This amazingly decadent chocolate lamb chili is made with chopped lamb stew meat, a mix of beans and smoky spices. The flavor is a bit reminiscent of Mexican mole sauce making this lamb chili recipe one of kind!
This post is sponsored by American Lamb. All content and opinions are my own.
Chili is one of my favorite hearty meals to enjoy in the colder months.
It’s a comforting meal that I almost always have the ingredients for on hand and better yet, doesn’t take hours of simmering on the stove like a stew or soup can.
So as Valentine’s Day approaches and we either throw chocolate at everything or obsess over red velvet treats, I decided this chocolate lamb chili recipe was perfectly fitting.
For what it’s worth, I think red velvet is highly overrated. It’s basically just red food dye. I truly don’t understand the obsession…
Chocolate on the other hand, dark chocolate specifically, is something I literally eat every day.
If there’s a lunch or dinner where I don’t grab a square (or two) of whatever dark chocolate bar is in my pantry, it’s an anomaly.
So I was totally down with throwing some chocolate into this lamb chili recipe.
The result is a mole-like chili made with hearty chunks of lamb stew meat, smoky spices, a mixture of beans (pinto, black and kidney) in a thick tomato sauce.
It’s honestly my ideal kind of chili and perfect for a Valentine’s Day dinner at home!
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE CHOCOLATE LAMB CHILI
American lamb – I’ve made a lot of chili recipes before like brisket chili, short rib chili and even vegetarian kabocha squash chili but with all the lamb recipes on this site, I’d never made a lamb chili!
I’m once again partnering with American Lamb this year for Lamb Lover’s Month (details below) and using some tender, local American lamb stew meat is the perfect base for this lamb chili recipe.
While chili usually uses ground meat, cutting up stew meat into small pieces brings a certain heartiness that ground meat just can’t achieve.
If you prefer ground lamb, feel free to use it instead of the stew meat here or, try this lamb bolognese recipe instead!
Garlic & onions – the base to any good chili, soup or stew!
Spices – for a nice smoky chili undertone we use chili powder, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, a bay leaf, salt and pepper in the chili. The cinnamon and nutmeg are a bit unique for chili but pair really nicely with the chocolate.
Cocoa powder – unsweetened cocoa powder/cacao powder is added to the chili along with the spices for an underlying chocolaty base.
Tomato paste – some recipes for chili use tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes but I always prefer the combination of diced tomatoes and tomato paste in my chili recipes for the perfect thickness.
Diced tomatoes – 28 ounces of diced canned tomatoes adds to the heartiness of this lamb chili as it simmers for 30 minutes.
Lamb or beef broth – If you can find lamb broth, that’s great! If not, just use beef broth (preferably organic/grass fed). Just using 1 cup really makes this a thick and hearty textured chili in the end.
Beans – I chose to use a tri-bean blend for this chili recipe that included pinto, black and kidney beans. You can use the same (I found this blend at Walmart actually!) or, any one of those individual bean varieties.
Bittersweet chocolate – this is the ingredient that really makes this chocolate lamb chili recipe. As the chopped chocolate melts into the cooked chili, it takes on a decadent mole vibe that sets this recipe apart from all other chili.
Garnishes – to finish off the chocolate chili, fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños, sliced green onions and/or avocado really make the flavors pop. The freshness from the garnishes perfectly balance out the smoky savory flavors from the chocolate chili.
USING AMERICAN LAMB FOR THE CHILI
When purchasing lamb for recipes, I’m always partial to American lamb.
The flavor can’t be beat, it has a tenderness that simply can’t be found in other lamb and it’s local to the states.
American lamb ranchers pride themselves on preserving the land their sheep graze.
They utilize practices that protect the environment and improve the pastures to help ensure future generations success.
Their values are ones I feel good supporting and their lamb makes for the best tasting recipes!
I’m so excited to add to the collection this year with this American lamb chocolate chili recipe!
HOW TO MAKE LAMB CHILI
To start, season the lamb meat generously with Kosher salt and pepper.
Heat some ghee or olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the lamb to the pot and cook until browned on all sides.
Remove the lamb to a plate with a slotted spoon and drain the excess liquid left in the pot.
Return the pot to the stove and add some more ghee or olive oil. Add the onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened.
Add the spices, bay leaf, cocoa powder and tomato paste, stir until well combined and cook for a minute until fragrant.
Return the browned lamb to the pot and stir until combined.
Add the diced tomatoes and broth. Stir everything together and bring the mixture to a simmer over high heat.
Once simmering, cover the pot with a lid leaving it slightly askew, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the lid, add the beans and the chopped chocolate. Stir to combine and cook for 5 more minutes.
Garnish the chili with chopped fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños if you like heat, sliced green onions and/or some ripe avocado slices before serving.
WHAT DOES CHOCOLATE IN CHILI TASTE LIKE?
If you love a good Mexican mole sauce and you love the heartiness and thick texture of chili, you will love the addition of chocolate to this lamb chili recipe.
The cocoa powder and chopped chocolate bring the decadence of a mole sauce while the smoky spices, beans, tomatoes and chopped lamb meat have the chili vibe you crave.
Some chili recipes can be on the watery tomato broth end of the spectrum.
This is not one of those recipes.
When I say this lamb chili is thick and hearty, it truly epitomizes both of those things.
In fact, that’s why I love it so much. It fulfills a comfort food craving like none other.
And better yet, it does so without any need for cheese, cream or other indulgences.
This chili is just chock full of wholesome, healthy ingredients. It’s protein packed, loaded with fiber and naturally gluten-free.
HOW TO SERVE, STORE AND FREEZE LAMB CHILI
If you’re someone who loves cornbread with your chili I suggest trying this vegan gluten-free cornbread recipe. It’s the perfect cornbread, not too sweet, not too dry or crumbly but not overly moist either. I truly love that recipe!
If you’re a pasta with chili person, go for it! I’ve never done that pairing but I know some like it.
Just pick your favorite starch or vegetable. But honestly, this lamb chili is so hearty, you could easily enjoy it alone in a bowl!
Any leftover chili can be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
If you want to freeze the chili, again, use a freezer safe air-tight container and store it in the freezer for up to 2 months.
I hope you give this recipe a try for Valentine’s Day. It’s the perfect stay in recipe for a romantic dinner at home!
MORE LAMB RECIPES TO TRY:
Chocolate Lamb Chili
- 2 tablespoons ghee or extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds American lamb stew meat, cut into small bite sized pieces (about ¼”)
- Kosher salt & pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons coriander
- 2 tablespoons cacao powder, or unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup beef or lamb broth
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 28 ounces diced tomatoes
- 2 15 ounce cans kidney beans or mixture of kidney, black or pinto beans
- 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños and/or sliced avocado for serving
- Add 1 tablespoon ghee to a large pot/Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
- Season lamb with salt and pepper then add to the pot and cook until browned. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon, drain excess liquid and return pot to the stove.
- Add remaining tablespoon of ghee to the pot.
Place the onions and garlic in the pot and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add the spice mixture, bay leaf, cacao powder
and tomato paste. Stir until combined and cook for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
- Transfer the browned lamb back into the pot and stir to combine.
- Stir in the diced tomatoes and broth, bring the
mixture to a simmer then lower the heat and cook with the lid on but slightly askew for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lid, add the beans and chocolate,
stir to combine and cook for another 5 minutes until the chocolate is melted and the beans are warmed through.
- Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt
- Serve with fresh cilantro, sliced jalapeños and/or avocado.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.