Warm up your winter nights with this bean and barley chili

Joe Yonan

THE WASHINGTON POST – I’m sure it’s my Texas upbringing, but I never trust a chili recipe that doesn’t pack some heat. Generally, I’m not as much of a purist about the dish as I once was; moving to a plant-based diet will do that to you, especially when it comes to something as meat-heavy as a traditional chili con carne. Still, the dish needs to live up to its name: What’s chili without chilis?

I’ve made plenty of chilis in my day that start with whole dried peppers, but this version – like so many others – depends on ground and flaked versions for quickness and ease. Author Isa Chandra Moskowitz uses an appropriately heavy hand with those spices and others, giving this thick, hearty stew a backbone of strong flavours. Protein comes from beans (naturally), and she throws in pearled barley for more nutrition and texture. For depth and tang: Lime juice! The result is something you’ll want in your repertoire of cold-weather comforts. If a bowl of this doesn’t warm you up, nothing will.


Active: 15 minutes | Total: 50 minutes

Eight to 10 servings

Pearl barley gives this chili a hearty texture, while spices – including a hefty dose of chili powder – add a nice kick. Serve with your choice of accompaniments, including scallions, crushed tortilla chips, avocado, chopped tomato and/or fresh cilantro.

Storage notes: The chili can be refrigerated for up to one week or frozen for up to three months.


Two tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Two green bell peppers, chopped

One medium yellow onion, chopped

Three bay leaves

One and a half teaspoons kosher salt, or more as needed

Six cloves garlic, finely chopped

Three tablespoons mild chili powder

One tablespoon ground cumin

Two teaspoons dried oregano (preferably Mexican)

Half teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Three cups no-salt-added vegetable broth

Three quarter cup pearled barley

One can crushed tomatoes

One can kidney beans, drained and rinsed, or two and a half cups cooked kidney beans

Two tablespoons fresh lime juice

One tablespoon agave nectar (optional)


In a four-quart pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil until shimmering. Stir in the green peppers, onion, bay leaves and half teaspoon salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano, remaining one teaspoon salt and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, to toast the spices, about one minute.

Cook for about two minutes, then stir in the vegetable broth and barley. Partially cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar to let steam escape, and turn up the heat to bring the chili to a gentle boil. Boil until the barley is almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and beans. Increase the heat to medium-high to bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pot again with the lid slightly ajar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the barley is tender and the chili is thick, 20 to 30 minutes. Add a little water, if necessary, to thin the chili to your liking.

Stir in the lime juice and agave, if using, then taste and season with more salt, if needed. Remove the bay leaves, if you can find them. Serve hot, with your choice of accompaniments.

Nutrition | Calories: 200; Total Fat: 4g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 520mg; Carbohydrates: 33g; Dietary Fibre: 9g; Sugars: 7g; Protein: 7g