An easy recipe for delicious Beef Chili, just like mom used to make. Follow the recipe, or add your own special stuff for an award-winning bowl everyone will love.
When the weather starts to turn and the air is a little crisper, making a big pot of chili is a no-brainer. It’s great when you have a lot of mouths to feed or you want to send a hearty meal to a neighbor or friend.
This recipe cooks up quickly on the stove, in a little more than an hour, with very little hands-on time. That makes it perfect for weeknights and busy weekends. Make a double batch and enjoy the leftovers; it only gets better with time.
- Onions and peppers: Add or substitute carrots, celery, zucchini, or corn.
- Spices: My homemade chili seasoning has chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme, and chipotle chili powder (or cayenne) for heat.
- Kidney beans: This recipe calls for canned kidney beans, but you can substitute any other kind of canned bean that you like. To substitute dried beans, cook 1 ½ cups dried beans (about 10 ounces). In a large saucepan, add dried beans, 1 teaspoon salt, and 2 ½ quarts water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to gentle simmer and cook until beans are tender (about 1 ½ to 2 hours). Stir the beans occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan and adjust heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer. Drain.
- Canned tomatoes: I like the fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies. You could also use regular diced tomatoes and add a 4-ounce can of diced green chilies.
- Toppings: Sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, corn chips, scallions, oyster crackers, hot sauce, all of it and more.
- Heat some olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or large stock pot, and sauté onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme, cayenne (omit if you’re my mom or you don’t like spicy!), and the salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the vegetables soften, about 7 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, then add the beef. Break up the larger clumps with a wooden spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
- Add the beans (I drain and rinse, but if you don’t, you’ll be just fine), tomatoes (undrained), and tomato purée, and bring everything to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes, then cook for 30 minutes longer with the lid off.
- Before you serve the chili, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Then serve it up in big bowls with all your favorite chili toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and lots of sliced scallions.
Recipe tips and variations:
- Without beans: Some chili lovers insist beans don’t belong in a traditional chili. Just add extra meat and veggies.
- Stew meat: You can use chunks of beef for a heartier stew, but it might take longer to cook. Dredge the stew meat in salt, pepper, and flour and add to the pot. Simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours until fork-tender.
- Bacon: A handful of diced bacon or crumbled chorizo cooked along with the onions, add another layer of delicious flavor to the pot (I start with bacon in my favorite Chili Con Carne recipe).
- Spicy: Add dried ancho, chipotle, guajillo, or New Mexican chili powder to the pot to bump up the heat, add some sweetness, or make chili a little more complex. Careful – some of these get really spicy!
- Beer: A can of good beer cooks down and gently flavors your stew. Especially good over open fires with lots of friends.
- Chocolate: Yes, you read that right! A square or two of unsweetened baking chocolate makes a bold, deeply delicious chili. It’s a trick I learned from making Cincinnati Chili.
- Make ahead: Make it up to 4 days in advance. The flavors just get better with time!
- Storage: Let the chili cool and store in the refrigerator. Enjoy the leftovers within the week.
- Freezing: Beef chili freezes beautifully. Portion, label, and date. When you’re hungry, let it thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating gently on the stove.
- In a slow cooker: Get the chili started on the stove by softening the vegetables and browning the meat, following steps 1 and 2 in the recipe. Then transfer everything to a crockpot large enough to hold it all, add the tomatoes and beans, and cook on HIGH for 3 to 4 hours or LOW for 7 to 8 hours. Do not add dried kidney beans directly to the slow cooker; they must be cooked separately first.
- Instant Pot Beef Chili: Soften the onions and peppers in the pot on the sauté function, then add the spices, beef, and garlic. Once the beef is cooked through, add the tomatoes and beans. Seal the Instant Pot, turn the pot to the Chili/Bean setting, which takes about 20 minutes. Depending on how quickly you want to eat, you can either release the pressure manually or wait for the pressure to naturally release over the next 10 to 15 minutes. If the chili is too soupy, you can thicken it by letting it cook down with the sauté function for another 10 minutes, until you get the right consistency.
More delicious chili recipes:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions chopped
- 1 medium green bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and chopped (see note 1)
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder (see note 2)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 (15.5 ounce) cans kidney beans drained and rinsed (see note 3)
- 2 (10 ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles undrained (see note 4)
- 1 (28 ounce) can tomato purée
- 1 bay leaf
- shredded cheese and scallions and sour cream, for serving
- In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil in over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle chili powder, thyme, coriander, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook until vegetables have softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add beef and cook, breaking up the clumps with a spoon, until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to simmer for 30 minutes longer. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with shredded cheese, scallions, and sour cream.
- Bell peppers: Or add or substitute carrots, celery, corn, or zucchini.
- Chipotle chili powder: Substitute ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or omit if you don’t like spicy food.
- Kidney beans: 3 cups cooked beans can be substituted for the 2 cans (that’s about 1 cup dried beans before cooking). You can use any type of canned or cooked bean instead of kidney.
- Canned tomatoes: I love the flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles, but you can substitute regular canned tomatoes and add 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies. Ro*tel tomatoes are good, too.
- Yield: This recipe makes 8 (1-cup) servings, about 2 quarts chili.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Make ahead: Cool within 2 hours, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days in advance. Reheat the full recipe on the stove over low heat to 165 degrees. Reheat small batches in the microwave.
- Freezer: Cool cooked chili to below 40 degrees on an instant-read thermometer within 2 hours and place into airtight containers. Frozen chili will last 4 to 6 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Instant Pot: Sauté the onions, peppers, spices, garlic, and beef in an Instant Pot until the beef is browned, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf and mix well. Cook on manual or high pressure for 10 minutes. Fast release the pressure when done.
- Slow cooker: At the end of step 2, transfer the cooked beef mixture to a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients as directed in step 3, cover and cook the chili on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
- More toppings: Cheese, sour cream, and scallions are classics. You can also try diced avocado, cooked bacon, fresh cilantro, minced onion, hot sauce, lime wedges, tortilla chips, corn chips, or oyster crackers.