Mumma Jacks Best Ever Chilli

This chilli is adapted from a beef chilli recipe by Gordon Ramsay. I simply left out the beef and halved the wine to make it cheaper – plus, of course, Mr Ramsay doesn’t use a tin of cheap baked beans in his version! I’ve tweaked and fiddled with it so much over the years that now it’s not Gordon’s chilli, it’s Mumma Jack’s.

Serves 4

1 x 400g tin of red kidney beans
1 x 400g tin of baked beans in tomato sauce or plain haricot beans
1 onion
1 small chilli, chopped
a shake of paprika
a shake of ground cumin
a splash of oil
75ml red table wine
1 x 400g carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
1 vegetable stock cube
3 squares dark chocolate

Tip both tins of beans into a colander and rinse thoroughly. If you are using baked beans in tomato sauce, make sure to rinse it all off. Pop the beans into a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, then reduce to a gentle simmer.

Peel and dice the onion and put into a large sauté pan along with the chopped chilli, paprika and cumin. Add the oil and cook on a low heat until the onion softens into a spicy sweetness. Pour in the wine, add the chopped tomatoes and crumble in the stock cube, then simmer all together on a low heat.

When the beans have softened, drain and tip into the sauce. Add the chocolate and stir until the beans are mixed through and the chocolate is melted.

Tips: This chilli will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days if allowed to cool and stored in an airtight container. Delicious eaten cold stuffed in pitta breads or wraps for next day’s lunch.

Photography by Susan Bell.

Photography by Susan Bell.

‘Mumma Jack’s Best Ever Chilli’ recipe from A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe.

Twitter: @MsJackMonroe Facebook:


  1. Ideally you should boil the soaked beans for a good 10 mins before you turn the pan down to a simmer. This will ensure that all the toxins are boiled out. I forgot this once and was pretty poorly afterwards 🙁

    Apart from this a brilliant recipe and one I’ll be trying very soon.

    Sue xx

      • This is the one warning I remember from my grandmother, to avoid being poisoned you must boil soaked kidney beans for 10mins! I just found this more informative info on the web, so please Jack, don’t rely on your slow simmer!

        “Be aware that raw kidney beans contain a toxin called phytohemagglutinin, which is destroyed by boiling the beans for at least 10 minutes prior to slow cooking. Therefore, kidney beans cannot be enjoyed in their raw, sprouted form (as some other beans are). If you are going to slow cook them at a more moderate temperature please remember to boil them first for the required 10 minutes.”

    • My understanding is that it is beans you cook from dried that need the wholesale boiling. The ones in cans are fine, I believe. I guess it’s better safe than sorry though.
      J x

  2. Never heard of chocolate in chilli?! Now I’m curious and will have to give it a try….thanks for some great ideas.

    • Mole, or molé as it’s pronounced is just a sauce that uses chocolate as a base. It’s a very common dish which I think comes from Mexico originally. I also use the same system as Jack’s delicious looking recipe (I haven’t tried her version yet), you can add dark chocolate(*) to quite a few dishes with great success.

      Enjoying looking through the other recipes, I’ll certainly be trying a few!

      *= Since I don’t live in the UK I don’t know what you can get for chocolate, but normally 70% (min. cocoa) dark chocolate is the best to cook with, bitter, dry and sweet, but tasty!

      • That’s right. It’s called Mole poblano I believe and it’s a thick chocolate base sauce with turkey. it also has something like a 100 spices. I add a square of value dark chocolate at the very end too. BBC good food suggested it.

  3. I use baked beans in my chilli as gives it tomatoy taste and I don’t do spicey so helps with that and with my little one eating it too. There are some great recipes on here, I can’t wait to try them out, as like you I’m a single parent and struggle to find different homemade recipes that are healthy and in my price range. Thanks very much for this fab site and all that you do 🙂

    Helen 🙂

  4. I made this tonight (burnt my mouth as I couldn’t wait to try it!) but I found, as I have previously that dried beans stay a bit to crunchy for my liking compared to canned beans, otherwise delicious 🙂

  5. I just made this tonight with a can of kidney beans (those dried beans are out of my comfort zone). It was absolutely delicious. Thank you so much, I find your recipes very easy to follow.

    • I’m glad you liked it! It’s my go-to comfort recipe, especially at the moment with this cold, it makes me feel much better! I write them as I do them so I’m glad they’re easy to follow. 🙂

  6. would using a tin of either beans work as i’m too forgetful to start soaking beans lol!

