Sue Polinsky’s No Tomato Chili Recipe

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Heather says:

When it comes to chili, I’m not picky, really. There have been very few chili recipes I’ve met that I haven’t enjoyed. That said, I know how some of you feel about chili, there are those who feel it isn’t chili if it contains: . I’m just happy when you share your chili recipes with me. The following no tomato chili recipe is from my dear friend Sue Polinsky. The recipe originated from The Impoverished Student’s Cookbook with as Sue puts it, “many significant embellishments by. . . me”

Enjoy! (I’ve made this several times over the past few years and I recently asked her to send me the recipe. She changed her website and it no longer exists on the web). As with many chili recipes, this is a method more than an exact recipe. You will adjust the seasonings based on your preferences and tastes.

No Tomato Chili Recipe


[There is a printable recipe below this one.]

For a large batch today, I used 4lbs of 93/7 ground sirloin, 3 lbs DRIED pinto beans, 2 medium
white onions. The rest is all spices including:
1. Black pepper
2. Chili powder
3. Cumin
4. Oregano
5. Parsley
6. Ground red pepper
7. Minced garlic
8. Vinegar
9. I don’t cook much with salt; people can add it later.

Cut up onions.

Get a BIG pot (for this quantity)

Brown meat and onions together. I used 4lbs meat and added cut up onions.

Add garlic. I add a lot of minced garlic before the meat is fully browned. We consider garlic a vegetable.

Add chili powder (see picture)

chili powder

The rest of the spices:
1. A lot of black pepper. Probably 3-5 T.
2. Shook cumin to cover the top of everything, thin layer.
3. Added 2x oregano to 1 parsley. Total 2-3T.
4. Shook ground red pepper 3-5 times.

Stick nose in pot. Pour in vinegar until you can smell it. That should be enough. Mix.

Pinto beans, added after spices

Add pinto beans that you have let sit overnight in plain water and then cooked in the morning.
They need to boil at least 45 minutes and taste one to be sure it’s done. If using canned beans, drain the beans, but KEEP liquid. Add beans using a slotted spoon, reserve liquid. Mix once, mixing too much mushes up the beans.

Add bean liquid so there is some liquid in the pot and taste. Adjust.
Let simmer a few hours.
Freeze extra.

*Chili Powder Photo Credit: Sue Polinsky

Like chili flavor? Try these recipes:

No Tomato Chili Image

[yumprint-recipe id=’15’]

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5 thoughts on “Sue Polinsky’s No Tomato Chili Recipe”

  1. Am happy that you like our chili! I’ve gotten 2 marriage proposals from it (I think I’ll keep the guy I’ve had for 39 years) and once, he warmed it up for an office party – using a crockpot in his office – and the entire floor came in to complain that he was making them unreasonably hungry at 10 a.m. The purpose of this chili was indeed for “poor students” and the original recipe is more than 50 years old. Over the years, we’ve changed a lot of it, including oregano & parsley. We go overboard on garlic (it’s a family thing) and I just don’t cook with much salt. The trick is black pepper (not red pepper, use sparingly). Good black pepper – a lot of it – is what gives this the taste we like.

    I’m not kidding about “stick your nose in the pot” until you can smell the vinegar. It’s in the original and it’s dead-on accurate.

    This freezes exceptionally well and we usually serve it over rice, on hot dogs and anywhere else you can use chili.


    @suepolinsky @polinskyphi @danitosupreme @laurenpolinsky @kristendaukas @acjandler @johnrobinson @heathersolos

    • Sue this looks so good! After reading this yesterday, I ordered the students cookbook from Reed College in Portland OR – they still publish and sell it!

      We do chili over rice too – nummy!

  2. I have a copy of the Impoverished Students’ Cookbook and love it. If you can get hold of a copy, do so. It’s well written (should be, since the guy who wrote it was getting his Ph.D. in philosophy at the time) and great reading, if you want to know what college life was like fifty years ago. (It doesn’t sound all that different.) I have tried a couple of the recipes with success. He tends to give you the concept of cooking a casserole or other entree and then turns the reader loose to try it for themselves. I know this recipe but haven’t tried it yet, but I can assure you that now I will! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • The mock beef wellington got us through law school along with the tuna casserole. That was the week we had $8 for food. Pasta IS involved! @Dr Alice

  3. Thank you for this recipe! My friend is allergic to tomatoes. It is super sad as it didn’t truly come to light till she was in her 20’s and now in her 30’s she can’t eat a lot of tomato based food. Chili is one of the many things she misses! I am going to try this recipe asap! Thank you sooo much!


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