8 & $20: Weeknight Chili with a Rioja Blend

This simplified but full-flavored take on chili is ideal for busy evenings and pairs seamlessly with a Spanish red

8 & $20: Weeknight Chili with a Rioja Blend
Fire-roasted tomatoes and chipotles in adobo sauce enhance this chili with a smoky, spicy depth that finds its match in a Tempranillo-based red. (Julie Harans)
Mar 22, 2022

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.

Chili is an MVP when it comes to low-cost, high-reward weeknight dinners. This nourishing, savory, spicy dish takes advantage of inexpensive ingredients that can last in your pantry for months. As long as you have ground beef on hand (which is a good thing to keep in your freezer anyway), you can whip up chili on a whim.

This is, of course, a pared-down and simplified version of a recipe that can sometimes call for hours of slow cooking. But it still yields everything you want in a chili: Hearty beans against a beefy backdrop, infused with hints of smoke and spice.

That's thanks to fire-roasted tomatoes and chipotles in adobo sauce, two canned ingredients that serve as valuable shortcuts here. Marinated in a thick sauce of tangy-sweet heat, the chipotles (ripe jalapeños that have been smoked and dried) contribute a multilayered flavor profile that enhances the entire dish. Tomato paste and cumin also bring depth, furthered by 25 minutes or so of simmering on the stove to let all the ingredients meld together.

Then comes the fun part: The toppings! Avocado, shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and sour cream are my suggestions, and I like to use them all. Choose whichever accoutrements you like, but I highly recommend including the chips for their contrasting crunch.

Wanting some smoke and spice from the wine match too, I went straight to Spain. Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2013, No. 25 in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2020, is an outstanding value at 92 points for $18. A blend of Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Garnacha, the wine has fruity notes of red cherry and plum that make a pleasing complement to the chili's savoriness, which is in turn accented by the wine's hint of cedar and cinnamon flavors.

And since chili is particularly well-suited for leftovers—and arguably even better the next day—you might want to grab two bottles.

Weeknight Chili

Pair with a Tempranillo-dominant blend from Spain's Rioja region, such as Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Reserva 2013 (92 points, $18).

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
Approximate food costs: $30


  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3/4 cup unsalted chicken stock (or water)
  • 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 7-ounce can chipotles in adobo sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • Optional toppings: crushed tortilla chips, sliced avocado, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream

1. Set a Dutch oven over medium heat and heat the oil. Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for 6 to 8 minutes until soft and just beginning to brown.

2. Increase heat to medium-high, push the onions to the sides as much as possible and add ground beef. Season with salt and cook for 3 or so minutes until browned, breaking it up with the wooden spoon as you go. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for one minute more.

3. Add chicken stock, canned tomatoes, 1/2 of the can of chipotles with their sauce (or more if you prefer a higher spice level), cumin and the bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Add beans and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every so often, until the flavors have melded and the chili has thickened.

4. Remove and discard bay leaf. Taste chili and adjust for seasoning. Garnish with any or all of the following: Tortilla chips, avocado slices, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream. Serves 4-6.

Recipes steak-beef Cooking Pairings Red Wines Tempranillo rioja Spain

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