Hearty Canadian Chili

In 2008, Eric and I spent the year living and working in South Korea.

korea We taught English to the likes of these by day.

korea students With our time off, we did as the Koreans do…and went to the beach with approximately 2,000,000 other people and climbed the peaks with hoards of other hikers and took in serene temples with scores of other worshipers and onlookers.

korea Yeah, there’s a lot of people in a country about the size of Wisconsin there. (A part of living in Korea is learning how to use your elbows).

We also ate an incredible amount of good food that year. Do you have a Korean restaurant near you? Yes? Good. Go now. And eat galbi. Oh how I miss galbi. (Bear in mind that true Korean galbi is marinated meat cooked over a grill in the center of your table, then cut apart and dipped in sauces like doenjang or soy sauce and wrapped in a lettuce leaf and consumed happily with a bottle of average beer. Here, the American government, in all its wisdom, has determined that mid-table grills are not restaurant safe. Why…why are they opposed to galbi? galbi We spent our evenings in our 7th floor apartment eagerly awaiting the next episode of Lost. And occasionally babysitting a fiesty one-eyed cat named Dewey. And listening to neighborhood cheers echo off concrete apartments in celebration of another Korean Olympic gold.

Cooking was…interesting that year. We had two gas burners, no microwave, and no oven. We also shopped for our produce at a little outdoor market near our school rather than the grocery stores, which had a lot of pricey imported goods like peanut butter, which also could be used as valid currency among foreigners.

our apartment

With no oven, we did a ton of curries, stir-fries, fajitas, and pasta that year, but probably my favorite homemade dish came from our good friend and coworker Paige, who, like a true Canadian, knows how to make a mean chili. At one of her many parties, she had made this chili, which I immediately needed the recipe for.

frozen veggies Eric and I LOVE this chili. We love it because it is not overly kidney-bean happy. We love it because it’s full of vegetables that you can use from your freezer. We love it because it’s got a nice kick of spices that make it savory and hot, but not nose-sweat spicy. And we love it because it’s the perfect excuse to douse cheese and sour cream on something.

And one of the best parts about this chili? It’s totally yours. We like it with ground beef, but feel free to leave it out. We go heavy on the tomatoes and light on the kidney beans, but if beans are your thing, go to town. We put veggies like corn, carrots, bell peppers, and zucchini in, but use whatever you have. There’s tons of space for flexibility in this recipe. But there’s one thing I insist on…well two: please do not eat this without some freshly grated sharp cheddar, and be sure to have some crusty bread on the side (I’ve got a homemade peasant bread recipe coming your way in a few days).

pepper What’s your go-to chili recipe like? Any super-secret ingredients out there that your chili can’t live without?

Hearty Canadian Chili

Hearty Canadian Chili

(recipe adapted from my friend Paige)

(yields 8-10 servings)

This recipe is highly adaptable. Don't like meat? Keep it out and up your bean ratio. Like it extra hot? Throw some more jalapenos in there. Want to use up all those frozen green beans from your garden? Go for it. This recipe makes a lot but freezes extremely well. We like to freeze it in ziploc bags in individual portions to take for lunches.


1 lb. ground beef (optional)

3 cans diced tomatoes

1 can whole, peeled tomatoes

1 jar spaghetti sauce

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed


Vegetables of your choice (all except onion can come from your freezer, if desired)

I use...

2-3 green or red bell peppers, seeded and chopped

2 small-medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced

1 large onion

3-4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

app. 1 1/2 c. corn

1-2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped (throw some seeds in for extra heat)


3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 tbsp. chili powder

2 tbsp. cumin

1 tbsp. dried oregano

1 tbsp. (heaping) curry powder

dash of coriander (optional)

salt and pepper to taste


If using, brown and drain ground beef in a large soup pot.


Add all of the canned tomatoes and kidney beans, plus spaghetti sauce, to the pot.


Add all of your veggies, RAW, except the corn.


Add your spices and stir to combine thoroughly.


Let simmer, uncovered, on LOW heat for 2-3 hours or until thickened to your liking. If it's not thick enough after a few hours, add a little tomato paste. About 45 minutes before serving, add the corn.


Serve topped with any of the following: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onion slices. Goes great with a nice, crusty bread.

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8 thoughts on “Hearty Canadian Chili

  1. Does the chili that you make now differ much from the chili you made in South Korea? I’m sure some of the ingredients are different; Like you couldn’t get the same Wisconsin sour cream and sharp cheddar cheese or the ground beef that you used was slightly different. Do you ever go to the Korean market to get ingredients to make a chili similar to what you ate in South Korea?

    • Good questions! The chili we made in Korea..and now here…is very much a North American chili. In Korea, in the outdoor markets, we could actually find most of the veggies that I use here…like carrots, zucchini, etc. However, Instead of using jalapenos, I used red chili peppers.

      I had brought over some spices with me for the year we lived there, including chili powder and cumin, and through a lot of investigation and subway rides to obscure parts of town, we were able to find the others – like curry and oregano. We were able to find cheddar and sour cream pretty easily…they tasted the same but just cost a whole lot more.

      Now, I don’t go to the Korean markets to make this chili…but I do frequent them for other Korean favorites like bibimbap, sogogi bokumbap, and galbi!

  2. I can’t wait to try your chili recipe….very interesting.

    My secret chili ingredient? I like to use one chipotle mini cube (Knorr) in my chili. It gives a nice smoke, spicy kick to the chili.

  3. I just left a comment by accident on another one of your blog post about the mid-table grills, it was meant for this post though! Sorry for the confusion!

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