Blue Plate Special Chili ~ Rich, Satisfying & Healthy Too


diner chili recipe

Almost every day, I try to get outside and walk my beagle on the Charles River path. Beautiful blue water surrounds us here. I always follow the advice I overheard when we arrived, wearing long underwear in winter and dressing in layers. Before heading out today, I prepared a big pot of thick and hearty diner-style chili. I’m no Texan. I’m sure anyone south of the Mason Dixon line can can teach me a thing or two about chili. But I must say that this is the best chili I’ve ever made! It surprised me with its blue-plate-special taste and texture. It gets better as sits. Rich, homey and supremely satisfying, it tastes great after a long walk in the cold air, bringing comforting warmth to my body and soul. My husband said I must put this recipe on the blog and fast. He loves chili. I hope you enjoy it too!   


healthy diner chili

Blue Plate Special Style Chili Recipe

Serves 6-8, depending on how you serve it. Reheats well.

Some Notes: 

The wonderful folks at  Pomi Tomato Company kindly sent me samples of their products, asking me to try them in my recipes. If you’ve read this blog long enough, you know that I’m finicky about the products I recommend here. I highly recommend using their tomatoes in your recipes. They come in a box instead of a can.  They’re fresh tasting, contain no preservatives, made of 100 % pure Italian tomatoes.

The spices I use give the chili pleasant smoky notes. Cumin is present but not overpowering. Beer also adds to the layers of flavor. I use an amber ale. Corn lends a pleasant sweetness against the beef, black beans, jalapeno and spices. You can use any type of bean you like. I happen to love black beans and corn in this chili.

The secrets to making this chili tastes like the kind you get at a down home diner are twofold. First, simmering the sauce separately, before adding the ground beef, helps to avoid overcooking the meat into dry hard morsels. Second, stirring masarepa into it toward the end of cooking thickens the sauce, giving it lots of body. The masarepa will ensure a foolproof, delicious result. It gives the chili the familiar, hearty texture found in all good diner-style chili. I find it in the Latin section of my supermarket. Masarepa is precooked corn flour. It’s the key to successful chili. Here’s the link:

If you want to make it vegan/vegetarian, I think it’ll work. Just bump up the beans/corn and leave out the beef(naturally). I tasted the chili before adding the beef and it was delicious. You may need to use more masarepa to thicken it.

If you use lean ground beef, ground turkey or ground chicken it’s a healthy and filling meal. It made the cut on Healthy Aperture  and Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Pinterest Board. Diner style chili and healthy don’t usually go together. But believe me, this tastes like the real thing thanks to the secret tips and suggestions.

It may look like a lot of ingredients, but the recipe is pretty easy and cooks in under 30 minutes. There’s no need to simmer the heck out of your chili. Trust me on this one.

Eat it with your favorite corn chips (baked or regular) or top a baked potato or baked sweet potato with it for a healthier option.


  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 1/2 green or red bell pepper chopped. I use green.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced. Remove the seeds if you don’t want it too spicy.
  • 2 pounds ground beef. You can use all extra lean or lean ground beef. Because I was feeling hungry today, I used a mixture of extra lean and 85 percent lean ground beef. Ground chicken or turkey will work too.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced. I use a microplane zester for this, mincing it directly into the pot.
  • olive oil for cooking
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of  smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chipotle powder. I used Penzeys brand.
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano. Mexican oregano is very nice.
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 12 oz bottle or can of beer. I used an amber ale from Peak Organic Brewing Company.
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons of masarepa white corn meal. I used Goya brand. This secret ingredient thickens the chili brilliantly (see notes).
  • 2 15 ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained. I used lower sodium.
  • 1 cup of frozen corn
  • a couple of drizzles of honey or pinches of sugar  to balance the spices and the acid from the tomatoes
  • 1 box of Pomi Chopped Tomatoes which is a little over 26 ounces. You can also use almost all of a 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes. (see notes)
  • Sea salt or kosher salt to taste. Some chili seasonings contain salt, so be careful.
  • To Serve: scallions, shredded cheese of your choice, lite or regular sour cream, tortilla chips, baked potatoes, rice and/or cilantro


Cook the onions, green pepper and jalapeno in a large pot in some light olive oil with a pinch of salt over medium heat until soft. Add the chopped tomatoes, add all the seasonings from the chili powder to the cumin, the minced garlic, beer, 1/2 cup of water, rinsed black beans and drizzles of honey. Adjust the salt to taste and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes.
As the sauce is simmering, saute the ground beef in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt until it’s no longer pink, but brown in a few places. Add the beef, frozen corn and masarepa to the simmering sauce and cook, covered, for an additional 10 minutes.

Serve with chopped scallions, shredded cheddar, sour cream, tortilla chips and chopped cilantro. Enjoy!


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