Two Bean Chili with Grass-Fed Beef and Masa Harina

February 27th, 2009 by megan · 13 Comments

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Easy Two Bean Chili with Masa Harina

Easy Two Bean Chili with Masa Harina

This is my go-to chili recipe. It’s simple, easy to make, and lends itself to other vegetable additions (like zucchini), and to variations in the type of beans in it. I always use local grass-fed ground beef – its flavor is so much…beefier, and it’s a lot leaner, too.

I ripped off the idea of adding masa harina to the chili from a good friend whose chili happens to be super delicious. The masa thickens the chili and adds an extra bit of savory depth of flavor. You can easily omit if you don’t happen to have masa on hand. (Don’t be tempted to use cornmeal. It won’t work, trust me.)  The only chili-related bone of contention in our household is what the consistency of chili should be. My husband likes it soupy. I like it a little thicker. Sometimes I compromise and make it the way he likes it. Sometimes. You can vary the consistency to your taste by omitting the water or adding an extra bit of masa harina (to make it thicker). Add a little more water, or omit a tablespoon or two of masa if you like it a little soupier.

The best thing about chili: it tastes so much better the next day, or even the day after that. It’s also really good with homemade tortillas. (Since you’re using masa harina anyway – why not?)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped (ribs and seeds removed, if you don’t like spicy)
1 clove garlic
7 tablespoons good-quality chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pound grass-fed ground beef
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands (I use fire-roasted canned tomatoes)
One 24-ounce bottle tomato sauce (I like Bionaturae brand)
1/2 cup water (optional, see above)
2 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-ounce can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons dried masa harina, dissolved in 3 tablespoons water (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish: sour cream or yogurt, shredded cheese, chopped onions, cilantro (optional)


  1. In a large, heavy pot, add the olive oil, onions, red bell pepper, and jalapeno over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until vegetables are soft, 6-7 minutes (do not brown).
  2. Add the garlic and stir one minute.
  3. Add the chili powder, cumin, and coriander, and stir one minute.
  4. Add the ground beef, a good pinch of salt, and couple of grinds of black pepper. Break up the beef with a fork and continue cooking until the beef has lost most of its raw, red color.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, and optional water, and bring the mixture to a gentle boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
  6. Add the kidney and the pinto beans. Simmer the chili for another 20 minutes. Taste and correct for salt.
  7. Stir in the masa dissolved in water and bring back to a gentle boil. Turn down the heat and simmer an additional 5 minutes.
  8. Serve with any or all garnishes listed above.


Sarah Feb 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Holy delicious. This looks so very, very good. The Texan in me wants this.

Natasha - 5 Star Foodie Feb 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

This chili sounds super delicious! masa harina is new to me and it sounds interesting to try.

katie Feb 27, 2009 at 6:00 pm

This looks like good rainy day food.

The masa harina is brilliant!

I watched an alton brown episode where he took fresh tortillas and ground them down, back to masa. He then made croquette things.

Ah, the wonderful world of corn.

Joan Nova Feb 27, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Looks delicious…interesting addition of masa harina.

sivan harlap Feb 28, 2009 at 2:50 am

yummers! megan, that looks sooo good!

Kevin Feb 28, 2009 at 4:32 pm

That chili looks really good!

Abby @ mangerlaville Mar 1, 2009 at 9:05 pm

This sounds amazing!! I love a good chili and using masa harina is a great idea for a thickener.

Marc @ NoRecipes Mar 2, 2009 at 12:10 am

Looks great! And nice tip about the Masa Harina, I actually use it as a thickener in a lot of dishes as I often prefer the more natural texture (almost like it’s been thickened by reducing rather than by adding starch) to using flour or cornstarch.

megan (brooklyn farmhouse) Mar 2, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Masa does make a great thickener in general. I’m intrigued by Katie’s comment about Alton Brown grinding down corn tortillas to make a reverse masa! And then frying? hmmm. I like the sound of that. I totally agree with Marc – masa does add a much more natural thickening texture, and of course the corn-y flavor is a natural with chili.

The Duo Dishes Mar 2, 2009 at 6:10 pm

We didn’t even know what masa harina was until reading this. We get a bowlful of chili and knowledge from this post!

Katy Apr 6, 2009 at 8:16 am

This chili was delicious (and idiot proof)! However…just whipping up some homemade corn tortillas with the leftover masa, didn’t workout so well…

megan Apr 6, 2009 at 1:12 pm

oh no! what happened? katy, you know you can always call me if you run into a problem. I’ll be your personal tortilla-making guide.

Real Food Right Now and How to Cook It: Corn on Ecocentric Blog | Food, Water and Energy Issues Aug 8, 2012 at 9:32 am

[...] corn dumplings and corn pudding – among many, many other dishes from around the world. Try adding masa harina to chili to add a unique depth of flavor and richness.  Hominy is made from corn kernels soaked in lime and [...]

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