Best Beef Chili

Everyone needs a recipe for classic ground beef chili. Make this one your go-to! Featuring corn, peppers, tomatoes, and beans, it makes enough to freeze for later.

Best chili in a dutch oven with a ladle.
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.

Video: How to Make the Best Beef Chili


Best Beef Chili

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
Sally Vargas

For Outstanding Chili, Make Your Own Chili Powder

Instead of puréeing 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 Beef Chili

  • The amount of chili powder in the recipe provides just a little kick, but you can bump up the heat 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.
  • Swap out the beef, if you like, with ground turkey, pork, or a mix.
Classic chili in a dutch oven with a serving spoon.
Sally Vargas

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 With Beef Chili

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

Freezing 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!

Best Beef Chili

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 90 mins
Total Time 105 mins
Servings 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.


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 puréed)

  • 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.

    Ground beef and onions in a stock pot to make a Chili recipe.
    Sally Vargas
  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.

    How to make chilli by combining ingredients in a large stock pot.
    Sally Vargas
    Best Beef Chili Recipe add the peppers
    Sally Vargas
  3. Purée 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.

    Ground beef chili simmering in a large stock pot.
    Sally Vargas
  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.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)
512 Calories
29g Fat
32g Carbs
35g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 512
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 29g 37%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Cholesterol 93mg 31%
Sodium 567mg 25%
Total Carbohydrate 32g 11%
Dietary Fiber 10g 35%
Total Sugars 8g
Protein 35g
Vitamin C 34mg 170%
Calcium 245mg 19%
Iron 5mg 27%
Potassium 1130mg 24%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.