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Your search for the best chili recipe stops here! With just the right amount of zesty seasoning, this simple and easy beef chili recipe is thick, rich and incredibly flavorful. Serve it with a side of cornbread for the ultimate family-friendly dinner!

Overhead image of a ground beef chili recipe on a wooden table

How to Make the Best Beef Chili Recipe | 1-Minute Video

Easy Chili Recipe

Chili is one of our family’s favorite meals, so I’ve certainly tried many, many versions over the years. From white chicken chili to Texas chili and Southern homemade chili, we generally love them all. But if we had to pick a favorite? It’s safe to say that this easy chili recipe is the best we’ve ever had! Here’s why you’ll love the simple dish:

  • Flavor: it’s got just the right balance of zesty chili seasoning to give it the flavor that you’re looking for — without any single spice overpowering another.
  • Thickness: no watery chili allowed! This hearty, rich chili is loaded with meat for a satisfying meal. After all, chili is not a soup, so it shouldn’t be thinned with too much broth!
  • Easy: the dish comes together quickly and easily on the stovetop with minimal effort. You don’t need all day to cook it in a Crock Pot, and you don’t need any fancy equipment like an Instant Pot. Just grab a good ole’ Dutch oven and whip up a batch in no time!
  • Make-ahead and freezer-friendly: this meal just gets better as it sits and the flavors come together, so you can simmer a pot on the weekend and enjoy a warm, homemade meal on your busiest weeknights. Leftovers keep well in the freezer, too!

What is a true chili?

This beef chili recipe is about as classic as it gets! Also called chili con carne (or “chili with meat”), a true chili is a spicy stew containing chili peppers or chili powder, meat (usually beef), and often tomatoes and beans. You’ve got each of those components here, for an easy chili recipe that delivers maximum flavor with minimal effort!

Side shot of easy beef chili recipe in a bowl with toppings.

Ingredients for Ground Beef Chili

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for a basic chili recipe. As always, the specific measurements and the complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Lean ground beef: you can substitute with ground turkey or ground chicken, but ground beef is definitely the most traditional choice.
  • Onion and garlic: for savory flavor.
  • Tomato paste: gives the chili a rich tomato flavor without watering it down.
  • Whole tomatoes: whole, peeled tomatoes are packed in tomato juice or tomato purée, and typically have the best flavor of any variety of canned tomatoes. You can easily break up the bigger chunks of tomatoes with your wooden spoon as you stir the chili.
  • Beef broth: just enough to loosen up the dish and add a bit of flavor.
  • Chili powder, cumin, kosher salt, bay leaf, oregano, and cayenne pepper: the classic warm spices that make a great chili seasoning.
  • Brown sugar: a secret ingredient that balances the acidity in the tomatoes and gives the chili a more complex depth of flavor.
  • Beans: kidney beans are the most traditional, but you can use pinto beans (shown here), or any other beans that you prefer. If your kids don’t like beans, you can omit these or just substitute with a can of drained corn.
Process shot showing how to make a beef chili recipe in a Dutch oven

How to Make Beef Chili

Back in the mid-1980’s, the Virginia Chefs Association put together a cookbook called, The Great Chefs of Virginia. I happen to own a vintage copy of this treasure, which includes the beef chili recipe from The Tobacco Company Restaurant in Richmond. I’ve dined in this cozy restaurant in the Shockoe Slip on a number of occasions, and I was so excited to be able to make the delicious dish in my own home. Best of all, the recipe is surprisingly easy. I’ve tweaked the original slightly over the years, and I hope you’ll agree that this is the best chili recipe you’ve ever tasted!

Process shot showing how to make easy chili
  1. Brown the meat with the onion and garlic, then drain off the fat.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to the pot except for the beans.
  3. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
  4. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the beans to the pot and simmer for about 10-15 more minutes.
  6. Discard the bay leaf.
  7. Ladle into bowls and garnish with desired toppings.
Process shot showing how to make the best chili recipe

How to Thicken Chili

This classic chili recipe has a rich, thick consistency. If you prefer it even thicker, you can simmer the pot on the stovetop with the lid off. That’s why I love a Dutch oven more than a slow cooker — the stovetop method just gives you more control over the cooking process and helps you achieve the perfect pot of chili!

Square overhead shot of ground beef chili in a bowl

What to Eat with Chili

Create a “chili bar” by setting out a variety of toppings and sides, and then let your family members or guests design their own bowls.

Toppings for a Chili Bowl

  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Sliced green onion, minced red onion or minced white onion
  • Sliced fresh jalapeño pepper
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Tortilla strips or crushed tortilla chips
  • Diced avocado

Sides to Serve with Beef Chili

Hands dipping cornbread in a bowl of beef chili.

Easy Chili Storage

Leftover chili will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

To Freeze

Allow the chili to cool to room temperature. Package in airtight containers or Ziploc freezer bags and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

To Reheat

Thaw frozen chili in the refrigerator overnight. Place chili in a saucepan. Cover and warm over low heat, just until heated through. If it seems too thick, thin the chili with a splash of broth or water.

Overhead shot of hands holding a bowl of beef chili recipe.

Recipe Variations – Beef Chili Recipe

  • If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can add a can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce to your pot of chili. An extra splash of beef broth will also work.
  • Turkey Chili: substitute ground turkey for the ground beef.
  • No Beans: if you don’t care for beans in your chili, you can just omit that ingredient altogether, or substitute with a can of corn.
  • Crockpot Chili: brown the beef, onion and garlic in a skillet. Drain off the fat, then transfer the beef mixture to a slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours.
  • For a spicy pot of chili, add more cayenne.

What kind of beans go in beef chili?

