Ground Beef Chili

Soup and Stew1-PotChiliGround Beef

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.

COOK THIS BEEF CHILI LOW AND SLOW

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

MAKE YOUR OWN CHILI POWDER!

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.

WAYS TO ADAPT THIS RECIPE

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

BEST CHILI TOPPINGS

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

WHAT TO SERVE ALONGSIDE

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

FREEZE YOUR LEFTOVER CHILI

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.

MORE CHILI RECIPES TO TRY!

Ground Beef Chili Recipe

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  • 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 plus 1/4 teaspoons of chili powder.

Ingredients

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

Method

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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6 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. 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?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Mark! Since we’re using pre-cooked canned beans, they are already fully cooked and just need to be warmed up. If you add them at the beginning of cooking with the rest of the chili ingredients, they are likely to overcook and become mushy. Similarly, the corn just needs to be warmed up and a long simmer can affect its texture. This said, if these things aren’t an issue for you, then you can certainly cook everything together! Hope that helps!

  2. Helena

    THIS is the chili recipe I have been searching for! The classic chili taste and fresh burst of corn are spot on. Not too spicy, with just a slight zing. I used ground sirloin and it did come out a touch greasy, so I would have to agree with Karyn that next time I will brown separately. Can’t wait to make the next batch this weekend. It makes plenty to freeze. I ate the last of it for lunch today. Delicious!!

    xxxxxyyyyy

  3. Karyn

    It came out greasy for me. I think next time I need to brown the meat separately and drain that first then add to the onions and so on. … but otherwise it tastes good. I really like this website and how they are very detailed about the instructions.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  4. Bry Jaimea

    Oh yum! Definitely have to try this! xx

    xx Bry Jaimea

  5. Jenny Hong

    This is definitely a keeper for me. My partner asked me to make more but spicier!

    xxxxxyyyyy

Beef and beans chiliGround Beef Chili