Chocolate and chilies, as we’ve discovered, go together. I’ve played with this dessert aspect in a chili chocolate mousse and there are several chocolate bars on the market that celebrate the marriage of these two foods, but what about the savory realm? There isn’t much documentation that states the Aztecs combined chocolate in their main dishes. Chocolate was a drink not an ingredient to be added to food.

I decided to experiment with the combination in the savory realm. I took quinoa (from South America) and added chilies and chocolate (from Central America and Mexico). The heat of the chilies plays off the chocolate and binds into the quinoa bringing a bite of contrast to your mouth.

This dish is great for dinner parties and as a way to impress a date. It is exotic enough to spark conversations about food trivia. Except for a few ingredients, this is truly a New World dish. All the main ingredients, including the acorn squash and tomatoes are from the Americas.

Red Chili Quinoa and Chocolate
An innovative way to flavor quinoa and serve foods of the Americas.
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Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
30 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
  1. ½ cup quinoa
  2. 1 ¼ cup water
  3. 2 tsp cocoa
  4. ½ tsp red chili powder
  5. 1 tsp brown sugar (muscavedo or something similar)
  6. 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  7. ¼ cup roma tomatoes, diced small
  8. 1 tsp salt (or to your taste)
  9. 1 tsp white pepper
  10. ½ tsp coriander
  11. 2 tbsp cashew crema
  12. 2 acorn squash, sliced into rings and seeds removed.
Prepare the acorn squash
  1. Slice the squash into rings. Use a really sharp knife, squash can be challenging. Clean the seeds out of each ring. Season with salt, pepper and a little olive oil.
  2. Roast in an oven at 400 for 7-8 minutes. Flip the rings over half way through the cooking time.
For the quinoa
  1. Mince the garlic, dice the onion, and dice the tomatoes.
  2. Heat up a large skillet. Toast the quinoa in this skillet using the dry method (no oil). Be careful because the seeds will pop out.
  3. Add water, red chili, chocolate, and sugar.
  4. Stir the mixture.
  5. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a medium low temperature and cover.
  6. Cook until the quinoa absorbs all the water and is done. Approximately 20-25 minutes.
  7. While the quinoa is cooking, sauté the onion and garlic together in a pan.
  8. When the quinoa is done, mix in the sauteed onions and garlic.
  9. Place a ring of squash on the plate and spoon some quinoa mixture into the ring.
  10. Drizzle with tomatillo sauce and add a dollop of cashew crema. Garnish with cilantro.
  1. I serve this with sauteed rainbow chard.
Kitchen Shaman