Identity Crisis? Not in Flavor!

Is it chili… meatballs… stew? This mash-up implies an identity crisis, but no way José, Chili Meatballs in Black Bean and Tomato Sauce is jam-packed with flavor and melds together seamlessly. It’s a rich and warming Mexican take on meatballs and is perfect fare for cool weather dining—which is exactly what Mother Nature was dishing out on the raw and nasty day(s) I concocted this meal.

IMG_8929Instead of topping with sour cream (which I didn’t have on hand), I added shredded sharp cheddar.

Like other legumes, such as peanuts, peas, and lentils, black beans are prized for their high protein and fiber content. They are a real powerhouse and in addition to this meal tasting fantastic, the beans add some health benefits which include the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and a reduced risk of certain types of cancer.

Consuming black beans can also aid in digestion and the regulation of the body’s blood sugar levels. They can be beneficial for various nervous system functions, can reduce the chances of birth defects, neutralize the negative effects of sulfites, and even prevent impotence in men—hey, just sayin’.

Based on a few reviewers comments about the flavor profile of the meatballs themselves, I included a teaspoon of ground cumin to the mix (noted below). And even though we own multiple types of vinegars, malt wasn’t one of them so I substituted red wine vinegar. Then for garnish, instead of sour cream, I added shredded sharp cheddar, why not, it’s part chili, right? We also have at least a half dozen types of rice in the pantry so hubby suggested we appropriately use the Valencian Spanish short grain variety.

Since it is a bit time consuming, go ahead and prep the meatballs the day before if possible. Once rolled into balls, refrigerate until ready to cook. On meal day, I found it simpler to brown the meatballs in a skillet, and once removed, you can use the same skillet (do not wipe clean) to crisp the ground chorizo. Sauté the onion and garlic and remaining ingredients in a separate large, oven-proof, heavy pot that will go into the oven in Step 8.

All-in-all, definitely worth the effort. And just like most chilis and stews which tend to be even better when reheated, we were thrilled to have leftovers!


Chili Meatballs in Black Bean and Tomato Sauce

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 1 ounce dried ancho or other large dried red chiles
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cloves garlic, divided
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander seeds
  • Sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon malt vinegar (substitute red wine or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1/2 cup beef stock
  • 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 28-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (or 2, 14-ounce cans)
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 7-ounces dried chorizo, skin removed and roughly chopped
  • Steamed rice and sour cream, to serve


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Place the ancho chiles and boiling water in a bowl and allow to stand for 10–15 minutes or until soft. Cool slightly, drain, remove seeds and roughly chop the chiles, reserving the liquid. Set aside.
  3. Place the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl and mix well to combine. Set aside for 5 minutes or until the milk is absorbed.
  4. Add the beef, egg, half the garlic, cilantro, coriander seeds, cumin, salt and pepper and mix well to combine. Using wet hands, roll tablespoon-portions of the mixture into balls. Makes about 36 meatballs. (Can do Steps 1-4 up to a day beforehand.)
  5. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, shallow, heavy-based ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Cook the meatballs in batches, turning frequently, for 5–7 minutes or until browned.
  6. Remove the meatballs from the pan and set aside. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil, onion and remaining garlic to the pan and cook for 5–7 minutes or until lightly golden.
  7. Add the tomato paste, sugar and vinegar and cook for 1 minute.
  8. Add the beef stock, tomatoes, beans, reserved chopped chile, reserved soaking liquid, paprika, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, return the meatballs to the pan and transfer to the oven.
  9. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes or until the sauce is reduced and the meatballs are cooked through.
  10. Meanwhile, place the chorizo in a food processor and process until finely chopped.
  11. Heat the remaining oil in a medium non-stick frying pan over high heat. Add the chorizo and cook, stirring frequently, for 5–6 minutes or until crispy.
  12. Serve the meatballs over steamed rice and top with the crispy chorizo and sour cream. Or, as in our case, some shredded sharp cheddar.

Recipe adapted from one on by Donna Hay


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