December 23, 2023 5 min read


 J. Kenji López-Alt, based in Seattle, Washington, is not your typical stay-at-home dad; he's a culinary consultant with a rich background in food science, recipe development, equipment reviews, restaurant critiques, and general food features. Known for his expertise, Kenji is the former culinary director for Serious Eats and currently serves as a culinary consultant for the site. His culinary journey includes working with acclaimed chefs such as Barbara Lynch and Ken Oringer in the Boston area, a senior editor role at Cook’s Illustrated magazine, and the development of Serious Eats' recipe program in 2009.

Kenji's impact extends beyond digital platforms; he is the Chef/Partner of Wursthall, a German-inspired California beer hall near his home in San Mateo. A New York Times food columnist since 2019, Kenji is also an accomplished author with a New York Times best-seller, "The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science," which earned him a James Beard Award and the title of Cookbook of the Year in 2015 from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. His diverse portfolio includes a children's book, "Every Night is Pizza Night," and an upcoming release focusing on wok cooking. A MIT graduate with a degree in architecture, Kenji continues to influence and educate in the world of food, evident in his YouTube cooking show, "Kenji’s Cooking Show," and his deeply rooted passion for culinary exploration.


  • Active: 2 hrs
  • Soaking: 8 hrs
  • Cook: 5 hrs 40 mins 
  • Total:  13 hrs 40 mins
  • Serves: 6-10 servings


    For Chili:

  • 1 pound (450g) dried dark red kidney beans
  • 6 tablespoons (54g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt (for table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight), plus more for seasoning
  • 3 whole ancho, pasilla, or mulato chiles, seeded and torn into rough 1-inch pieces (about 1/2 ounce)
  • 2 whole New Mexico red, California, costeño, or choricero chiles, seeded and torn into rough 1-inch pieces (about 1/8 ounce)
  • 1 whole cascabel, árbol, or pequin chile, seeded and torn in half
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (9g) whole cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (3g) whole coriander seeds
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 5 pounds (2.3kg) bone-in beef short ribs, trimmed of silver skin and excess fat
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 quart (900ml) low-sodium chicken broth (preferably homemade), divided
  • 1 ounce (30g) chopped unsweetened chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon (5g) extra-finely ground coffee beans
  • 2 whole anchovy fillets
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) Marmite
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 3 fresh Thai bird chiles or 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon (3g) dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (28-ounce; 794g) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) cider vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) vodka or bourbon
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) Buffalo-style hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot (or more to taste)

  • For Garnish (all suggestions optional):

  • Scallions, thinly sliced
  • Cheddar, Jack, or Colby cheese, grated
  • Sour cream
  • Jalapeño or Poblano peppers, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • Onion, diced
  • Avocado, diced
  • Saltine crackers
  • Fritos
  • 2 cups cold strong coffee
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for the bottom of the molds
  • sugar to taste

    1. Place beans, the 6 tablespoons (54g) kosher salt, and 4 quarts (4L) water in a large container or bowl. Allow to soak at room temperature at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Drain and rinse soaked beans.

    Soaked kidney beans being drained in a metal colander inside of a deep stainless steel-lined sink.

    2. Add dried chiles to a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stockpot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly darkened with an intense, roasted aroma, 2 to 5 minutes. Do not allow to smoke. Remove chiles, place in a small bowl, and set aside. Alternatively, place dried chiles on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power in 15-second increments until chiles are pliable and toasted-smelling, about 30 seconds total. Reduce the heat to medium; add the cumin, coriander, cloves, and star anise to the Dutch oven and stir, toasting until the spices become fragrant. Remove spices, cool slightly, then transfer to a spice grinder and grind into a powder. Set aside.A two-image collage. The top image shows two bowls side by side, one holding toasted chiles, the other holding whole toasted spices. The bottom image shows cumin, coriander, cloves, and star anise ground into a fine powder inside of a spice grinder.

