Perfectly tender ground beef, a juicy amount of beans, and a stew with nice body makes for the BEST chili. The chili flavor has deep notes and has a classic familiar taste that every chili lover will find delightful. Easy enough to make as a single batch that serves 4 or a double or triple that can serve 8-10 servings for any of your dinner needs. Rich and full of flavor, this Classic Beef Chili has just the right amount of seasoning. The perfect, quick, one pot meal for any night of the week.
Chili has so many variables with tried and true recipes varying greatly. I’ve combined some of my favorite ingredients to make a rich tasty chili that I have been making for years.
One of the best things about making chili is once it’s made, you can let everyone chose how how to dress it up a bit with a variety of toppings. A chili bar strongly rivals the popular taco bar, especially when it comes to football or family gatherings.
How to Make Chili
- Brown meat and drain fat.
- Sauté onions and garlic.
- Stir in seasonings, flour, and brown sugar.
- Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in diced tomatoes and water.
- Cook on stovetop in a large cooking pot for 15-20 minutes.
- Stir in kidney beans and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Serve with a variety of optional toppings.
Chili Variations and Toppings
Making a chili bar is fun, especially if you’re making it for game day with friends, family, or simply have kids that prefer it served a certain way. Often, I’ll have a variety of toppings set out in different bowls. That way, each person can customize their own chili to their liking. Below are a variety of chili bar toppings. In addition, I have also included a variety of different ingredients that are common enough in chili, like adding pasta noodles to the chili. My dad’s family does that.
- diced green onions or chives
- serve with cornbread
- serve with cinnamon rolls like in Cincinnati and regions across the Midwest
- replace red kidney beans with pinto beans or black beans
- Grated cheddar cheese
- crushed tortilla chips, oyster crackers, or crushed saltine crackers
- a dollop of sour cream
- replace water with beef broth for extra flavor
- substitute ground beef with ground turkey or ground chicken
- substitute half of the ground beef with ground pork
- ½ pound macaroni noodles, cooked then added to the chili stew.
- avocado slices
- Minced white or red onions
Beef Chili Ingredients
Meat: While beef is the traditional chili meat, it can be substituted with ground chicken, ground pork, or ground turkey. In addition, it can be made with stewed meat. Making it this way, the meat will need to cook a bit longer and will have a different texture than ground meat.
Beans: I use dark red kidney beans. I do like to rinse mine before adding it to the chili, however, it is not necessary. In fact, the bean juice will help to thicken the stew even more. If you’re looking for another type of bean to use, pinto beans or black beans are both popular options. Also, if you’re not a big bean fan, skip them all together. In this case, I like to cook macaroni noodles to add to the chili instead. Another bean substitution option is to use corn. Frozen or canned corn works well. Chickpeas are also an option and differ in taste with a creamier texture, they also hold up well.
Liquid: Chili needs a little moisture to make it into a stew. I use water and sometimes beef broth if I have it on hand. Vegetable broth or beer are other options as well. In addition to water, canned tomatoes are used. You’ll want to dump the whole can in the pot of chili along with the juices. It’s optional to use the bean juice.
Seasoning: This recipe includes a homemade chili powder with pantry spices. I like to make a big batch of the seasoning and store it throughout winter to use anytime I want to make chili for dinner or lunch. My recipe includes a single and double batch of chili powder per pound of ground beef. That way, it’s much easier to make it based on how many servings you’re making that day.
How to Make a Single Batch of Chili Powder
One pound of ground beef along with this recipe will yield just under 7 tablespoons of chili powder. This homemade chili powder recipe is easy to double, triple or make into a large batch and store it for several months at a time.
Often, if I am making chili with just 1 pound ground beef, I’ll follow the chili powder ingredients listed below and include 15½ ounces, red kidney beans, and 14 ounces petit diced tomatoes, along with ½ white onion, and 2 cloves garlic, minced. Add as much water or beef broth as you’d like to the chili.
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
- 1½ teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
I cannot find all the spices at my grocery store. Can I just use premade packets of chili powder? Do you have a quick and easy recipe for it? Yes, skip the seasonings and just add a packet of chili seasoning powder per 1 pound of ground beef. Be sure to include the remaining ingredients.
Can I make this a vegetarian chili?
Yes, skip the ground beef and add more beans, tomatoes, and use macaroni noodles in place of some of the ground beef.
What kind of beans are in chili?
Personally, I like to use dark red kidney beans. Another popular option is pinto beans or black beans.
- Making ahead: Chili tastes best when made the day before so the flavors can come together. This recipe is better the second day. I’ll share some quick notes on storing chili below.
- Storing: Store cooled chili in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- Freezing chili: Cool chili before placing it in an airtight container or freezer bags. Freeze for up to 3 months.
- To reheat: First thaw your frozen chili in the refrigerator overnight. Next, place it in a saucepan with a cover and heat over low heat just until heated thoroughly. You may have to add a touch of water to thin the stew. Be sure to watch it closely.
No matter how you make chili, this wonderful food pairs well, too
- bread of muffins
- cinnamon rolls. Looking at you, Midwest folks
- green salads like Caesar salad
- Fritos or corn chips
- Guacamole with chips
- Mashed potatoes
- sweet potato fries
Tips for the Best Classic Chili
- Browning meat: Browning the meat helps to caramelize it and creates richer, bolder flavors for your chili.
- Covering your chili: Covering it with a lid helps keep the moisture in. If you prefer it thicker, you can remove the lid towards the end so some of the liquid evaporates.
- Stir your chili throughout: Make sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot, especially if you’re using a dutch oven. Stir the chili often to ensure this step.
- If it starts to look too thick, just add some more liquid but stir it well as you add it so you don’t add too much and make it soupy.
- If the stew is too thin, make a slurry of 2 teaspoons cornstarch and 2 teaspoons water then add it to the pot. This can also be achieved by adding more diced tomatoes. Once the tomatoes cook down, it will naturally thicken the base of the chili.
- Don’t be afraid to make it a day ahead as the flavors will come together and make your chili taste even better.
- Don’t overcook your chili. Chili should not be cooked any more than 4 hours on medium heat or you run the risk of having a mushy clump of chili.
Other Beef Recipes You’ll Love
- Slow Cooker Beef Stew
- Carne Asada Tacos
- Air Fryer Steak Bites
- Crock Pot Birria Tacos
- Flank Steak
- Pepper Steak Stir Fry
I like to serve to classic ground beef chili with cornbread.
Classic Beef Chili
- 2 lb ground beef browned, fat drained
- 1 tbsp oil
- 1 white onion diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 4 tbsp chili powder
- 2 tbsp paprika
- 4 tsp ground coriander
- 4 tsp ground cumin
- 3 tsp onion powder
- 3 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp light brown sugar
- 14 oz petit diced tomatoes
- 15½ oz dark red kidney beans drained, rinsed
- 1 cup water more if desired
- green onions diced
- cheddar cheese grated
- oyster crackers
- sour cream
- tortilla chips
- Brown meat in a large stockpot over medium heat. Drain fat once browned.
- Add oil to stockpot. Stir in onions and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Return ground beef to stockpot. Stir in seasonings, brown sugar, and flour. Stir mixture for 1-2 minutes to cook out the flour taste.
- Stir in can of diced tomatoes.
- Stir in water. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
- Stir in kidney beans. Cook 5 minutes.
- Serve with optional toppings. I like green onions, cheddar cheese and oyster crackers on mine.
- Store leftovers in airtight container for up to 3-4 days.
Nutritional information is only an estimate and it’s accuracy is not guaranteed to be exact.
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