    • Sainsburys Basics range do a mixed vegetable pack, 1.25kg, which has had anything from 16 to 22 pieces in – carrots, parsnips, onions and potatoes.

      Morrisons sell a bag of onions for 49p and a bag of carrots for 49p.

      I’m not sure about the other supermarkets because I haven’t investigated yet! But they all seem to have identikit value ranges.

  7. What have you done with the other 90% of the red wine? At about £3. You’re certainly not living on a tenner a week when you’re spending 35% of that money on a bottle of red wine.

    • Hi Chris,

      I bought the wine with ‘leftover’ money from my budget – I throw change into a pot when there is any, and use it for things like wine, spices etc. The red wine in question is sitting under my sink, and I’ll use it for something else in the future. (The same way as I don’t use a bag of rice in a week – I keep the remains in my cupboard and don’t have to buy more til it runs out).

      I’m not suggesting that everyone lives a carbon copy of my life, I’m just describing what *I* did.

      And yes, I do live on a tenner a week. It’s just been such a long term thing that occasionally I can ‘splash out’ on some wine to cook with, or a pot of garam masala.


  8. Great idea to chuck leftover pennies and other coins into a tin. They soon mount up and can be used for occasional treats. Important to have treats. This sounds delicious but I’m not taking any chances on soaking beans! I’ve heard of chocolate in chilli before. Also worth checking out reduced counters just before a supermarket closes if you can be arsed! The bargains my dear can be stunning!

  9. Well said Jack. I think that your blog is truely inspiring. We’ll all take something different from your blog. Your courage and stoicism when times must have been very desperate and your more considered attitude to food, stuff and belongings. The important thing is that you have got people THINKING and TALKING about really important issues.

  10. Pretty astounding that you live such a frugal life with little wasteful spending and you are jumped on for daring to treat yourself with £3 on a bottle of red wine. How dare you ever spend more than £10 a week on your food shopping.

    Going to try this recipe with mince (I can’t do without protein) but in the spirit of things I will use the mince sparingly.

    • There’s plenty of protein in the beans!
      If you need to do protein cheap it’s better (imo) to get it from beans and pulses etc. than from cheap meat. If you’re using beef I find lean mince is better as the budget stuff often gives up a bit too much fat and makes it all taste a bit funny.
      Sneaky not-quite-veg-but-no-mince trick: chuck a beef stock cube or two in.

  11. So, I made this last night and boy was it good! We all loved it, so thanks 🙂

  12. Does anyone have any tips for getting my dried beans to have, um, less bite? I soaked ours for 8 – 10 hours and cooked as per instructions and they were still a bit too crunchy for my liking. This is an awesome recipe and will be repeated here and I *will* get those beans softer. Thank you yet again Jack. Amazed you manage to keep so calm in response to the trolls.

    • As well as the salt – never add it to any pulses until fully cooked, and goes for stock cubes too. Also try to buy dried pulses from somewhere that sells a lot. Old dried beans don’t go “off” but you can boil them till the end of time and they won’t soften.

  13. I’m also shocked at the way people basically straight-up call you a liar over the fact that you have, once in a blue moon, spent three whole pounds on a bottle of wine. I don’t understand why people are so hell-bent on tripping each other up. I love the recipe; thank you for sharing it.

  14. I had a frugal chilli yesterday. Tin of toms, tin of kidney beans, reduced tin of mince, a few spices and dried chilli flakes. Worked out at about 75p per serving. I thought I did well, but you’ve blown me out of the water!

  15. Excellent recipe, Jack. I’ve never added chocolate to chilli before – thanks for the idea..

    I’ve been veggie for 35 years and always prepare my red beans by boiling without salt for 10 minutes then simmering for 45 to 60 minutes; they’re never crunchy.

  16. I think I’m being blind, but does this recipe need kidney beans? You mention them in the bit before, but they’re not in the ingredients list 🙂

    Very excited to try this and to persuade my husband that a chilli doesn’t have to have meat!

  17. I just used this recipe in quesidillas for my children. Made up a dough using some plain flour, a pinch of salt and water, which I rolled out and fried in a hot, non stick pan to make tortillas. Then mashed up some chilli, spread on one tortilla, a sprinkling of cheddar cheese, topped with a second tortilla and placed back in the pan until cheese melted.