Dark or light red kidney beans are a classic addition to a pot of chili. That said, the larger kidney beans don’t appeal to my picky little eaters, so I often substitute with smaller pinto beans. Really, any beans that you enjoy will work well in this dish — from pink beans to white beans or even garbanzo beans!

Side shot of hands holding a bowl of the best beef chili recipe

Tips for the Best Chili Recipe

  • Don’t omit the sugar. It might seem odd, but the sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes in the chili, creating a richer, multi-dimensional tomato flavor. It doesn’t make the chili taste too sweet. Start with 1 teaspoon, and if you like an even sweeter taste, increase the amount to 2 teaspoons or up to 1 tablespoon.
  • Adjust the heat. The cayenne gives this beef chili recipe a spicy kick. If you prefer a less-spicy chili, omit this ingredient (it will still have plenty of zesty flavor from the chili powder). If you like a spicier chili, add a bit more cayenne.
  • Simmer the chili with the pot covered to trap the moisture. If you prefer a thicker consistency, you can remove the lid towards the end of the cooking time.
  • If the chili looks too thick, stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or additional beef broth to thin.
  • Stir the pot occasionally as the chili simmers to prevent the bottom from scorching.
  • If you have the time, prepare this chili at least one day in advance. The flavors will come together and the chili will taste even better on day 2!
Eating a bowl of beef chili with a spoon.

More Chili Recipes to Try

Square overhead shot of a bowl of classic beef chili

Beef Chili Recipe

5 from 6 votes
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 25 minutes
Total: 1 hour 35 minutes
Servings 8 cups
Calories 307 kcal
Your search for the best chili recipe stops here! With just the right amount of zesty seasoning, this simple and easy beef chili recipe is thick, rich and incredibly flavorful!

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 cups diced onion
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced (about 3 teaspoons)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can whole tomatoes, not drained
  • 1 ¼ cups beef broth (plus extra broth to thin the chili at the end, if desired)
  • 2 ½ tablespoons chili powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons brown sugar (or increase to 1 tablespoon for a sweeter flavor)
  • 2 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, to taste)
  • 1 (15.5 ounce) can kidney beans or pinto beans, drained and rinsed (or sub with a can of corn, drained)
  • Optional, for serving: cornbread; corn chips; cheese; sour cream; sliced green onions/chives; cilantro; avocado; diced red onion

Instructions

  • In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, sauté beef, onion, and garlic until the meat is no longer pink. Drain fat and return beef mixture to the pot.
  • Add the tomato paste, whole tomatoes and their juices, beef broth, chili powder, brown sugar, cumin, salt, bay leaf, oregano, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer the chili over very low heat for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Break up the big tomatoes with a wooden spoon or a fork as you stir.
  • Add the beans and simmer the mixture for 10-15 minutes longer. Thin the chili with extra beef broth, if necessary. Discard the bay leaf. Ladle into individual serving bowls and garnish with desired toppings.

Video

Notes

  • Don’t omit the sugar. It might seem odd, but the sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes in the chili, creating a richer, multi-dimensional tomato flavor. It doesn’t make the chili taste too sweet. Start with 1 teaspoon, and if you like an even sweeter taste, increase the amount to 2 teaspoons or up to 1 tablespoon.
  • Adjust the heat. The cayenne gives this beef chili recipe a spicy kick. If you prefer a less-spicy chili, omit this ingredient (it will still have plenty of zesty flavor from the chili powder). If you like a spicier chili, add a bit more cayenne.
  • Simmer the chili with the pot covered to trap the moisture. If you prefer a thicker consistency, you can remove the lid towards the end of the cooking time.
  • If the chili looks too thick, stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, or additional beef broth to thin.
  • Stir the pot occasionally as the chili simmers to prevent the bottom from scorching.
  • If you have the time, prepare this chili at least one day in advance. The flavors will come together and the chili will taste even better on day 2!

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 307kcalCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 28gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 1083mgPotassium: 976mgFiber: 6gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 1139IUVitamin C: 13mgCalcium: 96mgIron: 6mg
Keyword: beef chili recipe, best chili recipe, easy chili, ground beef chili
Course: Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    The chili was good, however I will omit the brown sugar next time. When my husband tried it, he said it’s good, it’s actually a little bit sweet. I added more seasoning to try and cover some of it.

  2. 5 stars
    I’m always searching for a good chili recipe, and this one truly is the BEST. Absolutely delicious. I added a can of diced green chilies, celery, 2 cans or diced tomatoes instead of whole and 2 cans of white northern beans. I will be using this as my go-to recipe from now on! Thank you!

    1. Hi, Katie! I would cook it on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours in the slow cooker. Hope you enjoy!

  3. 5 stars
    So good, thank you!!!! I’ve wanted to make chili for so long but have been scared!! That was easy and the whole family loved it!

  4. 5 stars
    Delicious! Question though, the instructions say crockpot cook time is different than the crockpot time you listed in comments. Which is correct?

    1. Hah, thanks for catching that! There’s really no “wrong” answer — it’s a matter of convenience and preference. Some folks like to let chili go all day in the slow cooker (8 hours+), but it’s not necessary. Maybe the flavors “come together” and meld more over a longer, lower simmering time, but the chili is also delicious after just a couple of hours. Since all of the ingredients are already cooked when they go into the Crock Pot, there’s not a certain amount of time required for the chili to be done. Personally, I would land somewhere in the middle: about 4-6 hours on low or 2-3 hours on high. Again, I don’t think it will hurt anything to leave it a little longer, though. Hope that makes sense!

  5. 5 stars
    Made this recently–it seems like around the middle of August or so I start craving chilly weather food even though the temps are in the upper 80’s! Made this as listed except I did add another can of beans. We really enjoyed it! Perfect balance of spice and flavor and we liked that it was “beefier” than most ground beef chilis. It will be our go-to chili recipe!