Best Ever Chili Recipe

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This is the best chili recipe, if I do say so myself! This classic beef chili is the perfect blend of meaty richness simmered with hearty vegetables and warming spices. It’s a delicious, and comforting one-pot meal that will have the whole family begging for seconds.

A bowl of chili with toppings and spoon.

If it’s cold outside and you’re looking for an answer to that pesky what’s-for-dinner question, I’ve got you covered. The answer is chili! This one-pot wonder is a cinch to make, and it fills your house with enticing aromas as it simmers.

Chili is the perfect chunky mix of ground beef, bacon, vegetables, and beans with a touch of heat. But don’t forget to add your favorite toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, and a sprinkle of green onions – it really amps it up!

Chili recipes, whether it’s this classic beef chili, a white chicken chili, vegetarian chili, or turkey chili, are also budget friendly since they rely heavily on pantry staples. That makes them a perennial one-pot dinner winner!

Chili ingredients on a table.

Chili Ingredients

A few pantry items, some vegetables, ground beef, and a few strips of bacon are all you need to pull together this amazing chili recipe.

  • Ground beef: You can buy ground beef anywhere between 80% and 90% lean. I prefer 90% just so I don’t have to drain any excess fat. But you could purchase 80% and then drain off any residual fat, it’s up to you.
  • Bacon: Bacon adds a wonderful smoky flavor to the chili. I’d consider it the secret (or not so secret) ingredient!
  • Beef broth: I recommend purchasing a high-quality beef broth for the best flavor.
  • Dried spices: Besides the usual suspects of chili powder and cumin, I add smoked paprika for a touch of campfire flavor.
  • Tomatoes: Almost any variety of canned tomatoes in their juices will work here. But I love canned fire-roasted tomatoes for extra flavor!
  • Beans: I’m using a combination of black beans and red kidney beans which are classics in chili, but you can use any beans you like.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below

Adding ground beef to a pot to make chili.

How to Make The Best Chili

This recipe is all about slowly adding in layers of flavors. Here’s what you do:

  1. Cook the bacon. I let my bacon cook until it’s perfectly browned and crispy.
  2. Saute the vegetables. Saute the diced onion and bell pepper with the bacon for a few minutes.
  3. Brown the ground beef. Add the ground beef to the pot, cook until browned, then drain off the excess fat.
  4. Toast the spices. Stir the spices and seasonings with the vegetables and meat to bring out their full flavor.
  5. Add the tomatoes, broth, and beans. This forms the bulk of the chili. Then give everything a good stir.
  6. Simmer the chili. Cook this low and slow for about 30 minutes for maximum deliciousness!
A pot of chili.

Can You Make Chili Ahead of Time?

You sure can! Here are a couple of make-ahead tips.

  • Get a jump on your chili prep by chopping the vegetables and mixing your dried spices together in a separate container the day before. Even better, mix your dried chili spices in a larger quantity so you can spoon out just what you need, when you need it.
  • Chili always tastes better the day after you make it. Whip up a pot on the weekend and enjoy it as a quick dinner during the week.
  • Don’t forget that chili freezes beautifully! And it can be stored in the freezer for several months.

What Do You Put On Top of Chili?

Almost anything tastes great on top of this classic chili. Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

  • Cheese. Anything from shredded cheddar to cotija to feta works well.
  • Onions: Sliced green onions or diced red onions go perfectly with chili. If the bite of red onion is a little strong for you, run the diced onion under running water and pat dry.
  • Jalapeños: If you like spice, diced fresh or pickled jalapeños are delicious here.
  • Sour cream. The creamy coolness plays nice with the warm spices.
  • Cilantro or parsley: Just a sprinkle of chopped herbs gives a nice pop of freshness and flavor.
Two bowls of chili with spoons.

Storing and Reheating Leftovers

Chili freezes incredibly well, which makes it great for meal prepping.

  • To Store: Place cooled chili in an airtight container and store for 4 to 5 days in the fridge. 
  • To Freeze: Use a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and store it for up to 3 months in the freezer. 
  • To Reheat: Thaw frozen chili overnight in the fridge. Then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, until warmed through. If the chili thickens too much for your taste, add a splash of water or beef broth.
Two bowls of beef chili.

More Warming Winter Recipes

Want a few more delicious dinner ideas? These one-pot or one-pan recipes sure come in hand during the busy weekdays. And let’s not forget, chili in particular is great for parties, gatherings, and of course Super Bowl

This big pot of chili will surely satisfy all your comfort food cravings. If you make this, I’d love to hear what you think in a comment below. You review will help the community!

A pot of chili.

