I've Made Dozens of Pots of Beef Chili, but THIS Is the Best One (2024)

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Kelli Foster

Kelli FosterSenior Contributing Food Editor

Kelli is a Senior Contributing Food Editor for Kitchn. She's a graduate of the French Culinary Institute and author of the cookbooks, Plant-Based Buddha Bowls, The Probiotic Kitchen, Buddha Bowls, and Everyday Freekeh Meals. She lives in New Jersey.


updated Jan 4, 2024

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Mixed with ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and warm spices, this classic recipe is a winter staple.

Serves8 to 10Makesabout 12 cupsPrep10 minutesCook50 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

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When a winter chill hits the air, there is nothing more cozy, comforting, and warming than a big pot of chili simmering on the stove (plus, it also makes your kitchen smell amazing at the same time!). While there are an endless variety of chili recipes to choose from, I always come back to the classic beef and bean chili. This tried-and-true recipe is flavored with onion, garlic, tomatoes, and warm spices — and even better, it cooks in just an hour.

What Beans Go in Chili?

Kidney beans are the classic bean of choice for chili. For ease and convenience, this recipe calls for drained and rinsed canned kidney beans. But if you happen to have a couple of cans of black beans or any variety of white beans in your pantry, they’ll work just fine. And if you’re strongly opposed to beans in chili, then Texas chili — made with cubed beef chuck roast and absolutely no beans — will be right up your alley.

How Do I Add More Flavor to Chili?

The secret to packing your pot of chili with tons of flavor has to do with both ingredient choice and the cooking process.

Here are some tips for making the most flavorful chili.

  • Use ground beef with a higher fat content. Fat equals flavor, so 80% to 85% lean ground beef are good choices for chili.
  • Cook the tomato paste. This is the key to really getting flavor from tomato paste. Plan to cook the tomato paste until it takes on a deep red flavor and is fragrant; the process takes just a few minutes.
  • Bloom the spices. Same goes for the spices. After adding to the pot, stir to coat the meat with the spices and cook for at least a full minute, at which point the mixture will be very fragrant.
  • Include unsweetened cocoa powder. A tablespoon of this pantry ingredient adds a deep, rich flavor to chili.
  • Finish with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar. A teaspoon is all you need. If you find that your chili tastes flat, a little bit of acidity really brightens up and rounds out the flavor.

How to Make Chili

  • Sauté aromatics. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it’s tender and translucent, then add the garlic and cook just until fragrant.
  • Mix in tomato paste. Stir to coat the onions with tomato paste, then cook until it’s a deep brick red.
  • Cook ground beef. Add 2 pounds of ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through.
  • Add spices. Add a mix of chili powder, cumin, unsweetened cocoa powder, dried oregano, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Stir to coat the meat and cook until fragrant.
  • Add beans, crushed tomatoes, and broth. Once the beans and liquids are added, bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture is slightly thickened.
  • Stir in vinegar. Remove the pot from the heat and mix in a spoonful of apple cider vinegar.
  • Add toppings and serve. Perhaps the best part about chili is adding the toppings. Choose your favorites, pile them on top of the bowl, dig in, and enjoy.

Chili Recipe

Mixed with ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and warm spices, this classic recipe is a winter staple.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

Makes about 12 cups

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 3

    cloves garlic

  • 2

    (about 15-ounce) cans kidney beans

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 2 pounds

    ground beef, preferably 80 to 85% lean

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon


  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 1

    (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

  • 1

    (14.5-ounce) can low-sodium beef or chicken broth (scant 2 cups)

  • 1 teaspoon

    apple cider vinegar

Serving options:

  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

  • Shredded cheddar cheese

  • Thinly sliced scallions

  • Diced avocado

  • Fresh cilantro

  • Tortilla chips


  1. Dice 1 medium yellow onion (about 1 1/2 cups). Mince 3 garlic cloves. Drain and rinse 2 (about 15-ounce) cans kidney beans.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste and stir to coat the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until darkened in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Add 2 pounds ground beef, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper if using. Stir to coat the meat and cook for 1 minute more.

