All-American Beef Chili
Bring on the comfort food with this thick and hearty beef chili! Packed with ground beef, a blend of spices, and beans this easy chili recipe goes great on its own, on a hot dog, or as a bowl of Frito pie!
Around the end of summer, I start ITCHING to grab a mug of my favorite hot chocolate, bust out my Dutch oven and churn out some of my favorite cold-weather comfort food favorites. I’m talking about things like Italian wedding soup, spaghetti and meatballs, beef stew, and HOMEMADE CHILI.
A big bowl of piping hot chili topped with shredded cheese and sour cream (and Fritos, if I’m being perfectly honest) is one of my ultimate cold-weather comfort foods. It’s something that I’ve loved since I was a kid, and I still can’t get enough of it.
What is Chili?
Chili, also referred to as chili con carne is a hearty beef stew made with spices, peppers, meat, tomatoes, and beans (in some cases). Most homemade chili recipes are made up of the same basic ingredients like ground beef, onion, spices, beans, and some type of tomato product. The differences usually reside in the quantities used, how the dish is cooked, how long the chili cooks, or the region they are cooked in.
Some of the regional differences among chili recipes resulted in unique chilis with distinctive flavors or ingredients. For example “Texas chili” is made with meat and a thick, chili paste with no tomatoes or beans while “Cincinnati chili” is a Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce often served over spaghetti.
As you can probably tell based on how many chili recipes there are on this site, I can’t resist trying new chili recipes when I come across them. While I’ve tried quite a few classic-style beef chili recipes, I still hadn’t managed to find “the one” until I came across this one long ago. Once I made this recipe, the search was officially over; it is, hands-down, the best chili recipe I’ve ever made. It is worthy of lamination and a permanent home in any recipe collection.
Ingredients You’ll Need
This recipe strikes the perfect balance of textures, flavors, and spice; the resulting chili is thick and tender, not soupy, and a phenomenal blend of flavors.
- Ground beef: Literally the meat of this recipe, you want to use a beef that is 85-90% lean meat for a hearty flavor that isn’t too greasy.
- Onions + Garlic: Flavor the base of this beef chili recipe.
- Bell Pepper: Seeded and diced bell pepper add a pop of color and flavor to the dish.
- Spices: A blend of chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt season this hearty chili.
- Beans + Tomatoes: Helps bulk up the chili for a filling and flavorful meal.
- Tomato puree: Gives a rich tomato flavor to the chili.
Tips and Substitutions
- The Best Beef: I believe the best beef for this recipe is an 85-90% lean ground beef.
- Alternative meats: If you are looking to switch it up you can also use ground turkey or ground chicken.
- Other beans: You want to use beans that hold up to low, slow cooking. If you don’t want to use kidney beans (red beans) you can also try black beans or pinto beans
- Omit the beans? Alternatively you could omit the beans entirely if you want.
How to Make the Best Beef Chili
- Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until it is shimmering.
- Cook vegetables and spices (#1): Add the onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes.
- Mix in the garlic: Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Cook beef: Add the beef and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredinets (#2): Stir in beans, diced tomatoes (with their juice), tomato puree and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt.
- Simmer (#3): Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat so it maintains a slow simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
- Uncover and cook(#4): Remove the lid and continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes.
- Season to taste: Season with additional salt and pepper to taste before serving.
Crock Pot Cooking Directions
You can easily make this beef chili in the slow cooker but the texture may not turn out exactly the same. To prepare this chili in the crockpot:
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat until it is shimmering.
- Cook vegetables and spices: Add the onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes.
- Mix in garlic: Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Cook the beef: Add the beef and increast the heat to medium-high. Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
- Add remaining ingredients: Stir in beans, diced tomatoes (with their juice), tomato puree and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.
- Transfer and slow cook: Transfer to the crock pot and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.
- Uncover and cook: For a thicker texture, leave the lid ajar and cook on high for an hour at the end.
- Season to taste: Season with additional salt and pepper to taste before serving.
One of my favorite things about chili is how easy it is to serve in a variety of different ways. Some of my favorite ways to enjoy this beef chili recipe include:
- Top with sour cream
- Sprinkle with shredded cheese
- Garnish with green onion
- Make into Frito Pie
- Pour over a hot dog
- Serve it with a slice of homemade cornbread
Storing and Freezing Chili
- Storing: Store leftover chili in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Freezing: For longer storage, you can keep the chili in the freezer for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container.
- Thawing: Move the chili from the freezer to the refrigerator to thaw 24 hours before reheating and serving.
Texas chili omits beans and tomatoes entirely from the recipe. Instead, the chili cooks with a chili paste base leading to a thick, hearty beef stew.
This is a personal preference. For this recipe, I do not use beef broth. The ground beef gives a deep, meaty flavor and by omitting the broth keeps the consistency of the chili thick.
My Favorite Chili
I know that I’ll likely get asked which of the chili recipes I’ve shared on the site to date is my favorite. If you’re looking for an easy, classic beef chili recipe, this one is a must-make. It’s my favorite of the bunch, and it also freezes really well. That being said, I also really love the chili con carne recipe. It’s quite a different recipe, with varying flavors and textures, so if you want to try a chili recipe with a unique flair, I highly recommend that one.
If You Like This Beef Chili Recipe, Try These:
Hearty, rich, and flavorful this easy beef chili recipe makes the perfect comfort food. Serve it as is, top a hot dog with it, or dish it out as Frito pie; you truly can’t go wrong!
If you make this recipe and love it, remember to stop back and give it a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️
Classic Chili Recipe
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 yellow onions, medium, finely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
- ¼ cup (0.3 g) chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt, divided
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 pounds (907.18 g) ground beef, 85-90% lean
- 30 oz (850.49 g) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 28 oz (793.79 g) can diced tomatoes
- 28 oz (793.79 g) can tomato puree
- Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until it is shimmering. Add the onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, cayenne and ½ teaspoon of the salt. Cook until the vegetables have softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the beef and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, breaking up the beef with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Stir in the beans, diced tomatoes (with their juice), tomato puree and the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat so it maintains a slow simmer, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
- Remove the lid and continue to simmer for an additional 45 minutes. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste before serving. Garnish with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream, if desired. Leftover chili can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. The chili can also be frozen for up to 1 month (let the chili thaw in refrigerator for 24 hours before reheating).
- To make in the slow cooker, prepare through step #2 up until simmering, then transfer to a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Leave the lid ajar and cook on high for the final hour of cooking to allow the chili to thicken.
- You can omit the beans if you choose.
This recipe was originally published in January 2013. It was updated in September 2017 with new photos and refreshed in September 2018 with additional recipe notes.
Photography by Lauren Grant.