Laura Moon’s Chili – American Gods

“Laura made a great chili. She used lean-cut meat, dark kidney beans, carrots cut small, a bottle or so of dark beer, and freshly sliced hot peppers. She would let the chili cook for a while, then add red wine, lemon juice, and a pinch of fresh dill, and, finally, measure out and add her chili powders. On more than one occasion Shadow had tried to get her to show him how she made it: he would watch everything she did, from slicing the onions and dropping them into the olive oil at the bottom of the pot on. He had even written down the sequence of events, ingredient by ingredient, and he had once made Laura’s chili for himself on a weekend when she had been out of town. It had tasted okay–it was certainly edible, and he ate it, but it had not been Laura’s chili.”

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman


Predictably, this chili is as delicious as you would expect after reading through that description.

I love the colors of this thick and savory chili, those rich dark reds, the flashes of orange carrots, and the sprinkle of seasonings. The huge amounts of cumin and spices amp up the other flavors, while the dill and lemon add a bit of an acidic zip. I’d never before added cocoa powder to a chili, but after this batch, will do it to every chili to follow. Although not specifically mentioned in the ingredients listed in the novel, the cocoa deepens the flavors of the chili, and could potentially account for Shadow’s inability to really recreate Laura’s recipe. 

Laura Moon’s Chili Recipe


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 lb. ground lean beef
  • 2 15 oz. cans kidney beans
  • 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (fire roasted are best)
  • 6 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 bottle dark beer
  • 2 freshly sliced hot peppers
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. fresh dill, chopped fine
  • assorted chili powders, to taste
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa

Cook over medium heat for at least an hour. As with most stews and soups, the chili is much better the next day.

5 thoughts on “Laura Moon’s Chili – American Gods

  1. I just found your blog and I think this concept is brilliant — and it’s appropriate that I found this post first, since Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors. Now I keep thinking of other delicious-sounding meals in literature…

    • Wonderful, and welcome! I now always read with those page marker stickers close to hand, since I’m fictional food obsessed. Let me know if you find any good meals! 😀

  2. Chili takes to cocoa fairly well; think about molé sauce, and how it gets that rich flavor. Another idea that I’ve done, and had turn out well, is to add peanut butter. You get sort of a southeast Asian flair, and it is truly excellent on hot dogs. As it’s finally getting chilly in these parts, I might just have to make up a batch of this.

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