  4. Add the beans, 1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and 1 (14.5-ounce) can low-sodium beef or chicken broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld and the mixture is slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes.

  5. Remove the pot from the heat. Add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Ladle into bowls and serve with desired toppings.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Chili tastes best made a day in advance so the flavors have a chance to meld. Refrigerate in an airtight container. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days in an airtight container or frozen for up to 3 months.

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I've Made Dozens of Pots of Beef Chili, but THIS Is the Best One (2024)


How do you increase the flavor of beef in chili? ›

To enhance the flavor of your chili, brown the meat before adding it to the pot. This step not only caramelizes the meat, but gives your chili more texture, adding a depth that cannot be achieved by simply simmering it in the chili.

What is the most flavorful meat for chili? ›

Texas Chili - Chuck

Most chili lovers will tell you that this is the ideal cut of meat for stew and chili. Chuck is initially a very tough cut of beef, but when you consider the fact chuck is highly marbled, it turns out this is perfect for the low-and-slow way to cook the perfect Texas chili.

How do you make chili taste richer? ›

Elevate your chili recipe by adding an extra layer of flavor. Cocoa powder, bacon, cinnamon, ground coffee and tomato paste will all add a rich sweet & salty flavors that are sure to surprise and delight.

Does chili get better the longer it cooks? ›

Cooking chili low and slow is the way to go

Although the internet abounds with recipes for quick-cooking chilis that take as little as 20 minutes (via MyRecipes), this stewed dish truly benefits from a longer cook time that will gently coax all the flavors out of the meat, legumes, vegetables, and spices in the recipe.

What secret ingredient will deepen the flavor of your chili? ›

Stir some puréed pumpkin into your chili just after sautéing your aromatics (onions, garlic, etc...) and before adding any liquid. This will deepen and sweeten its flavor, making it a great balance for all the chile peppers and heat.

What is the most important spice in chili? ›

It's hard to imagine Mexican chilli con carne without cumin. This spice is commonly used in Mexican cuisine and pairs nicely with hot peppers to round out the flavours of the dish. Cumin's fragrance and warmth helps to create a balanced palate, with its deep earthiness and lemony hint brightening up any chilli recipe.

What are the best onions for chili? ›

Sweet Onion

Sweet onions are great for caramelizing due to their higher sugar content. You can cook them into your chili, serve them raw over top, or even elevate your chili with a sophisticated caramelized onion topping! Some of my favorite sweet onions are Walla, Walla, Maui, and Vidalia Onions.

What is the best tasting chilli? ›

In talking with many pepper enthusiasts, we've found the Habanero to be universally considered to be one of the best tasting peppers. It's flesh holds up to and absorbs smoking well. The smoked hab is a key (secret) ingredient in our Chili cook-off entries.

What brings out the flavor in chili? ›

Cumin, Chile Powders, and Paprika are the most common spices in chili followed by garlic, onion, coriander, Mexican oregano, and bay leaves. These ingredients can be combined to create a savory and well-balanced pot of top notch comfort food.

What is the best liquid for chili? ›

Chili cooks low and slow, so you need enough liquid to tenderize the meat and keep everything from drying out. That liquid should also add flavor to the chili, so use chicken, beef, or vegetable stock, or beer.

What can I add to a can of chili to make it taste better? ›

“If there's one thing you have to do with any canned chili, it would be adding fresh chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeños. Maybe even some pickled jalapeños.

What enhances beef flavour? ›

Beef tastes great when seasoned with oregano, rosemary, sage, garlic or a combination of these seasonings. Poultry gets an added burst of flavor with spices like paprika, lemongrass and saffron. Fish can be made more flavorful with dry mustard powder, thyme and turmeric.

How do I get more chili flavor in my chili? ›

If you want more of a smoky flavor, add cumin, Spanish paprika, ancho chili powder, or a combination. If you are looking for more heat, add cayenne, crushed red pepper, or Hungarian paprika. If it's too spicy add a little brown sugar and some sweet paprika.

What can I add to beef for flavor? ›

Garlic, onion, black pepper, and salt are staple spices when flavoring beef. Garlic and onion are potent, pungent aromatics that play well against beef's deep, meaty umami.


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