Best Ever Chili Recipe

4.99 from 223 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 50 minutes
Total: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan

Description

This is the best chili recipe that's a classic blend of meaty richness simmered with vegetables and warming spices. Watch the video below to see how I make it!

Video

Equipment

  • Dutch Oven My favorite large pot for making chili!

Ingredients 
 

Instructions 

  • Heat a large pot on medium heat, add the sliced bacon and cook until crispy, stirring occasionally and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat if bacon is browning too quickly.
    Sauteeing bacon in a pot.
  • Add the onion, and bell pepper to the pot, stirring frequently. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and stir for another 30 seconds.
    Bacon, onion, and bell peppers in a pot.
  • Add the ground beef, breaking into small pieces with a spatula, until cooked through. Strain off any accumulated liquid and fat from the pot.
    Adding ground beef to a pot to make chili.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir in the tomato paste, and dried spices, and cook until they are fragrant, about 2 minutes.
    Adding spices and seasoning to a pot to make chili.
  • Add the canned tomatoes with juices, drained beans, beef broth, and bay leaf. Give it a stir.
    Adding beans to a pot to make chili.
  • Increase the heat to high until the chili comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally.
    A pot of beef chili.
  • To serve, remove bay leaf. Ladle servings into individual bowls. Garnish with avocado, red onion, cheese, cilantro or any other toppings.
    A bowl of beef chili with toppings.

Lisa’s Tips

  • Serving Size: This recipe makes 9 cups, enough for 6 good-sized servings.
  • To Store: Place cooled chili in an airtight container and store for 4 to 5 days in the fridge. 
  • To Freeze: Use a freezer-safe bag or airtight container and store for up to 3 months in the freezer. 
  • To Reheat:  Thaw frozen chili overnight in the fridge. Then reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave, until warmed through. If the chili thickens too much for your taste, add a splash of water or beef broth.
  • To control the amount of salt in your chili, choose unsalted beef broth, beans, canned tomatoes, and tomato paste.
  • Bacon can be tricky to slice. To make it easier, place your bacon in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to firm it up.
  • Want to spice this up even more? Add 1¼ teaspoon of cayenne pepper!
  • Make sure to use a large pot, to accomodate all these ingredients. My favorite is the beautiful Le Creuset dutch oven you see pictured.

Nutrition

Calories: 512kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 83mg | Sodium: 1153mg | Potassium: 1180mg | Fiber: 15g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1816IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 131mg | Iron: 9mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef chili, best chili recipe, chili recipe
Did you make this recipe?Mention @downshiftology or tag #downshiftology!

Recipe originally published September 2020, but updated to include new information.

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About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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Recipe Rating




368 Comments

  1. Love getting your recipes. Today I bought everything for your lemon chicken and I also am going to try the chili. As soon as I mentioned to my husband there was bacon in it he was ready to try it. I assume I can make the chili recipe in my crockpot also? My husband is a real meat and potatoes kinda guy so he’ll love this.

  2. Wonderful Chili recipie! I also added Cilantro, Lime, Mexican Cheese Blend, and sour cream to make a Mexican inspired chili and it turned out amazing. The whole family enjoyed. Thank you :)5 stars

  3. I love this recipe. It’s straightforward, easy to follow and very flavorful. I’ve made it twice. The only thing I would delete is the bacon bits. I added perfectly cooked bacon to the chili as directed. It became too soft and frankly unappealing in the chili. The texture was the biggest issue. I love bacon as does my husband and we both drew the same conclusion independently. I’d add the bacon as you serve the chili, if you want it in your chili.

    The other change I made was to add 1 jalapeño chopped up. I added it with the green pepper and onion. It added great flavor with subtle heat.

    You have a great website, it’s become my go to for new ideas! Thanks so much5 stars

    1. Hi Deborah – Keep in mind that the bacon also adds flavor to the chili. But, you can always remove it if you don’t like the texture.

  4. This recipe earned it’s title. I’m not a fan of chili, but I enjoyed this and had to stop myself from overindulging. This will remain in rotation. I used dark chili and ancho chili powder. Fantastic. Thank you.5 stars

  5. This Chili recipe is EXCELLENT!!! I can’t say enough about it! I added a little cayenne for some heat, but regardless of that it’s Sooo Delicious!!!5 stars

  6. hi Lisa, I have no idea what I did when I made this chili, it’s too salty for my liking? why? I didn’t put as much salt as you said to put, am wondering, if the tomatoes had extra salt in them, ?
    what can I do to counteract the amount of salt???5 stars

  7. hi Lisa, I know this will be a great recipe, I want to make it tomorrow, I only have Turkey bacon, will this be ok??? please let me know, am making for a couple which the lady fell, and had surgery on her arm, now she cannot dice, cut, slice, her partner, doesn’t cook much… so asap, if you can send it my way the answer, I;d appreciate it, I have the onion diced, and pepper, etc… all the spices are out..tomorrow I start!5 stars

  8. It’s cold and grey here so I decided to try this chili recipe. I don’t have large Dutch oven but was able to use my Instapot. It was delicious and the perfect meal for today.

