Craving Comfort Food? This Ginger & Molasses Chili is Exactly What You Need

Little is better than a hearty bowl of chili loaded up with all of your favorite toppings. And this recipe might just be the most comforting you've ever made.

Photo: Avery Stumm

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I love making chili – there, I said it!  While the life of any chef turns into a parade of high concept thoughts on food and invention, we most often revert back to the basics, and true comfort food when cooking for ourselves and those closest to us. 

Chili is one such dish for me.  Not only do I have countless memories of the grade school varieties, which were basically BBQ sauce with ground beef, but also the more elevated versions that are as creative as one can dream.   

I often keep chili in the freezer for emergency weekend meals, with just the addition of a poached egg, some fresh chopped chiles and scallions, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt and I’ve got an incredibly flavorful and comforting meal that is filling and very rich in protein and fiber. 

Use any ground meat you’d like; I use a higher fat ground beef usually an 85% lean to 15% fat.  This really allows the flavors to meld and cook together while the seasoning and vegetables soften.  I’m also fond of adding ground cinnamon to my chili, as this gives a nostalgic nod back to those Midwestern chilis that are a bit milder and softer than the Southwestern varieties I grew up loving.  

And before you start cooking this chili, here’s a tip: Cook at a high heat in stages, allowing each layer to build colors, while the liquid reduces and flavors intensify before adding the next ingredient.

Ginger & Molasses Chili with Red Beans

60 min


  • 2 lbs ground meat
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • ½ lb carrots, minced
  • 1 - 2 jalapeños, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh grated ginger
  • 1 small pinch of fresh cilantro, chopped coarsely
  • 1 can pinto, kidney or red beans (optional), drained and rinsed
  • 2 tbsp Mexican seasoning or taco spice blend
  • 1 (6-8 oz) can tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp molasses (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • black pepper and salt, to taste
  • crumbled feta or cotija cheese, (optional)


  1. Bring a heavy pot to high heat, then add in meat with a splash of oil to get a nice sizzle going
  2. Scrape bottom of pot while cooking meat til “browned”, and a bit of fat remains in pot (approximately 15 minutes)
  3. Add in all the minced vegetables, and cook until the carrots and onions soften, about 10 minutes
  4. Add in the cinnamon and taco seasoning or Mexican spice blend, fold into mixture while scraping bottom of pan
  5. Add in tomato paste, continue to scrape bottom of pan and edges of the pot
  6. Add in soy sauce and molasses or brown sugar while mixing
  7. Pour in enough water to cover the mixture, cover and bring to boil, then reduce heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes
  8. Gently fold in the canned beans, let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  9. Taste, adjust salt to your taste

Top your chili before serving

Scoop into bowls, top with fresh chopped chiles, lime wedges and scallions or cilantro – and don’t forget a big scoop of plain yogurt or sour cream. As a final finishing touch, you can sprinkle some crumbled feta or cotija cheese over top, if you’d like.

Chef Biju’s tips

  • This chili can take a fantastic turn with some coconut milk and a splash of fish sauce added, then ladled over steamed rice. 
  • I use my Cuisinart when chopping base veg for soups, chilis and curries. This not only saves time, but also keeps everything approximately the same size, which makes for an even bite and consistent texture for the saucy part. 
  • Add olive oil as needed if you’re working with really lean meats like ground turkey or chicken.

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