Coffee and Molasses Chili

My wife’s grandpa gave us two Carolina Reaper peppers the other day, and despite the fact that these peppers generally boast an average of 1,600,000 Scoville units (think about 300x hotter than the average jalapeno pepper), we were determined to use them. Since we like to actually taste and enjoy our food, we’re not huge fans of the whole “make it as spicy as you can” mantra. Thus, the challenge ahead of us was to incorporate the intense heat of the Carolina Reaper in a way that complemented and enhanced the rich flavours of the other ingredients in our chili.

With the introduction to the Carolina Reaper above, we’d like to share a few things that we did while preparing them that will help you as well (or you can go the route of using entirely different peppers altogether):

  • We wore gloves. Food/Surgical grade non-powdered vinyl gloves. If there’s one tip to heed, it’s this. Otherwise, if you rub your eyes, touch your lips, or worse…go to the bathroom…, you’ll be one unhappy chef. If you use gloves, you can simply remove and discard when you’re done prepping the pepper.
  • We put the vent on over our stovetop. When you first put your peppers in the pan, you’ll want to have something to suck out the air (if you don’t, just don’t put your face over the pan). Otherwise, you’ll de facto pepper spray yourself, and that’s no fun.
  • Be smart, and avoid the seeds. The flesh of this pepper is plenty hot to give your chili a nice kick and to enhance the flavour. If you use the seeds, you likely won’t taste anything…for a while.

All that scary stuff aside, let’s get back to the chili! We built this one with a dark roast coffee for a deep, rich flavour, and then we used a mix of molasses and honey to give it a little sweetness to counterbalance the heat of the pepper and build a layered flavour profile. After we made the chili, we scooped it into a hollowed out into a half-pre-roasted acorn squash, and then we finished everything off in the oven. This recipe is only for the chili, but we’ll post a general Chili Stuffed Acorn Squash recipe soon. Other good ways to serve this are over a baked potato, cornbread, white rice, or spaghetti (like they do in Cincinnati).

Time: 30 Minutes (+any additional simmer time you like)


  • Ground Meat of your choice. We used turkey, but pork, beef, or venison would be great too.
  • Onion
  • Hot Chili Peppers. We (judiciously) used the aforementioned Carolina Reaper.
  • Beans of your choice. We used pinto.
  • Tomato Paste
  • Ground Cumin
  • A cup of Dark Roast Coffee
  • Molasses
  • Honey


  • Brew some extra coffee in the morning, and set it aside for later (or brew freshly before you start to cook)
  • Dice your onion, and caramelize it in your chili pot with a little oil.
  • As the onion cooks, slice your hot pepper into thin strips (with kitchen/surgical gloves on). Be careful to keep the seeds apart from your peppers depending on which peppers you’re using and how hot you want your chili.
  • When your onions become slightly opaque and start to brown, add your ground meat, hot peppers, and ground cumin.
  • When the meat has browned, rinse your beans, and add them to the mix. Then, stir in your tomato paste.
  • Add your coffee, molasses, and honey, and stir to combine (tasting as you go to make sure you have enough of each in the chili).
  • Let simmer until your chili reaches your desired thickness.
  • Plate, devour, and enjoy!

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