    Delicious. Kids didn’t touch them, mind

  18. I came across your blog after hearing about it on the BBC Radio 4 Food Programme. Thanks for the recipe ideas and this chilli sounds great. I’ve stayed away from using dried beans in the past but I’ll give them a go now you’ve explained a little more about using them – I know you’ve talked a bit about Jamie O on this blog and it was one of his recipes which put me off dried beans, well, dried chickpeas certainly!

  19. Can’t get enough of this bad boy! I currently have about 10 portions in the freezer so we always have some to hand 🙂 both myself and my 1 year old adore it! I do have to make it in large batches though, otherwise I drink all the leftover wine and eat all the leftover chocolate!!! Whoops

  20. I had a go at this tonight, with chopped carrots substituting one lot of beans, and it was delicious if a little sweet for my tastes. Made enough for three portions. This is an amazing resource if your money is limited. Thank you so much.

  21. I’m confused, does this need kidney beans? Liv asked this afew months ago, as you talk about kidney beans in the intro but they are not included in the ingredients list, but I can’t seem to find an answer. Hoping to make this for tea on saturday

    Thanks for all the awesome recipes, made your carrot cumin & kidney bean burgers tonight, they were delicious.

  22. I sometimes freeze left over wine in the ice cube tray. You couldn’t drink after thawing it but it’s fine for cooking. It works with both red and white.

  23. From a senior citizen in the US….Congratulations on your innovation. Have had times of plenty and times of lean in my life…the times of lean have always spurred greater creativity! Am following you now as am back in a lean time and living alone…therefore your recipes will no doubt go much further in saving me dollars (and since I had a heart attack a couple of years ago, I have found that less expensive food is usually healthier for me!)

  24. I saw you on the Big Benefits Row and really agreed with alot of the points you made. Alot of people have told me about your recipes so thoguht i would have a look at them today and i am so impressed! It is so hard to find tasty vegeterian recipes that are cheap too and simple. As soon as i get paid i am going to Sainsburys to try some of your ideas and i cant wait 😀 Thank you!

  25. I went veggie 2 years ago and the thing I miss most is a good chilli. It’s not easy to make a veggie one that has the same comforting vibe and believe me, I’ve tried all different recipes! This one however beats them all and is absolutely delicious! The best thing is my family prefer it to the meat version – thank you Jack for sharing your fabulousness!

  26. Or use Pinto beans. Not sure what they are called in England. But I prefer them and there is no “toxin” factor. Pintos give a really nice thickening agent to the water they are cooked in.

  27. I adapted this recipe tonight and added peppers, ground coriander, fresh coriander (at the end), and dried soya mince. You can buy big bags of it in Tesco in the Wholefood section…it’s cheap, and a bag of dried soya goes a long way and does meals and meals. It doesn’t look great in its dry state, but in place of mince when rehydrated in a sauce and seasoned, it’s amazing. My meat eating friends have always been impressed by my soya mince dishes, even the ones who turned their noses up at the prospect (until they tried it!).

    I noticed a few folk mentioning on the internet that tea makes a good replacement for red wine in dishes (as when the alcohol is burned off, it’s the tannin left over that adds the flavour, and tea also contains tannin), so instead of using wine, I used black tea, plus extra tea when rehydrating the soya mince. In fact tea was the only liquid I added. The result was a very rich, flavoursome and delicious chilli. I’ve always cooked a pretty mean chilli anyway…but this was something else as it had an extra depth! So dry soya mince, a squirt of tomato purée and black tea in place of liquids is my top tip! Oh, and the dark chocolate at the end really does work too. Thank you for the inspiration!

  28. That chili was great – just had it with bread from your soda bread recipe which was also great and ridiculously easy. I haven’t made a good chili for quite a while, but I will be returning to this frequently. Thanks, Jack!

  29. The recipe says tinned kidney beans so I’m confused as to why everyone is going on about soaking the beans and boiling the toxins out. Tinned kidney beans are already completely cooked so are perfectly safe. You can eat them cold from the tin if you want to.

  30. Beans in a tin are already cooked so soaking them or cooking and discarding water isnt needed.

  31. This is legitimately the most delicious chilli i’ve tried. The wine adds an extra dimension, and the final product is a thick, flavoursome and YUMMY dish: making a lovely meal with the addition of some rice (and some 46p nacho chips from Asda for a naughty treat). Another fantastic recipe!! Thanks again.

  32. I love this recipe. I just put the whole lot in the slow cooker and put it on low for 5 hours or so. In theory you should fry the onion first but I tend not to bother.

  33. This was absolutely delicious! Thanks 🙂 I’m new to veganism and this really hit the spot. So rich and satisfying. Looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

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