Written by Christine Miksis
Whether you’re a cilantro lover or a cilantro hater, you’ll appreciate this warm and filling black bean chili. Adding cilantro to finish the dish is up to you!
Who knew the question “Do you like cilantro?” would stir up such a commotion? Certainly not a cilantro lover like me.
“Ugh, it tastes like soap. Please don’t put it anywhere near me, let alone in the chili!” one friend sneered upon answering the question. After this open declaration of repulsion towards the Chinese parsley, I started to frequently notice more and more haters.
I was intrigued, and so I Googled. What I found was that the cilantro segregation was much greater than what I had actually suspected.
They all covered the controversial topic fairly recently due to findings at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, where scientific research on smell and taste is conducted.
Scientists there began a study on the smell and taste of cilantro to figure out why there’s such a fuss over the herb.
They were able to separate the different scent components of cilantro for study participants to smell individually, and found that people who dislike cilantro are unable to detect the “pleasant” scent component that those who love cilantro can sniff.
However, people who like cilantro are still able to smell the “soapy, unpleasant” scent component, yet still have an affinity towards the herb.
The study concluded that generally the smell determines whether we like or dislike the herb. Specifically, the inability to detect the pleasant scent component of cilantro and only detect the unpleasant soapy one is the reason why certain individuals dislike it.
Whether you’re averse or not, cilantro is a common ingredient on menus in Latin America and Asia. In the U.S., it is usually associated with Mexican and Southwestern dishes enjoyed in the summer with margaritas.
However, I’m happy to pack up the cilantro and transition it over to Snuggie season this November, as I’ve recently discovered it also goes quite well with black bean chili.
My chili recipe has been tweaked and edited over the past two years, but I just recently discovered the addition of cilantro made it perfect. However, this black bean chili can certainly stand alone for those who are anti-cilantro.
If you really like the herb, the ingredient combined with a squeeze of lime juice lends a summery dimension to the fall and winter comfort staple, not to mention a pretty pop of color for presentation as well.
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or olive oil
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers, chopped
- 1 large garlic clove, minced
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
- 1 pound ground beef or turkey
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup stout or porter beer, or beef broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
- 1 jalapeño, chopped
- cilantro, whole or chopped
- lime wedges
- plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
- shredded Cheddar, Colby Jack, or Monterey Jack cheese
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat until shimmering.
- Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not browned.
- Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin, and salt and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the beef or turkey and cook, stirring to break the meat into smaller pieces, until most of the pink is no longer visible.
- Stir in the tomatoes, beans, beer, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and jalapeño pepper.
- Cover and bring to a simmer.
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
- Divide between bowls and garnish with a handful of cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice per serving.
- If you wish, add a dollop of Greek yogurt or sour cream and shredded cheese of your choice.