Best Beef Chili

Everyone needs a recipe for classic beef chili. Make this one your go-to! It's made with corn, peppers, tomatoes, and beans, and makes enough to freeze for later!

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

I like to call this my Saturday chili. It’s meaty and hearty and satisfying, and it’s been in our meal rotation all through the chilly months for years now. (They are “chili” months, after all, haha.)

This recipe makes a whopping sixteen cups. That’s enough to feed a crowd or to hoard in the freezer for those dreary cold nights when it gets dark way too early and the cupboard is bare.

On any given Saturday morning, I might start this early and give it a long, lazy simmer while I sip my coffee, read the paper, or throw in a load of laundry. I can call up friends and have an impromptu, casual gathering with very little elbow grease.


It’s the long, lazy simmer that really sets this meaty chili apart. Onions, garlic, peppers and tomatoes slowly thicken the chili until it is almost creamy.

You can cut the time down to about 45 minutes, but if you’re not in a rush, let it simmer up to 1 1/2 hours. You’ll will be rewarded with fantastic, deep flavor.

And of course like all good chilis, it’s always better the second or third day.

Ground Beef chili


Instead of pureeing reconstituted dried chilies as most “from scratch” recipes do, I skip straight to using pure ground chili powders like ancho and chipotle powders to save a step.

Ancho chilies are dried poblano peppers and are relatively mild with an earthy flavor, whereas chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapeños, and as such, provide a lot more heat, so use the powder judiciously.

Generic chili powder is a mix of chilies and other seasonings like dried onion and garlic, and I prefer to add those “extra” flavors myself.

Chipotle Chili Powder

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The amount of chili powder in the recipe provides just a little kick, but you can bump it up by adding more chipotle powder if you like it hot. Use black, kidney, or pinto beans or a mix, if you happen to have them on hand; they’re interchangeable in this recipe.

Also if you want to sneak in a few extra vegetables, you could add diced zucchini, diced squash, or even carrots and celery, but I don’t usually guild this lily. I love it as is.

Beef and beans chili


As for the “go-withs” there are plenty of toppings to choose from. Set out bowls of them so each person can select his or her own. Here are a few of my top contenders:

  • Sour cream
  • Shredded sharp cheddar or Monterey jack
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped radishes
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Chopped jalapeños


Bake a pan of cornbread while the chili simmers and you will have a comforting supper, ready and waiting whenever you are.


Leftover chili will last for at least a week in the fridge, or it can be frozen for up to three months.

Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating, or reheat the frozen soup straight from the freezer in a saucepan over low heat.


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Best Beef Chili Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: 8 to 12 servings

If you don’t have ground ancho and/or chipotle powder, you can use 1 tablespoon 1/4 teaspoons of chili powder.


For the chili:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 sweet bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, or mixed), diced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes (or same amount of crushed or pureed)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans or black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

For the garnishes:

  • Sour cream
  • Grated sharp cheddar
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Sliced scallions
  • Chopped onions
  • Avocado slices
  • Shredded lettuce
  • Chopped fresh jalapeños
  • Fresh cilantro


1 Cook the onions, garlic, and beef:  In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 6 minutes, or until the onions soften.

Add the beef and salt. Cook, breaking the meat up with a potato masher or the edge of a spoon, for 5 minutes, or until it is no longer pink.

Beef and beans chili cook onions garlic and beef

2 Add the spices and peppers: Add the ancho and chipotle powders, cumin, and oregano to the pot. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in the bell peppers.

Beef and beans chili add the spices Best Beef Chili Recipe add the peppers

3 Puree and add the tomatoes: In a blender, pulse the tomatoes and their juices for 5 seconds to break them up. Add them to the pot with the water and bring to a boil.

4 Cook the chili: Lower the heat and simmer for a minimum of 45 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours, or until the liquid is well flavored (the longer the better!).

Add more hot water during cooking, 1/2 cup at a time, if the mixture seems too thick.

Beef chili with beans cook the chili

5 Add the beans and corn: Add the beans and corn and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until hot. Taste and add more salt or chili powder, if you like.

6 Serve with garnishes: Set out bowls of your favorite garnishes for serving.

This chili keeps for about a week, covered, in the refrigerator and up to 3 months when frozen.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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10 Comments / Reviews

No ImageBest Beef Chili

  1. Gera

    I didn’t have any bell peppers on hand so to add a little of that pizazz that usually bell peppers give to dishes I added a little bit of tomato paste and a good spoonful of paprika to the pot…
    It was lip smacking, plate licking, second and third helpings worthy De-li-ci-ous!!!
    Absolutely a keeper!


  2. Emily

    Excellent chili recipe, I recommend it! I could only get nonspecific chili powder available at the supermarket, but it worked out great.

    I’ll make it again soon. Thanks

  3. Ele

    It tastes better with the corn kernel. I substituted ground turkey. So good.

  4. Anne

    Delicious! For the meat, I substituted a favorite meat mixture – 1/4 ground beef, 1/4 ground pork, 1/4 ground chicken and 1/4 turkey sausage – all browned and mixed together, drained, and then added to the pot with the spices and peppers. The spices combined well with the meat flavors – It received several “best chili ever” comments!!


  5. Mark

    This is pretty much what I do normally, but my question is: does it
    really make much difference if you add the beans and corn early,
    and just simmer the whole thing?

    Show Replies (1)
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Beef and beans chiliBest Beef Chili