    3. Season short ribs on all sides with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add oil to Dutch oven and heat over high heat until smoking. Add half of short ribs and brown well on all sides (it may be necessary to brown ribs in 3 batches, depending on size of Dutch oven—do not overcrowd pan), 8 to 12 minutes total, reducing heat if fat begins to smoke excessively or meat begins to burn. Transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet or plate. Repeat with remaining short ribs, browning them in the fat remaining in Dutch oven. Once all short ribs are cooked, transfer all rendered fat into a small bowl and reserve separately. Allow short ribs to cool at room temperature.

    A two-image collage. The top image shows chunks of beef short rib added to hot oil inside of a Dutch oven. The bottom image shows the now-browned chunks of beef short rib resting on a sheet pan.

    4. Meanwhile, return Dutch oven to medium-high heat and add 1 cup (240ml) chicken broth, using a flat wooden spoon or stiff spatula to scrape browned bits off of bottom of pan. Reduce heat until chicken broth is at a bare simmer, add toasted chiles to liquid, and cook until chiles have softened and liquid is reduced by half, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer chiles and liquid to a blender. Add ground spices, chocolate, tomato paste, coffee, anchovies, soy sauce, and Marmite. Blend at high speed, scraping down sides as necessary, until a completely smooth purée has formed, about 2 minutes. Set chile purée aside.A four-image collage. The top left image shows the dried chiles being softened inside of a Dutch oven. The top right image shows a wooden spoon holding up a softened chile, to demonstrate the texture. The bottom left image shows the softened chiles and dried spices inside of the jar of a high speed blender. The bottom right image shows the chiles and other ingredients processed into a smooth paste inside of the jar of the high speed blender.

    5. Trim meat from short rib bones and hand-chop into rough 1/2-inch to 1/4-inch pieces (finer or larger, as you prefer), reserving bones separately. Add any accumulated meat juices to chile purée.A two-image collage. The top image shows the meat being cut off of the beef short rib bones. The bottom image shows a cutting board covered with small chopped pieces of beef short rib meat.

    6. Heat 4 tablespoons (60ml) rendered beef fat (if necessary, add vegetable oil to reach 4 tablespoons) in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, 6 to 8 minutes. Add garlic, fresh chiles, and oregano and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chile purée and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot, until chile mixture begins to fry and leaves a coating on bottom of pan, 2 to 4 minutes. Add remaining chicken stock, chopped beef, beef bones, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, scraping bottom of pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat to lowest possible setting, add beans, and cook, with cover slightly ajar, until beans are almost tender, about 1 hour. Add crushed tomatoes and cider vinegar and cook, with cover slightly ajar, until beans and beef are fully tender and broth is rich and lightly thickened, 2 to 3 1/2 hours longer, adding water if necessary to keep beans and meat mostly submerged (a little protrusion is okay).

    A four-image collage. The top left image shows onions and dried spices added to the interior of a Dutch oven. The top right image shows the chile mixture beginning to fry in the Dutch oven. The bottom left image shows the soaked, rinsed beans being added to the Dutch oven, which now also includes liquid. The bottom right image shows tomatoes being added to the Dutch oven, which now also contains the chopped meat.

    7. Using tongs, remove and discard bay leaves and bones. (At this point, any excess meat still attached to the bones can be removed, chopped, and added back to the chili, if desired.) Add vodka (or bourbon), brown sugar, and hot sauce and stir to combine. Season to taste with kosher salt, ground black pepper, and additional vinegar.

    A two-image collage. The top image shows the alcohol, brown sugar, and and hot sauce about to be poured into the Dutch oven. The bottom image shows the pot being stirred with a wooden spoon, with all of the ingredients stirred together.

    8. Serve immediately, or, for best flavor, allow to cool and refrigerate overnight, or up to 1 week in a sealed container. Reheat and serve with desired garnishes.A ceramic bowl of chili topped with sliced jalapenos, sliced scallions, grated cheddar, sour cream, and corn chips.