Serve a man chili and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to make chili and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime – Erich Boenzli (totally made up, never heard about the fish one)
Everyone should have a basic chili recipe in her/his cooking repertoire/arsenal. Especially during the winter months, when it’s getting colder and darker earlier, there’s something about a simmering chili on the stovetop in a Dutch oven.
Dutch oven chili con carne is comfort food. We all need it.
It warms your house, your stomach, and your heart, and is super easy to make. It’s a one-pot dish that requires minimal cleanup.
There are tons of articles written about the origin of chili, the correct way to make chili, the authentic Texan chili, chili with or without meat, which beans are the only right ones to use in chili. And on and on and on. Or, you can try my easy chili recipe and discover which combinations you like best.
The Best Chili Recipe
The best chili recipe starts with the right ingredients. It’s straightforward and easy to adjust to your taste. Like it spicier? Replace bell pepper with jalapeño pepper. Like it sweeter? Add some tomato sauce and reduce the amount of beef stock accordingly. Vegan? Replace the meat with more beans.
But what doesn’t change are the cooking steps. Learn this basic chili recipe and you’ll have a lifetime of tasty chilis coming your way.
The Ground Beef
I like to use lean ground beef, 85/15. This number stands for the ratio of beef to fat. Make sure the bigger number is the beef part. 🤣 When you brown 85/15 beef, it’ll render enough fat to have a nice base for the sauce. Fattier ground beef will leave you with too much fat, which you then have to drain or your sauce will feel greasy. You can also mix beef and pork. Whatever your preference is.
Shallots (or onion) and garlic will provide the base of the flavors. Bell peppers add a little crunch, sweetness, and structure. For tomatoes, whole plum tomatoes are my go-to. Some people swear by using the more expensive San Marzano variety of plum tomato for their chili. I’m not sure how much of this is just good marketing 😉
Whether you use dried or canned beans is a personal preference. I use canned kidney beans. Kidney beans retain their firmness and shape while cooking and absorb spices and flavors perfectly. For color purposes, I use one can of light red and one can of dark red kidney beans. Does anybody taste a difference? Feel free to experiment. A combination of kidney, pinto, and black beans can certainly add some interesting texture.
I simply use a Knorr bouillon beef stock cube dissolved in hot water. Adding a glass of red wine is always a tasty addition but not necessary. Add more stock as needed. Depending on how hot and for how long you simmer your chili will determine how much stock you’ll use.
In this classic chili recipe, I use chili powder, ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper, freshly cracked black pepper, and dried oregano. It works. If you’re not a big fan of cumin, just half the amount given in the recipe.
How Long Do Spices Last? And Do Ground Spices Expire?
Here’s a quick summary. You can also use your nose and/or taste buds. Spices will lose their aroma over time. Your nose and tongue will recognize that.
- Whole spices (such as peppercorns, whole allspice, caraway seeds): 3-4 years
- Ground spices (such as cumin, ginger, paprika, and chili powder): 2-4 years
- Ground and whole leafy herbs (such as basil, oregano, rosemary, and most seasoning blends): 1-3 years
At the heart of a great chili is chili powder. Using a high quality, fresh chili powder will make or break your chili result.
How To Make A Delicious Chili con Carne With Minimal Equipment And Minimal Hands-On Time
So now that we’ve selected all the ingredients and have them ready, sliced and diced and drained, we can focus on the cooking process.
Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Add ground beef and brown it, using a wooden spoon to break it up for about 8 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste it.
Add chopped shallots (or onion), bell pepper, and garlic, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Add 2 cups of beef stock OR 1 cup of red wine and 1 cup of beef stock. Finally, add drained beans and tomatoes (which I don’t drain), and all the spices. Stir and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.
You might wonder what’s happening with the plum tomatoes. Wasn’t I supposed to dice them before adding to the Dutch oven? Nope. Simply use your tongs and squeeze them. They’ll nicely break apart and all the juices will stay in the pot instead of getting lost on the cutting board. Pretty nifty.
Reduce heat to a simmer. At this point, it’s a good idea to taste again. Make sure the spices are balanced. Don’t worry about adding salt yet if it tastes under-salted. You might add more beef stock later, which will add more salt. Cover and cook on low heat (when you lift the lid, it should just bubble but not boil) for about two hours. Check and stir occasionally. If it gets too dry, add more beef stock.
Of course, your chili can be ready in a much shorter time, but letting it simmer will let the flavors mingle longer, which I believe makes a better chili.
Tip: If you can’t wait any longer or your chili is too runny after simmering for two hours, just remove the lid, crank up the heat and let it reduce to your desired thickness. Just make sure to stir regularly so the meat doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan.
Now that you’re ready to serve, how about adding some toppings. Some suggestions are:
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- Sliced green onions (scallions)
- Saltine crackers
- Sliced jalapeños
Add any, some, or all. This mostly depends on what you have available. Serve and enjoy!
Looking for more delicious dinner ideas? Check out a few more of our delicious recipes:
- Red-Wine Braised Short Ribs in a Dutch Oven
- Lasagne al Forno with Bolognese and Béchamel Sauce
- Pork Chops with Apple – a taste of fall in 30 minutes
- One-Pan Butternut Squash Risotto with Mushrooms
- The Best, Crispy, Succulent, Umami Chicken Thighs – in less than an hour
- The Perfect Triumvirate: Salmon, Asparagus, and Hollandaise Sauce
- Learn How To Deglaze and You’ll Never, Ever Use a Store-Bought Sauce Again
- 4 Ingredient Cacio e Pepe Recipe
- Super Easy Oven Baked Cod
- Garlic Lemon Chicken
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Chili con Carne that’ll make your taste buds go silly
- 2 lbs lean ground beef (85/15)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 shallots (or one medium onion), chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 c beef stock (or 1 c beef stock + 1 c red wine)
- 2 (16-oz) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (28-oz) can plum tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Toppings, like shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions (scallions), Saltine crackers, sliced jalapeños, etc.
- Heat 2 Tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat.
- Add ground beef and brown it, using a wooden spoon to break it up for about 8 minutes.
- Season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste it.
- Add chopped shallots (or onion), bell pepper, and garlic, and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add 2 cups of beef stock OR 1 cup of red wine and 1 cup of beef stock.
- Add drained beans and tomatoes (which I don’t drain), and all the spices.
- Stir and bring to a boil for a couple of minutes.
- Reduce heat to a simmer. At this point, it’s a good idea to taste again. Make sure the spices are balanced. Don’t worry about adding salt yet if it tastes under-salted. You might add more beef stock later, which will add more salt.
- Cover and cook on low heat (when you lift the lid, it should just bubble but not boil) for about two hours.
- Check and stir occasionally. If it gets too dry, add more beef stock.
- Tip: If you can’t wait any longer or your chili is too runny after simmering for two hours, just remove the lid, crank up the heat and let it reduce to your desired thickness. Just make sure to stir regularly so the meat doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan.
- Add toppings. Serve and enjoy!
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