  9. Great classic chili,
    We really enjoyed this chili look no further this is the best classic chili. Didn’t have fire roasted tomatoes, just used diced tomatoes came out great thank you so much for the recipie.5 stars

  10. This chili was DELICIOUS. Make it! I have not always been the biggest fan of fire roasted tomatoes, but I said, well, I will trust Lisa, and boy am I glad I did! My husband and I really enjoyed this. Grated my own Colby/jack cheese to put on top with some sour cream. Thank you, Lisa, for your wonderful recipes! You have inspired and helped me eat healthier and lose weight.5 stars

  11. Very good recipe. I added a couple pinches of cayenne for a kick. An hour on slow simmer in my Griswold Dutch oven and some cornbread, good eats5 stars

  12. We love Chili and this is a winner… don’t skip the step of making the bacon crisp! I am glad that I doubled the recipe so that I can freeze some for later.5 stars

  13. I was a little skeptical of the bacon in chili but this recipe was a HIT. My family loved it and this will be my new go to recipe when making chili. The flavors were amazing!5 stars

  14. Made this chili as is as well as without the beans. One of my family members doesn’t like beans so I made everything together and separated it out before adding beans. Very good! Amazing comfort food!5 stars

  15. Made this a vegan chili and it is quite good. Made it twice now using my homemade chili powder (guajillo, ancho and Pasilla peppers) de-seeded, heated in a skillet then blended to a powder. Best ever. Great chili recipe.5 stars

      1. Thank YOU! My family and I just love your recipes. Every one we’ve tried so far has been absolutely delicious. Always the perfect amount of flavor and healthy to boot! So, thank you!

  16. This was my first time making chili , EVER! My family absolutely loved the unexpected ingredient of BACON. We made a double batch of this and ate it all week, we were sad when it was gone. Will definitely make this again.5 stars

  17. This is THE BEST chili recipe I’ve ever tried. I make it every year as soon as the weather cools down and several times throughout the fall/winter season. Hearty, delicious, and perfect for the freezer! It’s a hit with everyone. Don’t use regular paprika, use smoked paprika (it really makes a difference). Also highly recommend using fire-roasted tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes for the extra smokiness.5 stars

  18. I’ve made this 3 times now, and it is so delicious every time. I will keep this as my go-to chili recipe. Thank you so much! 😊5 stars

  19. Fresh ingredients make the difference!
    We truly enjoyed this on our first cool night. Topped it off with fresh cilantro, cheese and sour cream.5 stars

    1. We are definitely into colder weather now, which makes this chili recipe taste all the better. Happy you loved it, Allison!

  20. My husband and I found this to be both very filling and very delicious. The smoky notes are amazing. We did add the cayenne because we are spicy people. Thank you so much for the wonderful recipe.5 stars

  21. Definitely aptly named “the best ever chili”!! Did a family chili cook off & I won 1st place, of course giving Lisa all the credit! Doubled the the recipe, but didn’t have 2 bell peppers, so I substituted with 1 poblano pepper. Gave it a nice additional kick. Delicious!!! Thanks!5 stars

    1. Yay!! Congrats on winning your family chili cook off with my chili recipe – woot! So happy you loved it Tracey. :)

  22. This was a family hit! I also made a smaller version (halved everything) and used fake ground ‘meat’ and better than bullion veg base to make it vegetarian for my daughter and she loved it!!! The spices are perfection! Recipe is perfect the way it is. Making it tonight for Halloween gathering and I’m sure it’ll be a hit there as well.5 stars

  23. If I were to sauté the veggies and bacon first and then add the beans closer to when it’s ready to serve (like 30-45 minutes before eating) do you think this will turn out just as good making it in a slow cooker?

    PS – Huge fan of your recipes! Your white chicken chili is a constant in our house hold. 🥰 Thank you!5 stars

    1. I haven’t made this in a slow cooker myself yet, but others have had success with it. So, you should be fine!

      1. I made this two years in a row for a chili cook-off with friends. I won first place one year and second place the next year. I love making extra and freezing it for easy dinners.5 stars