How to Make Chili

Simmer Up a Hot Pot of this Essential, Hearty, Rich, American Stew.

Chili. It's one of those dishes that can be made in as many different ways as there are people in the world.  Not only that, there is great and sometimes very emotional debate sparked over the question of the "right" way to make chili.  Yes, if there's one thing people are passionate about, it's their chili.  But with all the different opinions and variations out there, what is it that actually makes chili “chili”?  At its most basic, chili is simply a slow-simmered one-pot stew containing meat, some form of tomatoes and a touch of heat from its primary seasoning: chili peppers.  While people can't seem to agree on the best way to make it, at least we can all agree on that.  Originating as a meal where people tossed in whatever they had on hand, chili is certainly a dish that invites experimentation and tinkering.  Follow the steps below to simmer up a hearty pot, and then experiment away to make it your own.

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1 Brown Ground Beef with Onions

Browning the meat before adding liquids and spices to the pot helps develop deep, rich flavor in the chili.  Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over a medium-high flame.  Add 1 pound of ground beef and sear for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add 2 chopped onions and 2 or 3 cloves of minced garlic.  Cook until the meat is browned and the onions are softened and translucent.  Drain the fat from the pot. 

If you prefer chunkier chili, use a pound of cubed beef or beef chuck cut into 1/2-inch pieces in place of ground beef.

2 Add Seasonings

Add 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 1 tablespoon white vinegar.  Stir to combine and cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat.

There are many ways to season chili, and this combination creates a nicely balanced chili with medium heat. If more heat is preferred, add 1/16 to 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper. Or, you can add a little bit of chopped fresh jalapeno, Anaheim, or poblano pepper. Keep in mind, the seeds and ribs of fresh chili peppers pack a lot of heat, so you may want to remove them before adding them to the pot.

3 Add Tomatoes and Beans

Add two 15-ounce cans of stewed tomatoes with juice and two 16-ounce cans of dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed.  Pour in 1/2 cup water.

Yes, beans are a controversial chili ingredient! If you're in the "no beans" camp, simply leave them out.

4 Bring to a Boil

Stir everything together in the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.


5 Simmer

Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 60 to 75 minutes until thickened.

6 Top and Enjoy

Spoon into serving bowls and enjoy as-is, or top as you'd like.  Traditional chili toppings include crushed Saltine crackers, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, chopped onion, cilantro and crushed tortilla chips.  Get creative and enjoy!

For a fun splash of flavor, drizzle each serving with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

About Kitchen Is My Playground

Tracey is the creator of the popular blog The Kitchen Is My Playground, which she founded in 2011. Her goal is to share recipes with other home cooks looking to create flavorful (and somewhat adventurous) food for their families and friends. Connect with her on PinterestFacebookTwitter or Google+.