I am a big fan of chili. It's perfect in every season, offering warm comfort on cold days and a spicy contrast to potato salads and corn on the cob during hot summer picnics. One of the things I love most about chili is that there's such a wide variety of recipes, especially vegetarian recipes. You could try a new recipe a day for the entire year and never get bored. This particular recipe underscores why. I love mole sauce, but I would never have thought to turn it into a chili recipe. The zucchini, beans and tomato add structure, the mole adds richness with chocolate and peppers, and the splash of orange adds that extra little something that ties everything together. I also love a bit of a kick from the cayenne pepper. This is a new favorite, without a doubt.
This recipe is adapted from Gourmet.

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Cook time: 30 minutes 

Total time: 45 minutes 

Yield: 4-6 servings

Pinto Bean Mole Chili with Orange Zest


  • 2 medium dried ancho chiles
  • 1 dried chipotle chile
  • 1 teaspoon toasted cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 medium zucchini and/or yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (reserve juice)
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
Cooking Directions
  1. Slit the chiles lengthwise, stem and seed them, and add them to a skillet over medium heat. Toast them for about 30 seconds or until they're hot and a bit pliable, turning them every so often. Tear them into small pieces and add them to a grinder or mini food processor. Add the cumin seeds and pulse everything together until finely ground. Add in the oregano, cinnamon, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Pulse 2-3 more times to combine.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat, and add the onions. Cook until the onions begin to soften, then add in the garlic and cook an additional minute. Add in the chile spice mix and stir to coat the onions.
  3. Add in the zucchini, zest, orange juice, cocoa powder, tomatoes with their juice, and water. Cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the beans and simmer 5 minutes or until the beans are heated through. Season with salt. Serve and enjoy!

chilis in food processor

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Jaymi Heimbuch ( @jaymiheimbuch ) focuses on wildlife conservation and animal news from her home base in San Francisco.

Pinto Bean Mole Chili with Orange Zest
The smokey chocolate flavors of mole provide a wonderful undertone to this chili dish.