Tips, variations and how to do it

To put it simply, chili is a pot of awesome. What’s Not to Love About Savory beef simmered in a tangy, smoky tomato-based sauce with warming spices, floral herbs, aromatics and Beans, if you want? There’s a fierce debate over whether there should be beans in chili or not, but it’s quite tasty either way.

Ladle it into bowls, pour it over nachos, scoop it out of bread bowls or baked potatoes, or pour it over hot dogs. Beef chili can be enjoyed in countless ways and additions and toppings abound.

The recipe that follows is a classic with caramelized beef, soft, plump beans, and a thick, rich sauce that holds it all together.

What type of meat should you use in chili?

Use lean beef, but not super lean meat. The best ground beef for chili contains fat, so 85% lean is ideal. Don’t be tempted to use extra lean beef or trim the fat after browning the meat. The fat drizzles over the meat as it cooks, which adds richness to the sauce and keeps the meat moist.

Ground beef is not your only option for this recipe, you can also use ground chicken, ground turkey or cubed chuck roast, brisket, venison, chicken breasts or thighs. But opt ​​for higher fat options when possible.

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How to Brown Beef for Chili

Classic Beef Chili is easy to make.

Adding baking soda to beef before browning ensures tender meat and a caramelized crust on every flavorful morsel.

Brown the beef before adding the rest of the ingredients. Browning creates caramelization, which adds an insane amount of flavor. The caramelized beef is slightly sweet and pairs beautifully with the smoky spices, tangy tomatoes, and tangy lime in this recipe.

Time Saving Tip: While the beef cooks, chop the vegetables.

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How long should the chili cook?

Cook your chili for a long time. The Ultimate Beef Chili is not a busy weeknight meal. Meat, vegetables, herbs and spices need time to bloom and blend. So don’t rush things.

Plus, ground beef is high in collagen, which means it’s best when cooked for at least 90 minutes. This gives the meat time to break down and become ultra-tender. Perhaps John Steele Gordon said it best: “The chilli is much improved by having had a day to contemplate its fate”.

Classic Beef Chili is easy to make.

How to season chilli

Don’t explode your chili with heat. If you like your chili spicy, start with a mildly spicy stew and add hot sauce or fresh jalapenos on the side.

If you make your chili too hot, you won’t be able to pick out all the nuances of the dish.

Taste your pepper often. The herbs, spices, and saltiness will continue to evolve as your chili simmers.

Taste the chili after it has simmered for about 20 minutes, then every 15 to 20 minutes. Flavors will change and seasoning may need to be adjusted. You may need a little more chili powder. Or cumin (I always add more cumin). And, of course, just before serving, taste again.

Remember this: it’s easier to add salt at the end than to deal with an overly salty stew.

And don’t be afraid to add a few “secret” ingredients that enhance the flavor without being detected on their own.

I used brown sugar, smoked paprika, and cinnamon, but you can also add a splash of bourbon, red wine, beer, or a teaspoon of espresso or unsweetened cocoa.

Some people use a tablespoon or two of peanut butter for the sweetness, earthiness, and to thicken the sauce.

Also, do not replace the broth with water. Adding water to your chili will simply dilute each component. That’s right, all those ingredients you deliberately added for sturdiness. Use beef broth, beef broth, or bone broth instead.

I’m not against beef broth either. Everything except water.

Finally, add sweetness to counter the acidity of the tomatoes. In the recipe below, I added brown sugar, but you can also use molasses, granulated sugar, or if you’re a fan of sweet vegetables, 1 cup diced carrots.

Add the carrots when you add the onions, bell pepper and garlic to the pan.

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How to Serve Chili

Add a burst of freshness to your chili just before serving to enhance all the flavors. Your chili has been cooking for hours, so adding something fresh at the end catapults those long-simmered vibes.

I used lime juice here, but you can also use about 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I suggest apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar). That little shake at the end will bring back all those layers you added at the start.

And be tough with your toppings. There seems to be no end of ways to serve chili. My boys and I love cilantro, cheddar cheese and green onions. My mother eats sour cream and hot peppers. Some people add more lime and avocado. Have plenty of options at your fingertips so everyone can build their own bowl.

Prepare the chili in advance

Don’t be afraid to cook the chili a day ahead. As mentioned above, chili should simmer for ages and will evolve over time.

If you want to prepare your chili the day before, wait until you serve the lime juice. And keep extra crushed tomatoes and beef broth on hand in case your stew has thickened and needs to be diluted.

Does chilli freeze well?

Do not halve this recipe. If you only need to serve four people, prepare the whole batch and store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer.

Stews are best when prepared in larger quantities. Plus, the next time you crave chili, you won’t have to wait so long.

Store leftovers in individual containers. It is much easier to defrost and reheat individual portions. For best results, reheat your thawed chilli in a saucepan over medium heat. Add more broth if needed.

Your leftover chili will last three days in the fridge and three months in the freezer. Label and date the containers so you don’t forget them.

Recipe: The Ultimate Beef Chili

Classic Beef Chili is easy to make.

Makes: 6 to 8 servings


  • 2 pounds ground beef, preferably 85% lean
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and chopped
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced or 2 teaspoons pre-minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons chilli powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp paprika, sweet or smoked (note that smoked paprika will change the flavor to a bold, smoky chili), I used smoked
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 6 ounces of tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, granulated sugar or molasses
  • 2 cans (15 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

To serve (suggestions):

  • Fresh coriander
  • Lime wedges
  • cheddar cheese
  • Chopped green onions
  • Tortillas
  • Hot sauce
  • Sour cream
  • mexican cheese
  • Peppers
  • avocado dice


  1. In a large plate (or in a large bowl) combine the beef, salt, baking soda and 1 tablespoon of water. Using your hands, mix until combined. Let the beef rest at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
  2. Brown the beef in a large pot or stockpot over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Do not drain fat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables soften.
  3. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, cinnamon and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and stir to coat. Cook for 1 minute or until spices are fragrant.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes, broth, tomato paste and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 90 minutes.
  5. Add beans, if using, cover and cook 30 minutes more. If your chili seems thinner than you want at this point, simmer with the lid on until you reach your desired consistency (it won’t take long). If the chili is thicker than you want, add more broth.
  6. Add the fresh lime juice and season to taste with more salt and black pepper. Ladle chili into bowls and serve with garnishes.

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