“38 Special” Chili {Sausage, Beer, & Spinach, Oh My!}

I would say that I’m not a very competitive person. Bragging about how good you are at something and winning is the stuff of daydreams. But bragging and then losing is pretty humiliating to experience and watch others go through.

With that said, at my 8-5 cube job, we had a chili cook-off and for some reason or another, the competitive bug bit me and I was determined to make the absolute best chili I’ve ever made. This chili, unlike my other chili I’ve posted here, really pulls out all the stops with 38 ingredients and some unique tricks. It’s not necessarily the cheapest chili ever, but I can tell you that it’s my personal best so far.

Here’s the thing though: Chili is all about preference. I do NOT like watery, weak chili. I like it hearty, thick and bold. I mean, this chili is named after a GUN. So yeah, it’s man’s chili {and perfect for tomorrow’s Super Bowl}. And feel free to use this as inspiration but also feel free to make changes based on your preferences. If I cook this again, it could’ve used another can of beans, a little more tomato or beer, and a little spicier.

For the record, I did not win and I’m okay with that. I woke up this morning at 8 am craving a bowl and I had another one for dinner last night. I still think it’s de-flipping-licious.

And guess what?! I wrote down all of the ingredients! My gift to you, left-brained people. I submitted it to a chili contest so I had to actually keep track. Scroll to the bottom for the ingredient list. 

Chop the onions to a fine dice and add to large soup pot over medium heat with a splash of olive oil or butter. Gently stir the onions every few minutes for a total of about 45 minutes.

While the onions are caramelizing, chop the carrots, parsnip, sweet potato, and celery into a small, 1/4″ dice.

Try to cook your onions until they’re at least this caramelized. It’s okay if you become impatient and need to add the veggies before they’re this brown. I won’t judge you.

Add the chopped root vegetables and stir.

While that mixture is still cooking over medium-low heat, chop the green pepper, garlic, mushrooms and red pepper.  Add those ingredients to the pot and stir.

I’m not joking around with 15 cloves of garlic.

While that mixture is cooking, grate the ginger, and finely chop the dates and prunes. Add to the pot and stir.

Add all of the spices and sauces: Sweet paprika, chili powder, fenugreek, nutmeg, turmeric, nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, molasses, worcestershire sauce, hoisin sauce, sweet chili sauce and tomato paste. Stir and let pot simmer over low heat. The mixture will be very thick for a while. Don’t worry! You’re just trying to evenly spread the flavors around.

Cook the Italian sausage in another skillet and add to the pot when finished. {I used Italian sausage because I wanted the flavor layer of fennel and oregano. You can use any other ground meat if you prefer}

Then cook the chorizo and add to the pot when finished, stirring well. {Insert poop joke here} By the way, if you buy chorizo, don’t get the weird American stuff that looks like Kielbasa. Make sure it’s PORK chorizo and make sure it has a Spanish label!

Buy some of your favorite beer–preferably dark and a little sweet. I chose Negra Modelo because it’s dark, sweet, perfect for chili AND consuming while looking.

Add bottle {or 2} of that beer. When alcohol hits the tomato sauce, it just explodes with flavor, just in case you’re wondering why I’m adding the beer.

Reserve 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes till later, and add the remainder of the ingredients to the pot except the fresh spinach.

Drain the beans you’d like to use. Use whatever beans you want, but I used black, dark red kidney and chickpea.

We’re waiting till this late in the cooking process to add the beans because the beans are basically already cooked. When you stir the spices and sauces together with the vegetables, you can stir aggressively without worrying about smashing up the beans.

Take a few big handfuls of tortilla chips, put them in a freezer bag, and beat the snot out of them till they’re almost powder. This is a great way to get rid of stale tortilla chips! The corn flavor is wonderful, and it helps thicken up the chili quite a bit.

Add to the chili.

Cook for 30-60 minutes on medium/low heat. About 15 minutes before serving, add the unsweetened chocolate, 1/2 cup of reserved crushed tomatoes and finely chopped spinach. The spinach will wilt, so don’t freak out about there being too much.

If the chili is thicker than you prefer, add another can of tomatoes, beef stock or beer. Serve with sour cream, fresh spinach and sharp cheddar cheese if desired.


3 Onions
3 Carrots
1 Parsnip
1 Small Sweet Potato
2 Stalks Celery
1 Green Pepper
15 Cloves of Garlic
8 oz. Mushroom
4 oz. Roasted Red Pepper
1 T. Ginger
3 Dates
5 Prunes
3 T. Sweet Hungarian Paprika
2 T. Chili Powder
1/2 t. Fenugreek
1/2 t. Turmeric
1/8 t. Nutmeg
1/8 t. Cardamom
1/4 t. Cinnamon
1 T. Cumin
1 T. Molasses
1 T. Worcestershire Sauce
2 T. Hoisin Sauce
3 T. Sweet Chili Sauce
1 Small Can Tomato Paste
1 lb. Johnsonville Mild Ground Italian Sausage
12 oz. Chorizo
1 Dark Beer (ex. Negra Modelo)
28 oz. Can Crushed Tomatoes
3/4 C. Strong Coffee
1/2 t. Liquid Smoke
1 C. Chopped Kale
2 Blocks Unsweetened Chocolate
1 Can Black Beans
1 Can Kidney Beans
1 Can Garbanzo Beans
1 1/2 C. Tortilla Chips, pulverized
2 cups Chopped Fresh Spinach

Sorry, I don’t have a price breakdown for this one. What makes chili cheap is that you probably have most of the ingredients lying around your kitchen. To have to go out and buy all of this can get expensive. But hey, sometimes it’s worth a few extra bucks for some killer chili, right?


About Ande Truman

Ande has made mistakes in the kitchen since she could reach the countertop. From a restaurant head cook, to cooking meals for friends, to her own solo plate, experimenting & learning drives her. She’s also a freelance graphic & web designer, photo/videographer, guitar player and wanderlust-er. In her spare time, she works a full-time 8 to 5 cubicle job. She’s the creator of Broke & Healthy.

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Categories: Apples, Beef, Black Beans, Carrots, Celery, Chickpeas, Featured, Ginger, Kale, Latin, Mushrooms, Onion, Peppers, Pork, Recipes, Recipes by Ingredient, Soups, Spinach, Sweet Chili Sauce, Sweet Potato

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Comments for “38 Special” Chili {Sausage, Beer, & Spinach, Oh My!} are now closed.

  1. Good golly molly! I didn’t feel like staying for the chili cook off that day. But now, after reading your recipe, I hate I didn’t! WOW! I’m impressed!

  2. Came across you recipe on pinterest. I didn’t have all the ingredients but I managed to end up with 20 ingredients, some of which were inspired by your recipe – namely the chocolate (used cocoa powder), coffee (just used the instant powder), and worsh. sauce. Smells delicous and can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Woo-hoo! Good for you and after all those ingredients, you deserve to gloat a little. Great job! I wish I could have tasted your yummy chili because it looks fantastic!