Cozy up to a bowl of black bean tomatillo chili this spring! Made with char roasted poblano peppers, tomatillos, and spices, this stew is full of flavor without needing to simmer for hours.
This recipe was inspired by a bowl of tomatillo black bean chili I had at a cafe in Whitefish, Montana last summer. Even eaten on a 95-degree day, it was good enough to remember. I had nothing to go off of except for the name, so I invented a completely new recipe using poblano peppers I grew in my garden. I don’t think it resembles the original; it’s even better!
And no, it’s not pretty, but anything can be beautiful with a nice avocado and red onion garnish 🙂
Where to find the ingredients for this tomatillo chili
Tomatillo may sound like an unusual ingredient to track down, and I used to only get them in my CSA farm share. However, in recent years, I’ve noticed them at grocery stores, and they’re fairly inexpensive too. I found the ones for this recipe at Whole Foods and it cost less than 2 bucks for the amount I needed.
Everything else in this vegetarian stew should be pretty easy to find, but if you have trouble sourcing poblano peppers you can try using another type of mild green pepper, adjusting the amount to taste. If you use something like jalapeno be careful about the heat level before adding all of it to the dish.
How to use tomatillo in chili
If you’ve cooked with tomatillos before there’s a good chance you used them in salsa. But tomatillo is also amazing in chili.
I’ve seen a few recipes that have you chop up the tomatillos and cook them in the pot with the other chili ingredients. In my opinion your results will be better if you cook them separately first, and then throw them in the pot to simmer.
Tomatillos really benefit from being roasted or broiled in the oven at high heat, to get a little bit of char on them. It helps balance out their extreme tanginess and improves their texture, which unroasted can be a little slimy.
In this recipe, the tomatillos, along with the poblano peppers, are roasted until soft and just slightly blackened. Then, you can either chop them finely with a nice sharp knife, or throw them in a blender or food processor. This will break up the (edible) skins and release their bright and smoky flavor.
Tomatillo chili variations
This recipe as written doesn’t make a proper green chili, since it also uses tomatoes, and black beans. If that’s what you’re after, you could try omitting the tomatoes, swapping in white beans for the black beans, and adding a bunch of chopped cilantro leaves and stems.
This isn’t a super long-simmered stew, so I wouldn’t recommend throwing it in the slow cooker. There just wouldn’t be much benefit. A lot of the flavor comes from the roasted vegetables anyway.
If your poblanos are less spicy than average and you’re looking for more of a kick, adding a few dashes of green hot sauce would be wonderful in this.
Any vegetarian protein would probably be a nice addition. Some vegetables that I think would taste good added to this black bean tomatillo chili are zucchini, potato, or green bell pepper.
Black Bean Tomatillo Chili
- 1 lb tomatillos
- 5 medium poblano peppers
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 red onion diced
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes (or use 1 and 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomato)
- 1 14-oz. can black beans rinsed and drained (1 and 3/4 cups cooked black beans)
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup light beer (optional)
- 1 tbsp cornmeal or masa harina (optional, to thicken)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove the husks from the tomatillos, rinse and pat them dry, and slice them in half. Put them on the baking sheet along with the whole poblano peppers. Roast for about 20-25 minutes, depending on size, or until the vegetables are collapsed and browned in places. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the red onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and slightly browned, 5-8 minutes.
- Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 60 seconds. Stir in the cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, and black pepper, and cook for another 60 seconds or until fragrant. Add the diced tomatoes, black beans, and vegetable broth, and bring to a simmer.
- Remove the skins and seeds from the roasted poblano peppers. Finely chop the peppers and the tomatillos (or use a food processor to pulverize them if you prefer). Add them to the pot of chili along with the beer if using.
- Simmer the chili for about 15 minutes, or until cooked to your liking. Add salt to taste. If using, in a small bowl, mix together the cornmeal or masa harina with a small amount of liquid to make a smooth slurry. Add this mixture to the pot of chili and simmer steadily for 5 minutes more, until thickened slightly. Serve hot with garnishes of choice.
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