Recipe: Chili

I feel like I failed you last week with my cornbread recipe. You undoubtedly ran to your kitchen upon reading it, made yourself a loaf, then realized you had nothing to eat it with. Perhaps you tried pairing it with some roasted chicken or a hamburger, but it just didn't feel right. I have the solution for you, friends. This may appear to be your run of the mill chili, but it's not. It's the best basic chili recipe I've come across. It's not too spicy, not too tomatoey, just the right amount of meat and beans. People like chili for the same reason they like yoga instructors: they're both hot and flexible. You can modify chili based on what you've got in your fridge or pantry at any given time, which I did. For the recipe below, I swapped out one can of red kidney beans for white beans. Because I am a wild man, I used 1 pound of ground beef, 1/2 pound of ground chorizo chicken and 1/2 pound of ground lamb. The lamb's flavor was a bit stronger than I'd prefer in a chili, but it was still better than whatever chili you're making now.

Just a few weeks ago, I judged a chili competition at work, which allowed me to try 17 different chili variations. The differences were astounding. No two chilies tasted alike. Some were good, some were great, some made me wonder if I was being Punk'd with dog food. Some key issues I noticed:

  1. People tend to make their chili far too watery for my liking.

  2. People don't include beans, or if they do, it's a small amount. Poor form.

  3. People do not brown their meat. No Maillard reaction, no smiles.

  4. People put ketchup in their chili. A lot of ketchup. Gross.

This recipe solves these issues. My recommendation is that you try the recipe below as-is your first. After that, go wild and swap all sorts of stuff in and out. I just don't want you to come here like a commenter and leave angry notes about how the recipe sucks when it was you who decided to swap out the cumin for Nesquik and the diced tomatoes for V8 juice.

On to the recipe!






2 T vegetable oil
2 medium onions, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced/pressed/microplaned
1/4 C chili powder
1 T ground cumin
2 t ground coriander
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with liquid
1 (28 ounces) can tomato puree
2 limes, wedges


Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed nonreactive Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering but not smoking, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, bell pepper, garlic, chili powder, cumin, coriander, pepper flakes, oregano, and cayenne; cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. I like to cook them until they’ve got a nice dark color on them for a more intense flavor. 

Increase heat to medium-high and add half the beef; cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink and just beginning to brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Add remaining beef and cook, breaking up pieces with wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. 

Remove cover and continue to simmer 1 hour longer, stirring occasionally (if chili begins to stick to bottom of pot, stir in 1/2 cup water and continue to simmer), until beef is tender and chili is dark, rich, and slightly thickened. Adjust seasoning with additional salt. Serve with lime wedges and condiments if desired.

Slow Cooker Option: At the end of step 1, transfer the cooked beef mixture to a slow cooker; add the rest of the ingredients as directed in step 2. Cook the chili on the high setting for four hours.