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homemade chili

Rockaway Chili (Homemade Chili Recipe)

This chili recipe succeeds at what any chili recipe should do: make you feel warm and loved.

homemade chili

Together with our best friend Clifton, we made over 600 servings of this “Rockaway Chili” for Hurricane Sandy victims in Rockaway, Queens in 2012. We couldn’t have done it without donations and support from numerous family and friends. Whenever I think of chili, I’m automatically comforted by thoughts of their generosity. Humanity is NOT dead.

We felt helpless, as we sat watching the 24/7 media coverage of the devastation. It was so close to home, we had to do something. Then we were inspired by an interview with a man shown grilling burgers and hot dogs for the hungry, because food donations were scarce (delayed gas deposits prevented many vehicles from attending disaster locations).

We scouted for a location the night before, and was in awe of the destruction. Sand, miles away from the beach, dusted residential streets and shopping plazas. All that was left of the boardwalk were concrete columns and splintered steps. Very surreal.

I walked through some of the ruble and picked up a small, red brick-colored rock and put it in my pocket. It’s now my daily gratitude stone. It reminds me of that night and all that I have to be thankful for in my life: to have friends and family that makes shit happen, no matter what obstacles we face. To feed people something that warms and nourishes their bodies. Because, in the midst of chaos, a bowl of good food can calm your spirit.

Clifton, Leo, and I cooked over 600 servings of  chili, good chili, like never before in my old, tiny ass kitchen. We were delirious at some points, during two sleepless nights. Thank the Universe for my mother. She kept us sane, by making sure we were awake and conscious enough every morning, to put our socks on!

Rockaway Chili (Homemade Chili Recipe)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6 servings
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 red bell pepper, medium diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, medium diced
  • 2 red onions, medium diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, diced
  • 1 can red beans
  • 1 small can chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped (we substituted with aji panca paste)
  • ¾ cup frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon Cumin
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • few dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Oil
  • Toppings:
  • Sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • scallions
  1. Cook ground beef in a large heavy bottom pot on medium-high heat. Continuously break it into small chunks. Once the meat is mostly cooked through, remove most of the liquid from the pot
  2. Make space in the middle of the pot for sautéing onions, garlic, and spices. Mix well
  3. After a few minutes, stir in the tomato paste
  4. Add tomato sauce, and bell peppers, and chipotle peppers, and beans. Then a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce
  5. Cover and cook on medium-low for about 2 hours or in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours on low.
  6. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, scallions, and bread or tortilla chips.
Special thanks to our hero friends and family: Clifton, Rida, Jumnong, Gina, Jorge, Vania, Lola, Mari, Marco, Alan, Lyle, Theresa, Chris, Acacia, Tony, Ronnie, Aja, the Cordero family, and every who donated!