CACAO (Cocoa) CHILLI BEANS with Corn Arepas

Cacao Chilli Beans / Homegrown Kitchen

Cacao Chilli Beans with Corn Arepas

Don't be confused here, chilli beans are technically not hot and spicy as the name may indicate. The word 'chilli' is more a reference to the combo of herbs and spices - oregano, paprika, and sometimes cumin and coriander. I have also added cacao, an ingredient often found in traditional Mexican moles (a spicy sauce of chilli's, capsicum, nuts and chocolate). This adds a lovely depth of flavour to the chilli beans, but in no way does it taste like chocolate (sorry). The addition of the whole cloves of garlic adds an extra sweet element to the beans. Simple squeeze out the sweet garlic flesh onto your plate and mix into the beans. As we say around here - the best beans ever!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes


  • 1/2 cup dried black beans
  • 1/2 cup dried kidney beans
  • OR 400g can each of black beans and kidney beans
  • 1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 rashers bacon chopped (optional - omit to make vegetarian/vegan)
  • 1 red capsicum diced
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic separated into individual whole cloves (unpeeled)
  • 4 large tomatoes chopped
  • OR 400g can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 Tbsp cacao or cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander cilantro, sour cream/ soft goats cheese, and diced avocado to serve


  • If using dried beans soak in 3 times the water for 24 hours. Rinse the beans 3-4 times during this time to wash away the indigestible enzymes that cause gas and bloating. Drain the beans, place in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Alternatively use a pressure cooker. Note: never add salt when cooking beans or the skins will not soften. Drain the cooked beans.
  • Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a moderate heat and sauté with the onions and bacon if using for 5 minutes. Add the capsicum, garlic, tomatoes, oregano, and paprika. Bring to a gentle simmer, cooking for 20 minutes until nice and saucy. Add the drained beans and cacao, cooking for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve with chopped coriander, sour cream (or soft goats cheese) and corn arepas (find the recipe for arepas HERE). You can also serve the chilli beans with rice, or wrap up in tortillas to make burritos.

This week we head to Cuba for two weeks in Havana with my Mum and her Cuban husband. I look forward to sharing photos and stories from this unique country in the coming weeks. This is the leg of our trip we are probably most excited about, but also have no idea what to expect. Cuban culture is still relatively untouched, although this is changing fast, so we feel very grateful to be visiting at this time. And to have our own Cuban tour guide (Solo, my Mum’s husband), means we will get to experience the real Cuba i.e. smoking Cuban cigars, drinking rum, dancing salsa in the street, and roasted whole pig on the spit.

I couldn’t visit Latin America without sharing a chilli bean recipe. Although we haven’t eaten a lot of beans on our trip it is still a big part of the diet here. Red beans and rice is a regular addition to meals, or beans simply cooked with onions, tomato and capsicum. The recipe I share here is probably more of a TexMex version of beans I learned to make while living in Canada some years ago. I often add a little chocolate to chilli beans and as I had some raw Colombian cacao left (see the solid block below) this was also added to mix.

The photos I share here are a few snaps from our 2 weeks in Panama staying at a beach apartment. Quite a contrast from the rawness of Colombia and Cuba, however, great to have some regularity for a few weeks for the children and spend time with my Mum and sister. Most days consisted of swimming in the 3 pools (one on the 24th floor with 360 degree views!), playing at the beach, and lots of cooking and eating. My younger sister Ana has grown into quite a foodie also (I wonder where she got that from) so between us have all been well fed.

Coronado Bay, Panama / Homegrown Kitchen

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Cacao Chilli Beans / Homegrown Kitchen

Cacao Chilli Beans / Homegrown Kitchen



Join the Conversation

  1. Check out that amazing looking avocado! Can’t wait until they aren’t so pricey here in NZ!
    Also voted 🙂

    1. Hi Amanda, the avocados here are AMAZING. We are in Cuba at the moment and they are the size of a small melon and cost about 30c each. My children are in avocado heaven!

  2. OMG lucky you. Wish I could get my hand on avocados for 30c!

  3. We miss you brook st posse. Come home soon & bring lots of photos & stories with you. Big up all your tasty recipe dem. Nuff aroha. Vic sq ghetto youth.

    1. Looking forward to seeing you all too x

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