetables, meats, and beans, always use quality ingredients, especially when it comes to the meat. You can get away with cheaper cuts of meat, but make sure they are fresh. To keep your chili healthier, use leaner cuts of meat or trim the fat from fattier cuts, keeping just a little fat on the meat for flavor. The freshest herbs, spices and veggies are also key as they lose flavor and nutrition over time.
3. Experiment with Flavors
You don’t have to stick to the same old red bean and meat chili recipe. Experiment with different flavors by adding a variety of vegetables, like pumpkin or squash in the winter months, different meats, like turkey or ham if you have it leftover from the holidays, or even varying types of beans, like white beans for a white chili. You can even use a combination of different hot chili peppers, like habanero, jalapeno and ancho, to impart a tantalizing heat to your recipe.
4. Prepare and Serve chili in a New Way
Making chili in the slow cooker is definitely the easiest method, but you can also bake it in the oven for more of a casserole-like dish. For a change, serve your chili over pasta instead of rice or with popovers on the side instead of cornbread. Change up the ways you prepare and serve your chili, and this healthy comfort food will never bore your palate.
5. Have Fun with Garnishes
The classic garnish for chili is cheese and sour cream, but these high fat toppings can quickly pack on the pounds. If you are watching your calorie and fat intake and still want to add cheese or sour cream, measure out one tablespoon of low-fat cheese or one teaspoon of low-fat sour cream. As an alternative, you can use thick plain yogurt (like Greek yogurt) as well as chopped onions, tomatoes, peppers, olives, fresh herbs or avocadoes.
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Healthy chili recipes
White Bean Chili
Makes 10 to 12 servings
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced
5 cups water or low-sodium chicken broth, divided
1 teaspoon salt (less if using broth)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
4 (15-ounce) cans cannellini or great Northern beans, rinsed, drained, divided
2 cups white corn kernels (frozen, thawed)
2 (4-1/2-ounce) cans chopped green chiles
Juice of 2 limes
Zest of 1 lime
1. Saute onion in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 to 7 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and saute 2 to 3 minutes or until fragrant.
2. Add chicken and cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is lightly browned. Add 3 cups of water or broth and herbs and spices. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 10 minutes or until chicken is done.
3. Place half of the beans in a blender with 2 cups water or broth. Process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.
4. Add bean puree, remaining beans, corn and chiles to chicken mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated.
5. Stir in lime juice just before serving. Garnish with lime zest and other toppings of your choice.
Makes 6 servings
Low in calories and high in flavor, this easy chili is packed with health-promoting nutrients.
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped seeded green bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped seeded red bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 pound ground turkey
2 cups pure cooked pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch salt or more to taste
1. Saute the onion, peppers and garlic in hot oil in a large pot until vegetables are softened. Add the turkey and cook, stirring often, until evenly brown.
2. Drain oil from pot and pour mixture into a slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients and cover with lid. Cook on low for 5 to 6 hours or high for 2-1/2 to 3 hours. Serve warm.
Makes 8 servings
This bean rich chili is high in fiber and protein.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground paprika
2 tablespoons dried cilantro
1 tablespoon salt
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 habanero peppers, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 (4-ounce) cans chopped green chile peppers, drained
2 large eggplants, diced
3 (28-ounce) cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1/4 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Saute onion for 2 to 3 minutes. Add bay leaves, paprika, cilantro and salt. Cook, stirring often, until onion is tender.
2. Add celery, peppers, garlic and green chile peppers. When heated, stir in eggplant and reduce heat to low. Cover pot and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, chili powder, pepper and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes. Stir in the corn and cook until heated through. Serve hot.