The Paleolithic diet (also known as the Stone Age diet) imagines what our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate before farming techniques changed what kind of foods were consumed. According to Mayo Clinic, the paleo diet consists of omega-3-rich fish, lean meats, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts. It’s generally considered to be a healthy diet, even though it lacks legumes, which provide essential fiber.
Recipe developer Stephanie Rapone encourages a holistic approach for family dining on her website Pantry to Plate, and she created this recipe "that was hearty and healthy without any beans/legumes since my kids retaliate against those!" Rapone and her family aren’t following a specific diet, but they like to try different things "just to get out of the recipe rut," she says. "[The family] love[s] shredded beef and sweet potatoes, so this one is a winner."
Even better, this sweet potato beef chili recipe is made in the Instant Pot, so it substantially cuts down the time for tenderizing the beef to a shreddable consistency. (Okay, so maybe cave people didn’t have the handy dandy Instant Pot, but it sure makes this recipe a whole lot easier to prepare during the busiest of weeks!)
Gather the ingredients to prepare paleo sweet potato beef chili
Rapone’s beef cut of choice for this recipe is short ribs, an incredibly popular cut because of its big beefy flavor and fall-off-the-bone texture when braised. Short ribs need to be cooked a long time to melt their collagen and connective tissue, which add a sumptuousness to the sauce. But the Instant Pot will cook the ribs in a fraction of the time.
Sweet potatoes come in many different varieties, so feel free to use whichever is available at your market. Don’t pick up yams, though, since they’re an altogether different root vegetable. According to Bon Appetit, the orange-flesh sweet potatoes are often mislabeled as yams, so ask your produce manager just to be sure. Another key component to Rapone’s recipe is ancho chile powder. Ancho chiles are dried poblanos, and they have a smoky flavor that’s an essential part of Mexican cooking (via What’s Cooking In America).
Prepare the vegetables for the sweet potato chili
The first step to Rapone’s easy recipe is prepping the vegetables and aromatics. You’ll need to chop two celery ribs and ½ of a medium yellow onion into similar-sized pieces, approximately a ¼-inch dice. Once chopped, put the celery and onion into the same bowl. Next, mince three cloves of garlic, and put it into a small separate bowl. Peel and chop one large sweet potato (about 1 ½ pounds) into ¾-inch pieces. Measure out 1 tablespoon of ancho chile powder, 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of ground coriander, and ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon into a small bowl.
Sear the short ribs, and sauté the aromatics in the Instant Pot
Turn the Instant Pot (or other electric pressure cooker) on the sauté setting, and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. While the oil is heating up, season the short ribs on both sides with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. When the oil begins to shimmer, put the short ribs into the pot, and sear them for three to five minutes on each side. Transfer the seared ribs to a plate. Add the chopped onion and celery, plus ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, to the pot, and sauté them until they’re soft and starting to brown, about five to seven minutes. Stir in the minced garlic, and sauté for one more minute, then add the spice mix.
Toast the spices, and add the sweet potato to the pot
Stir the spices so that they evenly toast with the onion, celery, and garlic for 30 seconds. Add 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, and let it cook for 30 seconds to one minute, until its color is deepening. Transfer the chopped sweet potatoes to the pot, and immediately pour in 4 cups of beef stock. Stir everything together so all of the ingredients are well-combined, then add 2 teaspoons of dried thyme and two bay leaves. Give the broth another stir to incorporate the thyme and bay leaves.
Add the short ribs to the pot, and cook the chili for 35 minutes
Using tongs, carefully transfer the seared short ribs to the pot, then stir in any beefy juices that have accumulated on the plate. Turn the Instant Pot off, and seal the lid. Set the Instant Pot to the manual pressure cooker mode, and program the timer for 35 minutes. When the timer goes off, allow a natural release for 10 minutes, and then do a quick release.
Remove the short ribs from the pot, and put them on a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes. Pick out and discard the bay leaves.
Garnish the sweet potato chili, and serve
Carefully remove the meat from the bones, and shred. Rapone uses food-safe gloves for this task. Then, stir the shredded beef into the chili until it’s fully combined. Taste the broth to see if it needs any more salt and pepper. The chili will have a soup-like consistency, and Rapone doesn’t add any kind of thickening agent "because most traditional thickeners are not paleo. I opted to leave it out instead of requiring someone to buy a non-traditional ingredient for a very small amount."
Ladle the chili into bowls — it can serve four to six people — and, if desired, garnish with sliced green onion, chopped cilantro, and sliced jalapeño, and serve over cauliflower rice. (You may even want to whip up a batch of paleo cornbread to cut into warm squares and serve alongside this hearty dish!) Then, dip into Rapone’s paleo sweet potato and beef chili that is sure to become a new favorite recipe in your house.