The Ultimate Chili Recipe


This is my go-to chili recipe and it’s always a crowd-pleaser. It has a thick and tender texture with a rich, deep, and spicy flavor that will warm your bones from the inside out. The chili can be served in so many ways — with cornbread, over rice or pasta, or with tortilla chips for scooping — and it’s perfect for game day, casual get-togethers with friends and family, or just a comforting meal on a cold day. It also freezes well, so if you make a double batch, you can have some on hand for another meal.

The recipe calls for 85% lean ground beef, which is important as the fat helps to baste the meat and add flavor to the dish. After cooking, the fat can easily be skimmed off. I personally don’t add beans to this chili recipe, as my kids tend to eat around them, but feel free to add a can of your favorite drained beans during the last half hour of cooking, if you like. And for those who prefer a sweeter chili, try adding a touch of molasses and cinnamon for a delicious twist.

Chili Recipe Ingredients

chili ingredientsStep-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the ground beef, salt, baking soda, and water in a large bowl.

how to make ground beef chili

Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit for 20 minutes. The baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning. (I borrowed this tenderizing trick from Cook’s Illustrated; it works like a charm.)

how to make ground beef chili

Meanwhile, chop the veggies.

chopping vegetables for chili recipe

I use a food processor to speed this up, but it’s fine to chop by hand too.

finely chopped vegetables in food processor

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and red pepper.

finely minced vegetables in pot

Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

softened vegetables

Add the beef and increase the heat to high.

stirring in the beefCook, stirring with wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

browning the beef

The beef will release a lot of fat and liquid — do not drain it; you’ll skim the fat off at the end. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon (if using).

browned beef with spices

Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant. Add the cornmeal, beef broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses (if using).

adding tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, and cornmeal

Bring to a boil.

simmering chili

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Skim any excess fat off of the surface of the chili — there will be quite a bit.

chili after simmering for two hours

Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!

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