Lamb and Black Bean Chili Mole

by Karin Calloway
Chili is a wonderful dish for cooks who like to experiment in the kitchen. A little of this, a little of that, and you may just cook up a signature chili all your own. There are many ways to vary the dish – using chicken, lamb or pork instead of the usual beef, adding spice with fresh jalapenos or smoky chipotle peppers, adding an unexpected flavor boost from cinnamon or cocoa powder or mixing up the beans.

This Lamb and Black Bean Chili Mole was the result of one such kitchen experiment. The unique, gamey flavor of lamb is layered with fresh jalapeno, the usual chili seasonings or cumin, oregano and chile powder, a hint of sweet from brown sugar and depth of flavor from cocoa powder. Like most chili recipes, the flavors improve if made a day or more in advance.

There are two options when it comes to the lamb for the recipe. You could purchase a 2-pound boneless leg of lamb and cut it into small pieces or use 1 1/2 pounds of lean ground lamb. The accompanying photo shows the recipe when made with ground lamb. If your family doesn’t love the flavor of lamb, substitute extra lean ground beef or a bottom round roast cut into small pieces. Add some corn muffins (see Lowfat Corn Muffins on this site) and a tossed salad for a winter meal that will surely satisfy.

  • 2 lbs. leg of lamb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces or 1 1/2 lbs. lean ground lamb
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic, about 5 cloves
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef stock or a 14.5-ounce can reduced-sodium beef broth
  • 3 14.5-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and drained
If using lamb pieces, season them evenly with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add half of the lamb cubes and sauté until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a dinner plate. Set aside.

Brown remaining lamb cubes, remove from skillet to the dinner plate and set aside. If using ground lamb, heat the olive oil in the skillet, season the ground lamb with salt and pepper and brown in the hot skillet until no longer pink. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the remaining oil and add the jalapeno, cumin, onion and bell pepper in the same skillet. Saute until vegetables are soft and begin to turn golden. Add the garlic, cocoa powder and nutmeg and stir 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and stock or broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and return the lamb to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.

Stir in the black beans and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes more. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Remove from the heat and let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings.
Lamb and Black Bean Chili Mole

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January means a chill in the air throughout most of the U.S., and there's also a bit of a lull in most social calendars. It is a nice, quiet month, making it the perfect time to invite friends over for a casual supper at home.