yam & bean orange-scented chili

sweet potato bean chili

It seems a bit foolish to whip up a big bowful of chili when spring is here. And that’s the wonderful thing about Vancouver – buds and blossoms begin to show their colours in February and by March and into April it’s a thing of beauty. Saturday morning we hopped on our bikes and went out for breakfast and the weather was incredible – no jackets required. And when I went for a run later that night, with every breath I seemed to inhale every fragrant flower within my neighbourhood. Spring is here.

And yet here I am posting about beans and yams – winter fare. When I went to the Asian grocer down the street yesterday, everyone was clamouring for the bags of pea shoots, yet I stood in line with an orange and some green onions. Oh well, spring will come into my cooking soon enough. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, work-wise, and I needed something comforting of the highest order. This chili set the bar. It’s sweet, spicy, smokey and hearty and utterly, perfectly, delicious.

orange scented chili

I used dried vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo that I had purchased last June when we swung by their retail shop while on holiday. Some people might panic at the thought of using dried beans when cans just seem so easy – I know, I used to be like that too. But it’s quite simple, really. That morning, I soaked the beans on the counter just after I made my morning coffee. They sat covered in water, swelling up slowly, for a few hours. Then, I drained and rinsed them and threw the beans in a pot with water and a couple of dried bay leaves and let them simmer for about an hour until tender. I used some of the cooking water to cook the yams and carrots – just use less broth if you choose to go this route. And there’s no need to fear any “ill affects” to using the bean water, if you know what I mean.

Despite the relatively simple ingredients, the flavour of this chili is a knock-out. The orange juice and zest provide a citrus punch that brings out such a complex bite. The orange flavour also helps to cut through the almost dusky, smokey flavour from the chili powder and chipotle. I loved it and urge you not to skip the orange! As for the addition of yams, sweet potatoes can be subbed in here instead if that’s what you’ve got. However, I loved the bright orange colour from the yams and carrots and even the ribbons of orange zest. It’s nice when you’ve got a chili that you can eat with your eyes as well.

vegan chili

34 comments to “yam & bean orange-scented chili”

  1. 1
    monika   March 28, 2011 at 10:54 am

    All my favourite things in one bowl! Spring has not quite sprung yet in Toronto, so I’m happy to feast my eyes on the lovely colours of this chili while I wait…

  2. 2
    Eva   March 28, 2011 at 11:07 am

    This looks delicious, I love yams and I’m having a bit of an obsession with them right now, so your recipe couldn’t have come at a better time! I adore the weather right now too and the fact it is light out until 730PM! But it is still chilly enough to have a nice bowl of chili in the evening 🙂

  3. 3
    Ashlae   March 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

    I actually prefer dried beans to the canned alternative – they’re soooo much cheaper and don’t have that weird aluminum taste that some canned beans have. Also, I love that there are yams in this chili! And orange! YUM

  4. 4
    Maddie   March 28, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    I’ve been using blood orange zest in recipes like there’s no tomorrow—so thanks for giving me an additional excuse to do so. 🙂 Also, it’s decidedly NOT spring here, so I’m still on the chili bandwagon! Thanks for this, Jeannette.

  5. 5
    Jacqui   March 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    I love chile pretty much all times of the year, except for maybe hot hot summer days! The orange is quite a creative addition, I’ll have to try some in my next batch.

  6. 6
    Joanne   March 29, 2011 at 3:17 am

    I think it’s colder here than it was pre-spring so a good comforting bowl of chili is definitely called for. Love that this is vegetarian and has some of my favorite orange veggies!

  7. 7
    Bijoux   March 29, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    Looks and sounds delicious! I’m sure this dish will come in useful for me many time before the heatwaves of TO arrive. For instance, we are expecting wet snow on Friday so…perfect timing for a comforting bowl of chili!

  8. 8
    Rivki Locker (Ordinary Blogger)   March 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I personally can eat chili any time of year. And here in New Jersey it looks like we’ll be eating it for many more weeks. 🙁
    Anyway, this recipe looks wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  9. 9
    maija   March 29, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    I just cooked up some Rancho Gordo beans this week, too – I think mine were also vaquero! They’d been staring me down in the pantry & I kept putting it off. It was surprising how fast they cooked up – I actually skipped the soaking & just put them on a good simmer for about 1 – 1.25 hrs. We had some in burritos, but this looks like a good way to use up the rest – love all the other ingredients. And, Portland is STILL chili-chilly, too 🙂

  10. 10
    Kristina   March 29, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Yum, this looks amazing! I love sweet potatoes/yams in chili!

  11. 11
    Robert   March 29, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    I just made this using heirloom organic tomatoes, my own stock, black beans and a blood orange; those last two contrasted nicely. The citrus makes this a spring-worthy chili. We’ll see what my wife thinks of it when she gets home from her spinning class.

    Starting from scratch with beans has the added benefit of zero sodium. By contrast, the can of black beans in my larder has 1500 mg of sodium (2/3 t salt). I used a pressure cooker to reduce bean cooking time from 1 hour to 5 minutes.

  12. 12
    kickpleat   March 29, 2011 at 8:59 pm

    Thanks Monika, the colours are great but the taste is outstanding!

    Yes, Eva! The weather turned chilly today so this bowl is definitely warming. Oh spring, where did you go? At least there is chili.

    Ash, me too, but sometimes convenience wins out.

    Maddie, use them up until they disappear from the markets! And if it makes you feel better, the spring went away today. Sigh.

