Chili Con Carne

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

It seems as if there as many ways to prepare chili as there are cooks who make chili. Ground beef versus chunks, pork versus beef, pinto versus kidney beans, beans versus no beans, red chili or green chili—the combinations, as the preferences for them, are endless. The Wikipedia has a great write-up on chili con carne if you are interested in exploring its origins and varieties.

A few notes on this recipe. We use chuck roast because it holds up the best to long stewing. The meat and onions are cooked in bacon fat which contributes to the flavor. We include kidney beans because we like kidney beans, but you can substitute other beans or leave them out entirely. A little sugar is used to balance out the acidity of the tomatoes and lime juice.

The “secret sauce” so to speak of this recipe is the addition of chipotle chile powder, made from smoke-dried jalapeño peppers. Chipotle adds a smokey dimension to the chili, enhancing all of the other flavors. If you can’t find chipotle powder, Tabasco makes a chipotle pepper sauce that can be used to add some smokey flavor to the stew.

Everyone has their favorite chili recipe. This one is mine, what’s yours?

Chili Con Carne Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4 to 6


  • 2 Tbsp red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle chile powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • 3-4 Tbsp water
  • 4 strips bacon
  • One 2 1/2 pound chuck roast, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 jalapeño chili peppers, stems removed, seeded, ribs removed, minced
  • 1 14-oz can whole tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 14-oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, dissolved in a couple tablespoons of water
  • Salt
  • Grated cheddar cheese and chopped red onion for garnish


1 Make chili paste: In a small bowl mix the chili powder, chipotle chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, thyme, and ground coriander seeds. Mix in water so that chili forms a light paste. Set aside.

2 Cook bacon: Cook the bacon in a large skillet on medium high heat until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove from pan and set aside on a paper towel. Pour bacon fat from the pan into a separate container, reserve. When the bacon cools, crumble it into smaller pieces and set aside.

3 Brown beef chunks in bacon fat: Increase heat to medium high, add back in 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat. Working in batches so that you don't crowd the beef (crowding will steam cook the meat instead of browning it), brown the beef cubes on all sides, lightly salting as you cook the beef. Remove beef from pan, set aside.

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4 Cook onions: Add another Tablespoon of bacon fat to the pan. Add the chopped onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño, cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Add the chili paste and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

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5 Put beef and onions in big pot, add tomatoes, water, lime juice, sugar: Into a 6-quart thick-bottomed Dutch oven, put onion chili mixture, beef, bacon, tomatoes (break up the whole tomatoes with your fingers as you put them in the pot), water, lime juice and sugar. Heat the chili on medium high heat until it comes to a simmer. Then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Then uncover and cook for another half hour, keeping the temperature at a place where you can maintain a simmer.

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6 Thicken with cornstarch: Mix the cornstarch powder into a little water to dissolve the corn starch (otherwise you'll have lumps to deal with) and add to the chili to thicken it.

7 Add kidney beans: Gently mix in the kidney beans. Add salt to taste. Adjust seasonings. Depending on the acidity of the tomatoes and lime juice you may need a little more sugar to bring the stew to balance. At this point you can also add a little more chili powder if you desire more heat.

8 Add toppings to serve: Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese and chopped red onion. Serve with cornbread, tortilla chips, and or rice.

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Chili con Carne

Showing 4 of 89 Comments

  • Jo

    I’ve made this twice now, I think it’s become my go-to. The first time I used recipe as written. Made it a second time a couple of days ago, with changes. You can’t get USA-type chile powder where I’m from so I made my own using Alton Brown’s recipe.
    The changes/substitutions:
    – Prefer less cumin-y flavour so I omitted the tablespoon as there was already cumin in the chile powder.
    – Didn’t have dried thyme so omitted that.
    – Used high quality beef mince instead of chuck roast and didn’t break it up so it stayed in little clumps.
    – Love garlic so used 8 (!) fat cloves of it, possibly even more (lost count).
    – Love heat so used 3 jalapenos.
    – Replaced water with beef stock (would love to try again with beer).
    – Love beans in chili so added another can.
    – Left out lime juice as prefer less acidic taste.
    – Where I’m from we have an excellent local-made dark chocolate, added half a handful of it after turning off the heat.
    – Grated 1/3 stick of cinnamon.

    Served in bowls with corn chips, diced red onion, and chile con queso. Very hearty and warming now that we’re in winter. Thanks for another winner, Elise.

  • Lynn Kessel

    I have made many of your recipes over the years and I can always count on success. This is my first time commenting. I am currently making a double batch for a large gathering and I just sent my husband out to Costco to buy 5 more pounds of chuck roast to make 2 more batches. This chili is FANTASTIC!! I know people like to “wing it ” when making chili, but after making THIS chili many times now, I don’t want to make it any other way. I just want to thank you! I will say this – I hate having to dice up all that beef! But in my opinion, it’s better than ground beef.

  • Faith

    Elise, what are your thoughts on doubling this recipe? The first time I made it, I made two separate batches simultaneously. It turned out wonderfully! I’m just curious how you would recommend doubling it. Thanks!

  • Carmen


    I was wondering if you can suggest what changes in the steps and the cooking time would be if the recipe were cooked using a crockpot instead of the stovetop?

    Hi Carmen, I haven’t yet made this recipe in a slow cooker, so your guess is as good as mine. ~Elise

  • Lorz

    Hi Guys, Does anyone have a copy of the chilli con carne recipe that was printed on the side of the tabasco sauce original box that the bottle comes in. We had it about 20 years ago and we have lost it, when we emigrated, from what we recall, it had tabasco and worcester sauce, beef, onion, cayenne, garlic,veg oil, red kidney beans chilli powder sale and pepper, if anyone has it can I get it please.

    My husband is trying to re-create it.

    Thanks Lorz

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