Recipe: Robust Kona Coffee Chili — A Vegan Taste of Hawaii

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I recently mentioned that I’m not world’s biggest fan of earthy chili.  Pungent, yes.  Spicy, yes.  Even sweet and spicy!  But I associate an earthy flavor more with lentil dishes and stews.  Which is just fine by me, since I happen to love both of those.

Chili, though, is a surprisingly versatile dish.  That’s part of what makes it such a great plant-based option!  All it takes to make are some beans, veggies and spices in a tomato base.  There are no rules as to which beans, veggies and spices you have to use.  (Hence why there are entire books dedicated only to chili recipes.)  There’s beany chili, lentil chili, mushroom chili, quinoa chili, even chili with pumpkin in it.

And now I add to that list…Kona Coffee Chili!

kona coffee chili vegan
Thanks to the folks at Kaiulani Spices (the same ones who sent me the curry powder that inspired this hummus recipe), I now have an earthy chili recipe that I adore.  Among their many unique organic spice blends is one that includes Kona coffee from Moonstruck Organics.  Apparently the only coffee that can be labeled as Kona is what’s grown in the Kona regions of Hawaii, making it a rare and expensive type that Kaiulani includes in this spice and recommends using as a rub for meats.  Or, in the case of vegan food, a seasoning for dishes like chili.

I have run across chili recipes that make use of coffee as part of the liquid, and I have to admit I didn’t really like those, either.  For some reason, though, the idea of Kona chili stuck in my head. Maybe it’s the inclusion of the other spices like fennel and paprika, or perhaps the slight hint of cocoa struck my fancy. Whatever the case, I found myself tossing a generous amount of the Kona blend into chili one evening, and this recipe was the result.

This is a super-basic chili featuring lots of kidney beans in a thick crushed tomato sauce with bits of onion, pepper and corn popping up here and there.  The Kona spice is what makes it special–there’s no way to describe the flavor and nothing you could really substitute for it.  It has a sort of deep taste with a hint of spiciness here and there.  It works well with the kidney beans to create a chili that can only be called robust.  Enjoy it topped with nutritional yeast with a side of your favorite cornbread.

vegan kona coffee chili with salad

Make it a meal with a green salad!


Robust Kona Coffee Chili
Recipe Type: dinner
Cuisine: Mexican
Author: Sam
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4 servings
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1Tbsp. chili powder
  • 1Tbsp. Kaiulani Spices Kona Coffee Rub & Seasoning
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 28oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups cooked kidney beans or 2 15.5oz cans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • black pepper to taste
  • nutritional yeast, for serving
  1. Place the garlic, onions and pepper in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add splashes of water to the pan to keep the veggies from sticking if necessary.
  2. Stir in the tomatoes, chili powder, Kona coffee spice, cumin, tomatoes, water and beans. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes to blend the flavors and thicken the sauce.
  3. Add the corn and simmer for 10 minutes more, covered if the sauce is thick enough, uncovered if it’s too thin.
  4. Add black pepper to taste and adjust other seasonings as necessary. Serve sprinkled with nutritional yeast.

Do you like coffee in chili? Or is there another “weird” chili ingredient that you love to use?
vegan kona coffee chili with nutritional yeast



About the Author:

Sam has been eating a plant-based diet since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of plant-based food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a former member of Toastmasters International and was awarded a Competent Communicator designation for public speaking. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, play silly card games and knit socks.
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