Smoky Lamb and Chorizo Chili

Since it suddenly became Fall this weekend (seriously, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and the leaves started hurling themselves off the trees, almost overnight), my long-sleeved shirts have come out and my mind has started filling with stews, bogs, and burgoos. To kick off the season of stick-to-your-ribs eating, I am starting with this lamb and chorizo chili. It brings all the hearty, filling heat you want, and brings in some slightly gamey, pleasantly funky flavors from the lamb.

The toppings here are key, and in fact, are as much a part of the recipe as the chili itself. This chili counts on some additional toppings to brighten up the smokey, rich flavor of this big bowl of meat, so don’t skimp on the sour cream, cheddar, and chopped green onions.

If you’ve never worked with dried chilies before, they’re fantastic. If you have trouble finding them, buy several bags at Whole Foods or your local Hispanic market, as we’ll use them a few times, and they keep forever. To de-seed and de-stem, hold them over the garbage and start ripping them up; the seeds will fall away into the trash, and you can toss the stems.

Be sure, also, to use Mexican-style chorizo, as opposed to the cured Spanish style. The brighter red and more synthetic-looking you can find, the better, as the oil that seeps out will be used for sauteing all the other ingredients. After all ingredients have been combined, you can skim some of the neon-orange oil off, but this isn’t usually a problem.



Smoky Lamb & Chorizo Chili

  • Author: Meal Hack
  • Prep Time: 30
  • Cook Time: 105
  • Total Time: 135


  • 2 1/4 cups unsalted chicken broth
  • 3 ounces dried ancho chilies
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 lbs pork chorizo, casings removed (about 4 or 5)
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 ball of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
  • 1 15 ounce can pinto beans, drained
  • Salt and black pepper
  • To garnish: Grated cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, sour cream, pickled jalapenos, fresh cilantro


  1. Combine first three ingredients in saucepan. Cover and simmer until chilies soften and broth turns dark red, about 10 minutes. Puree mixture in food processor. Strain mixture through mesh strainer, pressing on solids until all liquid is drained.
  2. Cook chorizo in a large pot over medium heat until drippings flow freely. Add the onion, garlic, oregano, and cumin, and saute until chorizo starts to brown and onions soften, about five minutes.
  3. Crumble lamb into pot, and add salt and pepper. Saute until lamb is no longer pink. Add chili liquid, and reduce heat. Cover and simmer for one hour.
  4. Add drained pinto beans and simmer until thick, about 15 minutes. Serve with sour cream, green onions, grated cheddar, cilantro, and pickled jalapenos.


  • Serving Size: 8
  • Calories: 824
  • Sugar: 2
  • Sodium: 1520
  • Fat: 57
  • Saturated Fat: 23
  • Unsaturated Fat: 30
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 26
  • Protein: 51
  • Cholesterol: 176
Update 5/8/2017: I used this recipe to win the local firefighter’s association chili cook off in my town in 2014. Got a plaque and everything. Not saying just saying.


Malcolm Bedell is co-author of the critically acclaimed "Eating in Maine: At Home, On the Town, and On the Road." He currently owns and operates the Ancho Honey restaurant in Maine.


  1. Ground lamb might be tough here, but I bet I could get them to do it for me at Superama…where the best chorizo is, btw. Sounds REALLY delicious, and chilis? No problem.

  2. You’ve got that right, Elizabeth. It felt kind of like sacrilege to use my year-aged local cheddar to top this dish…but it was absolutely the right decision.

  3. My husband and I host a chili and chowder open house every year and we’re doing this chili this year. The event is this weekend; we’ll let you know how it goes!

      1. I made it this morning and it’s simmering away right now. The house smells divine, and my husband, who is outside getting rid of the foot of snow we got here in western Maine last night, said he can smell it out there!

      2. Yum! Very rich and meaty. Our guests liked it, those who were brave enough to try it, that is. We made five chilies (yours, bean & lentil, moose & venison, white chicken, sausage) and four chowders (fish, roasted corn, mushroom & garlic, curried shrimp & sweet potato), so there was a lot to choose from!

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