RPA Chili Cookoff

On January 31, 2019, RPA Engineering hosted our annual chili cook off. The eleven entries included beef, chicken, and salmon recipes. Dan Kleinhenn, Controls Engineer, won first place for his beef chili recipe. “This is a recipe my brother and I came up with a long time ago and have gradually tweaked over the years. It’s hearty, spicy, and easy to make but tastes absolutely delicious,” shared Kleinhenn.

Here’s how to make Dan’s award-winning chili:


  • 1 lb ground beef (90% lean if possible)
  • ¼ cup red cooking wine
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can (7 oz.) whole chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped
  • 1 (14 ounce) can Mexican-style tomatoes (like Rotel) (drain liquid before adding)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder -or- finely ground coffee beans (I use espresso roast ground coffee)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 (14 ounce) can kidney or chili/pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup beef stock (use 1/2 cup for a thicker chili)


  • sour cream
  • shredded cheese (such as Mexican blend or extra sharp cheddar)
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • lime (if serving fresh, top each bowl with zest) (serve with wedges – squeeze juice onto chili before other toppings)


In large pan, add olive oil and butter on medium-high heat. Add the ground meat and cook, breaking up the beef into small pieces, until lightly browned (2-3 minutes). Remove the beef from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the red wine to the pan to deglaze and allow most of the liquid to boil off. Add the bell peppers and onions and cook until lightly browned and slightly softened, add the chipotle peppers and stir to combine for only a few seconds. Transfer everything into slow cooker with slotted spoon.

Add all spices to a small separate bowl and mix to thoroughly and evenly combine. This ensures the spices are evenly distributed throughout the chili.

Add all other ingredients to slow cooker (beans, spices, any additional adobo sauce, tomatoes, etc.). Mix to combine. Cook on low for 6 hrs. (up to 12), mixing halfway through.

Serve with toppings. For more heat, stir in a dash of plain hot sauce per serving. If chili has too much liquid, serve with slotted spoon.

Save in sealed container in the fridge for up to one week – reheat in a non-stick pan or pot. Flavor improves over the first couple of days.


The amounts fit a medium-large slow cooker perfectly (it’s full to the brim), so make sure you have a large one before starting. If it looks like you won’t have enough room, don’t add the kidney/chili/pinto beans. You can cook those separately and add to servings as necessary.

This mixture is fantastic in a soft taco. Scoop some onto a plate and press with paper towels to remove as much moisture as possible, then serve in a taco with freshly chopped tomatoes, sour cream, guac and shredded cheese. I’ve also done this with scrambled eggs to make a breakfast burrito, very good.