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Mark Bittman’s Chili Non Carne

This recipe is adapted from noted American food journalist Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. He says that he thinks of chili as “slow-cooked red beans seasoned with cumin and chilis,” not as the various dishes made with meat. You can vary this dish with other beans or combinations of beans. Mark recommends trying red, pink, white, pinto, and cannellini beans. Serve with rice, corn tortillas, or whole-grain crackers, and bottled hot sauce for a full meal.

6 to 8

Mark Bittman’s Chili Non Carne Recipe


1 pound dried pinto beans, washed, picked over, and soaked if you like
1 whole yellow or white onion, unpeeled, plus 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable broth or water
1 fresh hot chili, such as a serrano or a small jalapeño, seeded and minced, or to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional or to taste)
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano leaves or 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano (optional)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


Put the soaked beans in a large pot with water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming the foam if necessary.
Add the whole onion.
Adjust the heat so the beans bubble steadily but not violently and cover loosely.
Check to be sure you do not boil away all the liquid.
When the beans begin to soften (30 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of bean), season with salt and pepper.
Continue to cook, stirring occasionally and adding water if necessary, until the beans are quite tender but still intact (about as long as it took them to begin to soften).
Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid if you choose to use it.
Discard the onion and add all the remaining ingredients except the cilantro.
Turn the heat to medium and bring to a boil.
Cover and turn the heat down to low.
Cook, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary, until the beans are very tender and the flavors have mellowed, about 15 minutes.
Taste, adjusting the seasoning, if necessary.
Dish up into serving bowls and garnish with cilantro.

Tip: For a slightly different chili taste, try this spice mixture in your beans: 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon ground coriander, 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano.

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