Southwestern BBQ Chili with Black Beans & Cilantro

At our house the first chilly weekends in fall inspire us to to cook chili - in a BIG way. Once chili is made it feeds our family several meals over the course of a week. We enjoy it while watching our favorite football games on Sundays and we like to serve it as a dip with cheesy nachos. There's just so much to love about a bowl of chili.

This year our first batch to ring in the cooler weather was especially delicious. We took a Southwestern BBQ approach by using lots of black beans, fresh cilantro and Outta The Park Hot & Spicy BBQ Sauce. You can take your own favorite chili recipe and add these 3 ingredients and chances are it will be Outta The Park like ours.

For those who are interested in how we make chili - here's what we did:

Our Southwestern BBQ Chili was insanely scratch made. Scott and our daughter had made a couple of gallons of homemade tomato sauce in September. They turned 20+ lbs of late season tomatoes from our local farmers market into a freezer full of sauce.

So their homemade sauce was our base, but you can definitely use cans of whole peeled tomatoes. Just dump the entire can contents in the pot and squish the tomatoes with your hands. Use caution though and watch out for seed squirt!

Next the beans - we like navy, kidney and black beans. If you plan ahead dried beans are the absolute best, but canned beans will also work - they just start out squishy so add them later in the cooking process. If you go the dried bean route, soak your beans over night with a squeeze of lemon juice. Room temp is fine. Drain off soaking water the next day, add fresh water and cover over beans an extra 2 inches above beans. Add a bit of fat and a dried chili pepper for extra flavor - a bit of butter or a chunk of pork fat will work as the fat. Cook beans for around 45 minutes or according to package instructions until they are par-cooked. If you cook them until they are totally done - add to chili pot late in the cook process. If you par cook your dried beans add them at the tomato sauce stage.

Whatever you do, don't overcook dried beans - if the skins crack on the beans they are overcooked ,and they will be a mushy addition to your chili. Still tasty, but not exactly easy on the eyes.

While the beans are cooking we brown our meat and chop veggies. For us the meat is typically a mix of ground beef and ground pork. You can also add in chopped brisket or anything protein you have on hand. Just brown it. Season it with salt and pepper and drain the fat before adding to the pot.

SPEAKING OF SEASONING....you've GOT TO DO THIS every step of the way for best results. Every layer needs salt and pepper....so with the tomato sauce - season it with salt and pepper. The beans, season with salt and pepper, the meat, the veggies,....every step, every layer gets the shake of S&P treatment.

Next is the meat and veggies. We love a ton of veggies in our chilis. Onions, carrots, peppers, celery...whatever is fresh in our fridge is likely to go in.

So now in our pot we have tomato sauce/canned tomatoes, meat, veggies, par-cooked beans (or we'll add canned beans later).

Next is spices - chili powder, cumin, onion powder and garlic powder - you're going to have to eyeball this and season to taste. The amounts will vary depending on how much chili you are making. At this point in the cooking it's okay if the spices aren't quite right - you'll adjust them at the end.

So bring the contents in the pot to a boil and then drop temp to a simmer. Let the chili cook until all the veggies are softened and the chili looks ready to eat. At the very end when you are just about ready to serve, add in Outta The Park Hot & Spicy BBQ Sauce and taste test until you get the seasonings and BBQ sauce amount just right.

Next is fresh cilantro - we added about 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro to the pot and served with extra cilantro.

Top with cheese, sour cream, and/or your other favorite chili toppings. Goes great as a dip for cheesy nachos too.

Hope you enjoy kicking up your hearty BBQ chili with Outta The Park!