The Ultimate Chili Recipe – Once Upon a Chef

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Prepping for game day or seeking warmth on a cool day? Give my chili recipe a whirl—it’s everything a classic beef chili should be and more.

The Ultimate Chili Recipe

This chili recipe is my tried-and-true favorite, and to me, it’s the best version of a classic chili. It’s hearty, brimming with deep flavors, and delivers just the right spicy kick to chase away the chill. Whether served with a side of fluffy cornbread, spooned over rice, or accompanied by crunchy tortilla chips for dipping, this chili is always a crowdpleaser—perfect for game days, casual gatherings, or just a comforting meal on a cold day. It also freezes beautifully, so make a double batch and stash some away for another day.

“We’re Texans and love your chili! Try this! It is so well flavored without being hot. The hint of cinnamon and molasses balance out the spice. ❤️ Thank you for another great recipe!”

Mimi

For the best and most tender chili, I have a few tricks. First, mash the beef with a bit of baking soda and let it sit while you prep the other ingredients. This raises the pH of the beef, which locks in moisture and accelerates browning, resulting in a more flavorful, tender chili. Second, opt for 85% lean ground beef. The fat enriches the meat, enhancing the dish’s overall flavor and texture. And don’t stress about the fat—post-cooking, it’s easy to skim off any excess. Wondering about beans? I don’t add them to my chili since my family tends to eat around them, but feel free to add a can of your favorite drained beans during the last half hour of cooking. Finally, for those who like a sweeter chili, try adding a touch of molasses and cinnamon for a delicious twist.

Chili Recipe Ingredients

chili ingredients

Step-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the ground beef, salt, baking soda, and water in a large bowl.

how to make ground beef chili

Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit for 20 minutes. The baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning. (I borrowed this tenderizing trick from Cook’s Illustrated; it works like a charm.)

how to make ground beef chili

Meanwhile, chop the veggies.

chopping vegetables for chili recipe

I use a food processor to speed this up, but it’s fine to chop by hand too.

finely chopped vegetables in food processor

In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and red pepper.

finely minced vegetables in pot

Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

softened vegetables

Add the beef and increase the heat to high.

stirring in the beefCook, stirring with wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

browning the beef

The beef will release a lot of fat and liquid — do not drain it; you’ll skim the fat off at the end. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon (if using).

browned beef with spices

Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant. Add the cornmeal, beef broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses (if using).

adding tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, and cornmeal

Bring to a boil.

simmering chili

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Skim any excess fat off of the surface of the chili — there will be quite a bit.

chili after simmering for two hours

Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!

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Video Tutorial

The Ultimate Chili Recipe

Prepping for game day or seeking warmth on a cool day? Give my chili recipe a whirl—it’s everything a classic beef chili should be and more.

Ingredients

  • 2.5 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (or 2 small), minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional, for a sweeter chili)
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, such as Grandma’s Original (optional, for a sweeter chili)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from 1 lime

For Serving (optional)

  • Cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, cheese, scallions

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, salt, baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of water. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the beef and increase the heat to high; cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break the meat into ¼-inch pieces, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes. (The beef will release a lot of liquid — do not drain it; you’ll skim the fat off at the end.)
  3. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant.
  4. Stir in the cornmeal, broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses (if using); bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
  5. Skim any excess fat off the surface of the chili. (There will be quite a bit; don’t worry about getting all of it, as it adds flavor.) Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. For a thinner chili, you can add a bit of water. To thicken the chili, continue simmering, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Make Ahead: Cool slightly, and then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost it in the refrigerator overnight and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 655
  • Fat: 44 g
  • Saturated fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 28 g
  • Sugar: 15 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 39 g
  • Sodium: 1711 mg
  • Cholesterol: 134 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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