Summer Chili Recipe with Fresh Shell Beans

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Photo by Barbara Damrosch
Shell bean chili, made with fresh shelled beans in summer, takes much less time than winter chili made with dried beans.
About 6 servings SERVINGS


  • 3 cups fresh shelled beans
  • 1-1/2 pounds plum tomatoes
  • 8 habanero peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp garlic, grated or mashed
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp powdered cloves
  • 1 tsp powdered cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1-1/2 cups ground beef
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 6 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
  • 4 scallions, chopped


  • Simmer the beans in enough water to cover them for 10 to 20 minutes until tender.
  • Drain and set aside.
  • Slice off and discard the stem ends of the tomatoes and put the tomatoes in a bowl.
  • Pour boiling water over them (to cover) and let them sit for 2 minutes, or until the skins start to split.
  • Slip off and discard the skins.
  • Chop the tomatoes coarsely and reserve them in the bowl.
  • To make a chili paste, combine the peppers, garlic, cocoa powder, cloves, cumin, paprika, 1/4 cup of olive oil, and 1/2 tsp salt in a blender or mini-processor. Blend until smooth.
  • In a large stovetop casserole dish or Dutch oven, sauté the chopped onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil over low heat until translucent and slightly browned (about 10 minutes).
  • Add the chili paste and the beef. Stir with a spatula over medium heat, breaking up the beef until it’s no longer pink.
  • Fold in the tomatoes and beans and stir over low heat until all the ingredients are hot and thoroughly mixed.
  • Serve hot in the casserole dish or a large, shallow bowl. Pass the sour cream, cheddar cheese, and scallions for garnishing as desired. Looking for other sweet corn and shell bean recipes for your fresh corn and shell beans grown at home? Summer Fresh Corn Chowder Recipe Rainbow Succotash Salad Recipe
    Barbara Damrosch enjoys fresh summer corn and beans right in the garden at her home, Four Season Farm, in Maine. She’s the author of The Garden Primer and co-author of The Four Season Farm Gardener’s Cookbook, both available at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS bookstore.

Chili made from dried beans is great for winter, when simmering it for a few hours brings heat to the kitchen. But this summer chili recipe, cooked with fresh shell beans, takes less time. Make it even spicier if you want, or make it milder and provide a bottle of hot sauce along with the other garnishes. Pass bowls of sour cream, grated cheese, and scallions as chili condiments for a festive and filling meal.