Surprise Ingredient(s) Chili Recipe

By Lucy Morel


Over the past few years, I’ve found myself accumulating a lot of random sauces, condiments and spices I’ve ended up only using once or twice.  I imagine you might be the same way. Like me, you probably bought a bottle of hoisin sauce for a special recipe that required one tablespoon, and then you never used it again. Or maybe you also have a giant bottle of Sriracha you don’t know how to finish. I have found the solution for all the bottles you and your roommates might have stacked in your cabinet or stuffed into your fridge: chili.

Chili seems impressive to people but it is pretty easy to make, and inexpensive. You can use a bunch of canned ingredients you already have, vegetables you bought too many of, and of course, a splash of random sauce to make it interesting. Not to be all “mystery meat of the day is___” or anything, but chili can be secretly enhanced by the most random of ingredients.

The best part of chili is that it is easily modifiable. Once you get a feel for what spices might go into your batch, you can add a bit of cayenne or chop up a chipotle pepper to throw in there.

Below I have listed one of my favorite modified Martha Stewart Recipes. I added more spices and a dash of some chipotle enchilada/taco sauce I found in the fridge. It added just the oomph needed. Besides Chili powder and cumin, all other spices are optional and can be modified. If you don’t like black beans, pick another type of beans. Impress yourself and your friends through recipe modification!

Lucy’s Surprise Ingredient Chili

Serves 6-8
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 and ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon cayenne
a big pinch of pepper and salt
2 carrots, chopped
1 zucchini chopped (optional)
¾ cup (6 oz) tomato paste
between a dash- tablespoon (whatever you would like) of whatever hot sauce/enchilada sauce/experimental sauce you might happen to find in your house.
1 can black beans
1 can pinto, kidney, garbanzo or another type of bean: whatever you might like or have around. (only add two cans in total).
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 cup water
1 cup frozen corn

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Dice onion and garlic and thrown in when oil is hot (wavy). Cook until onion is translucent (around 4 mins), and then add your spices + salt and pepper (technically spices, but I view them separately since they are necessary in almost anything).

Cook until fragrant (1 min), then add your chopped carrots and optional zucchini. Add tomato paste too. Cook until tomato paste turns a darker red, around 3-4 minutes. Stir in beans and diced tomatoes. Add 1 cup water and then turn heat up a bit, bringing your chili to a boil. If it seems too thick right now, add a little bit of water.

Reduce to a simmer after you have reached a boil and cook until thickened to how you like your chili, and the vegetables are tender but not too soft. Add frozen corn towards the end (since it is frozen it will just need to warm up in the mix). Serve with appropriate sides (chips, rice, cheese, salsa).

Post by Lucy Morel. Photo and Recipe modified from