A twist on classic chili that is perfect for using up leftover pulled pork. Slow-cooked in a rich and super-flavorful tomato base, with chilis galore, beans, spices and a hint of smokiness if you used smoked pork. Leftover-pulled-pork chili is super comforting, satisfying and it just might be your new favorite chili.
We start with my favorite chili recipe, which uses a variety of fresh chilis to get a complex mix of flavors and a nice heat. Then we sub out the ground beef for pulled pork, a subtle twist on the usual flavor and texture. If you've smoked the pork, it also adds a hint of smokiness for a delightful smoked pulled pork chili, but even slow-cooked pork flavor and tender meatiness add a nice change of pace to what is already an amazing chili.
Chili with pulled pork is an especially welcome treat on those late winter nights when you need something a little special to keep you warm.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Pulled Pork - Leftover, whether it is smoked, roasted in the oven or slow-cooked.
- Chilies - Habanero, serrano, Anaheim, jalapeno and red bell. But you can use whatever mix you like. Banana and Fresno chilies are great options, too.
- Tomatoes - Diced tomatoes and tomato paste add color, flavor, acidity and some sweetness to help temper the heat.
- Beans - Red kidney beans give the chili some nice substance, color and another great texture. You can use pinto, black beans or other types of beans.
- Butter - A secret (not so secret) ingredient for rounding out the flavor and richness.
- Chili seasonings - Chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, Worcestershire sauce, salt and black pepper, and even cinnamon (if you like).
- Sugar - Balance the heat with a touch of sweet.
You can easily adjust the ingredients for your taste and/or heat preference:
- To lessen the heat, ease up on the cayenne, chili powder, or the habanero and serrano peppers. To get more spice, add more of the hotter chili peppers. If you've already made the batch and it's too hot, toss in another can of stewed tomatoes.
- You can adjust the different flavors the same way, shifting around the spices and the mix of peppers until you hit your sweet spot. I particularly suggest using the chilis as the taste levers; each type of chili has a distinct flavor profile as well as heat level, so finding the best mix is a fun experiment. The more variety you have, the more complex the results will be.
This great chili is phenomenal in its vegetarian/vegan and beef versions. I heartily recommend trying the vegetarian recipe, especially if you think a meat-free chili can't be amazing. Spoiler: It's great, and no one will know there's no meat unless you tell them (seriously!).
Give the chili pizazz with beans. Try different ones, like pinto, black, butter or navy beans, or combine for a mixture. Or skip the beans for Texas-style. You can add corn (or even sauteed fresh corn!). It's your chili, so you do you. If you go Texas style, it couldn't get much better than to use leftover Texas-style smoked brisket!
With a big bowl of chili, it's all about the toppings, IMO. Chopped fresh onion, corn chips, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, diced avocado and a squeeze of lime to brighten it even more with some acidity. Have fun!
Storing and Reheating
Chili stores great in the fridge for a few days and can be reheated on the stove or in the microwave. It's even better the next day, as the flavors deepen and become more complex as they meld together, so you can make chili ahead of time and know that it will be at least as good as fresh. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
Pulled Pork Chili Recipe
- 3 habanero peppers
- 2 serrano peppers
- 3 Anaheim peppers
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 1 red bell pepper
- 4 ounces unsalted butter
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 2 pounds pulled pork
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 16 ounce can kidney or pinto beans drained
- 1 cup chicken stock (homemade or low sodium preferred)
- 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 3 tablespoons dark chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Using nitrile gloves, slice the chili peppers open to remove and discard the seeds and inner pith. Chop the peppers into ½" pieces.
- Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the butter and diced onions with a sprinkle of salt. Sauté, stirring frequently until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add the pulled pork, stirring with a wooden spoon and breaking up any large pieces to warm through. Season with salt and pepper as needed.
- Add the diced peppers, stir and cook for about 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, beans, chicken stock and Worcestershire sauce.
- Add the remaining spices and sugar. Stir to completely combine and bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer over low heat for 1 to 2 hours.*
- Taste test for seasoning and heat levels. Add more salt or sugar, and adjust heat levels as needed.** Just remember that the flavor will change once toppings are added, which will help balance out the heat.
- Can be served immediately or refrigerated and served the next day with your favorite toppings.***
- *Simmering the chili for 1 hour is enough, but more flavors will develop the longer that it simmers. This is when the magic happens.
- **Make it less spicy by eliminating hot spices/chilis or adding more stewed tomatoes. Make it spicier by adding more chilis.
- ***For toppings, consider chopped fresh onion, corn chips, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, diced avocado and a squeeze of lime.
- The recipe makes about 2 ½ quarts or 10 cups of chili, which will serve 6 to 10 people.
- Chili can be kept warm in a Crockpot on low for serving.