Tex-Mex Like You’ve Never Tasted Before–Miso Chili Con Carne y Wasabi Sour Cream

As un-American as it makes me sound, I never make chili con carne, or chili for short. In fact, I’ve probably eaten only 4 or 5 bowls of it in my lifetime. I know, I’m ashamed to say it.

To me, chili refers to the red or green finger-shaped fruits that add spice and heat to the many dishes of my childhood.

Chili as a piping hot bowl of cumin-scented ground meat, beans, tomatoes, and spices topped with sour cream and shredded cheese is an American incarnation I am slowly coming to terms with.

Needless to say, I was a little stumped when I was asked to join the Let’s Lunch group, a Twitter-inspired virtual lunch date organized by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, author of “A Tiger in the Kitchen” (it’s a great read about Tan’s journey of discovering her Singaporean family and culture through food), and I discovered that the dish of the month was chili!

I was determined to “Asianify” this Tex-Mex staple. It’s been done before. Zengo, a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant with locations in Denver and D.C., marries chipotles with miso, achiote and hoisin, and adobo and sesame. And who hasn’t used Serranos or jalapeños in their Asian cooking?

As I rummaged through my fridge I found some white miso. Miso is similar to Chinese yellow or brown bean paste which is used in mabo tofu, a dish of ground pork, tofu, and chilies. I decided to use this as a launching pad to create a chili recipe with my name on it.

Miso Primer

miso smiley face
How do you like my miso smiley face?

Miso is a salty paste fermented from soybeans, salt and/or rice, barley. A concentrated form of protein, it has live active cultures (i.e. lactic acid-forming bacteria) that aids digestion. Miso adds robust umami flavor to soups, sauces, and meat marinades.

Here are some more common misos in order of light to dark-colored, delicate to strong-flavored:

Saikyo: Lightly fermented, this cream-colored miso is naturally sweet with a delicate flavor. Sometimes used to flavor sweet baked goods.

Shiro (commonly called white miso): A straw to gold-colored miso that’s low in sodium. It’s also the most versatile of the lot.

Aka (commonly called red miso): The longer ageing process (compared to shiro) produces a deeper, more savory miso with a reddish hue.

Hatcho: Soybeans and salt are fermented for two years in cedar barrels to produce this dense, chocolate-colored paste. Its intense, meaty savoriness is perfect paired with meat.

For the most part, you can use any type of miso in any recipe.

When I was researching “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook,” Hiroko Sugiyama, a Japanese culinary instructor based in the Northwest  told me she likes to combine red and white misos when making miso soup to make it more interesting. (If you have my cookbook, it’s on page 90.) You can also buy awase miso which is a blended miso.

Even a bowl of chili could do with a dash of umami!


Miso Chili Con Carne y Wasabi Sour Cream


Don’t get hung up on the type of miso to use in this recipe. My organic miso was labeled “White Type” and contained both rice and soybeans. More importantly, look for just the basic ingredients without any additives. Whatever type of miso you use, you’ll end up with a rich, umami-laden stew that will impress your friends at your upcoming Super Bowl party.

Time: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active)
Makes: 4 to 6 servings

1 pound/500 grams ground pork
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons miso (white or red) mixed with 1/4 cup warm water to make a creamy paste
1 (28 oz/794g) can chopped tomatoes
2 cups (1 (16 oz) can/500g) cooked beans (adzuki, pinto, kidney)
1 cup roasted corn
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Wasabi Sour Cream (see below), shredded cheese, and green onions to serve

Brown the pork in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat to render the fat, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the fat and remove the meat to a plate.

Using the same Dutch oven, add 1 teaspoon of olive oil and cook the onion and garlic over medium heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Return the pork to the pot. Add the miso mixture and mix well. Add the tomatoes, beans, corn, spices, plus 1 cup water. Mix well and bring the chili to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for at least 1 hour. Stir occasionally and add water if the chili looks like it’s drying out.

Taste, and add salt and pepper, and/or more spices as needed. I didn’t add any salt because I found the miso added enough saltiness.

Serve in individual bowls and top with wasabi sour cream, cheese and green onions.

As with any stew, this chili tastes even better the next day, or even the day after!

Wasabi Sour Cream
Admittedly, the wasabi sour cream adds more fun than flavor to the chili, you hardly taste the wasabi. The proportions below produce a pretty mild result. If you prefer, continue adding wasabi powder and tasting as you go until you feel a jolt up your nose.

2 teaspoons wasabi powder
1 cup sour cream

Whisk the wasabi and sour cream together in a small bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.


Don’t forget to check out the Let’s Lunchers’ chili below. And if you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #Letslunch.

Cheryl‘s Keema Chili at A Tiger in the Kitchen

Cathy‘s Chunky-Style Cowboy Chili at Showfood Chef

Charissa‘s Clean Out Refrigerator Night Cassoulet, A “Frenchified” Chili at Zest Bakery

Ellise‘s Chicken Tinga Chili at Cowgirl Chef

Emma‘s Dave’s Chili at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

Felicia‘s Low-Concept Vegetarian Chili at Burnt-Out Baker

Grace‘s Chinese New Year Chili at HapaMama

Karen‘s Hawaiian Chili at GeoFooding

Linda‘s Smokin’ Hot Vegan Vaquero Chili at Spicebox Travels

Lucy‘s “Full of Beans” Chili at A Cook And Her Books

Joe‘s Texas Bowl O’Red at JoeYonan.com


15 thoughts on “Tex-Mex Like You’ve Never Tasted Before–Miso Chili Con Carne y Wasabi Sour Cream

  1. Hello there! I’ve been checking out your blog for awhile but I’ve been waiting to try out a recipe before posting a comment. I was craving chili a little while ago, which my partner doesn’t care for so I thought I’d give yours a try – and it was a hit! I compromised with sriracha (because I figure it still fits the asian theme of ingredients) instead of the wasabi cream which I’ll definitely try next time. I also threw in some diced green bell pepper and it turned out delicious. The green pepper and your musing on how to “asianify” a chili made me think of bitter melon. Funny thing is that I hated bitter melon stew as a kid. But as an adult, I’ve been trying to revisit those few hated vegetables from childhood. I think this recipe will be a perfect match for it – just in very small quantities!

  2. Call it a coincidence inspired by my new year’s detox… last night, I made a vegetarian barley, bean chili using spicy Sichuan doubanjiang — ‘Chinafied Chili’? Your recipe takes the prize though as you extended the eastern twist to the sour cream! Nice!

  3. Great rundown of all the different types of miso. Your chili looks wonderful, and I’m imagining it would be good over ramen, too! Welcome to Let’s Lunch and can’t wait for more of your recipes.

  4. Welcome to Let’s Lunch! So happy to have you participating. I love the flavor profile and description you gave on the miso! I’ll have to see if I can find a gluten-free version. I know my husband would LOVE wasabi sour cream too. Thanks for sharing this!

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