    Jacqui, the orange works so nicely with the beans and the yams. It’s a great contrast. I loved this chili so much!

    Enjoy this Joanne, and take comfort that the weather here has turned too.

    Oh, what a bummer, Bijoux. It’s cooler here and rainy, but thankfully no snow. I’m sure you’ll love this chili!

    Thanks Rivki, enjoy the chili – it’s a good one, even if spring hasn’t arrived!

    Maija, I still have another packet of their beans (can’t remember what kind they are though). I do love them and they cook so quickly! It got chilly here today – great for chili eating 🙂

    Thanks Kristina!

    Robert, sounds definitely spring-worthy. I’m sure your wife will love it. And good to see that a pressure cooker is a worthy investment! Beans in a snap!

  13. 13
    Mandy   March 30, 2011 at 7:08 am

    Wow, love it, especially cause it’s combined with sour cream!

  14. 14
    Cory: {relish}   March 30, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    I have to tell you right off the bat….chili right now does NOT seem silly. Forecast for NYC tonight through the weekend: SNOW!!!

    This sounds perfect to whip up whilst hibernating in April. Meh.

    Love the sweet potatoes in here! I would not have thought of that but sounds so good. Makes me think of adding them into white chili as well?

    🙂 Thanks for your nice response to my email as well!!

  15. 15
    Rocky Mountain Woman   March 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    It isn’t spring here yet.

    Today it is snowing and this looks like the perfect thing for dinner!

  16. 16
    kickpleat   March 31, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Mandy, the sour cream takes it over the edge.

    Cory, so sorry to hear that there is snow in your future!! Yes, the sweet potatoes are unexpected, but work really well!

    Looks like a longer winter than an early spring, RMW. At least there’s chili for dinner, perhaps 🙂

  17. 17
    redmenace   March 31, 2011 at 7:37 pm

    I think it’s absolutely fair to continue eating this was in the NW for another month or so. Right? Spring is here, but we still need to get the chill of that oh-so-damp winter out of our bones. I think this recipe looks wonderful! I am a big lover of chili. xo

  18. 18
    Ange   April 2, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    That first photo is especially splendid.

  19. 19
    TheGourmetCoffeeGuy   April 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Chili is a wonderful dish just about all year long. Our favorite recipe has many vegetables but I find your recipe very appetizing because of the use of yams and orange juice. Have never added those two ingredients to the chili but will do so next time we cook it. Fruit juice is great in recipes, we add lime juice to a chicken corn chowder recipe and the result is fantastic. Without a doubt, your recommendation for yam and orange juice will make our next chili batch quite special. Thank you for sharing. Very nice photos, they illustrate the recipe so well.

  20. 20
    Sweets by Vicky   April 3, 2011 at 4:35 am

    I was starting to get a wee bit sick of the usual lunch options I stash in my lunchbox to work. This is such a good do ahead recipe and comforting too. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  21. 21
    SixBalloons   April 3, 2011 at 8:53 am

    I agree with you on the dried beans front. I’ve been trying to incorporate them into my cooking. A nice jar of dried beans takes up a lot less space than those clunky cans, I figure. And the price difference!

  22. 22
    Kimberley   April 5, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    I meant to comment on this, like, a week ago, because I am totally enamored with the idea of yams and orange in chili. Yum!

  23. 23
    kickpleat   April 12, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    Thanks redmenace! It’s perfect for this chilly spring – but I’m sure hoping things warm up quickly 🙂

    Aw, thank you Ange.

    Thanks GCG!

    Indeed, Vicky, it’s perfect for do-ahead lunches!

    SixBalloons, I’m a new convert to dry beans. They are tastier and they don’t take that much longer to prepare. And they freeze well too once they’re cooked.

    Thanks Kimberley!

  24. 24
    Delyth   April 18, 2011 at 11:42 am

    It’s interesting to read through your comments on making this chili, it’s almost as though as soon as April comes around everyone feels that they should be cooking like Spring has arrived. Considering the unpredictable weather here in BC, I say cook whatever you feel like eating whenever you want(with seasonal food though, of course). I also see that you have some variations on chili which all sound interesting and delicious. I thought I would share my recent chili variation with you from a recent post on my own blog.

  25. 25
    kickpleat   April 18, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks Delyth for sharing!

  26. 26
    Ashley   May 16, 2011 at 7:00 am

    I looove yams and beans in soup together. And what a great way to use your beans. I’ve been wanting to try those Rancho Gordo beans.

  27. 27
    Lisa K   October 21, 2011 at 10:23 am

    I made this last night for dinner and it turned out amazing! Instead of yams I used sweet potatoes, I skipped the chipotle powder and used kidney beans (my favourite). As well, I served it with a loaf of french bread that I made garlic bread with. Yum! Can’t wait for leftovers tonight!

  28. 28
    Pam   January 4, 2012 at 6:50 am

    Made this last night with sweet potatoes and black beans (done in my pressure cooker). Thank you so much for sharing! It was absolutely delicious. You’re right about the orange flavour complementing it so wonderfully. Even my husband, who usually doesn’t like fruit in his savoury food, loved it and commented on how essential it was.

  29. 29
    Ashley   January 10, 2013 at 5:04 am

    Hi there! Just dropping you a note to say that I love your chili recipe {which I made a big batch of this week}, and am touting it on my blog today. Thanks for a delicious recipe! I can always count on you for healthy ideas. 🙂


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