This is literally the best chili recipe ever and the perfect comfort food for chilly nights! Packed with protein thanks to red kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, lean ground beef, beef broth, and bacon. We love to top with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and avocado.
Why this is the Best Chili
With so many chili recipes already on the internet, you probably think I have some nerve sharing another one. Not to mention the fact that I’m proclaiming this recipe is better than all the other recipes out there. But hear me out… because this homemade chili recipe truly is special because it’s:
- thick and hearty… but not dry! you can add more liquid for a “soupier” chili.
- packed with the perfect bean to meat ratio.
- spicy and flavorful, but well balanced. and you can adjust the spice by reducing the cayenne pepper and jalapeño.
- freezes incredibly – and will keep for up to 2 months!
- comes together in about 30 minutes, then it just simmers away for a few hours.
We love it on cold winter days, topped with gooey shredded cheddar, and served with honey jalapeño cornbread muffins! This hearty belly-warming meal is freezer friendly, and perfect for meal prepping.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
- Bacon: Can you leave the bacon out? Yes. Should you leave the bacon out? No! Adding bacon to this chili gives it the most delicious smokey flavor.
- Veggies: This chili is hiding peppers, onion, carrots, and garlic. Feel free to use less peppers for a medium heat chili – or omit completely for a mild chili. And if you’re not a veggie lovers, you can omit the carrots, too.
- Ground Beef: I love using 90 lean/10 fat beef for this recipe, but use whatever your preferred ratio is. Want to use ground turkey? Go for it – I have some notes and thoughts on this below.
- Spices: Chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper pack this chili with flavor! Salt, black pepper, and just a touch of brown sugar add balance. Make sure your spices are fresh or at least from this decade! Old spices won’t yield as much flavor and can even taste kind of musty.
- Tomatoes: Many recipes call for diced tomatoes with their juice, but I suggest crushed tomatoes instead. Personally I don’t like those large chunks of chewy tomato in my chili, but if you do, feel free to use them instead. Tomato paste thickens the chili.
- Beans: You can use any variety of beans in this chili, but I prefer red kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans. Use canned beans or soak your beans well before use!
- Broth: I use a combination of beef broth and beer, but you can use all broth if preferred. Beef broth ensures the chili is thick but not dry, and adds tons of flavor. I love using beef bone broth when I can find it!
Ground Beef vs Ground Turkey
Ground beef is my go-to choice for making chili. I like to use a ground beef that’s 90 lean and 10 perfect fat. Ground beef has more flavor and fat than ground turkey, so using it will yield a more flavorful chili recipe. But if you’re looking to reduce saturated fat or just prefer ground turkey, feel free to use it!
How to Make Chili
- Fry the Bacon: Once it’s crispy, set it aside. But leave the flavor packed bacon grease in the pan! Bacon grease = flavor powerhouse!!!
- Cook the Veggies: Add the veggies to the bacon grease and cook until they’re soft and almost caramelized. Toss the garlic in for a minute or so, right at the end of this process. You don’t want the garlic to brown or burn.
- Add the Ground Beef: You want to brown the beef without breaking it up too much. We want large chunks of beef! So stir softly and occasionally. But be sure to cook the beef until it’s deeply golden brown.
- Spice and Season: Add in all spices and cook until fragrant. This recipe is highly spiced,d so I don’t suggest adding more spices than called for. But you can always reduce the amount for a less flavorful chili. Then add the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.
- Add the Remaining Ingredients: Toss in the cooked bacon, beans, broth, and beer (if using), and mix well to combine.
- Simmer Simmer Simmer: For the best flavor, simmer this chili for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. It’ll taste fine after 1 hour, but if you can, let it go the full 2 hours. If it starts thinning out too much, add a little more beef broth or water.
Let’s Talk Toppings
If you’re anything like me, the best part about chili is dressing it up! Here are some of my favorite chili topping ideas:
- Fresh Cilantro
- Avocado (chunks or slices)
- Jalapeño Slices (fresh or pickled)
- Red onion or White Onion (diced)
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese or Crumbled Cotija Cheese
- Fritos or Corn Chips
- Sour Cream or Greek Yogurt
- Hot Sauce
Did I miss anything? Feel free to let me know in the comment section below!
How to Freeze Homemade Chili
Whether you’re having a baby, working on your winter meal prep, or just want a few meals in the freezer for nights you don’t want to cook? This chili recipe is here for you! And it freezes like a dream!
- Cook your chili recipe as directed and cool completely!!! This can take a few hours, but be patient. You never want to freeze hot food.
- Scrape the cooled chili into a freezer-safe container or freezer-bag. If you’re using a container, be sure there’s an inch of room from the top of the chili to the lid. If you’re using a freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as possible when sealing it.
- Place the container flat, in the freezer, and forget about it until needed. When you’re ready to enjoy, thaw it in the fridge overnight.
Future you is going to be so happy you have this meal in your freezer!!! And it’ll keep fresh “frozen” for up to 2 months.
Can I make this Chili in my Instant Pot?
You sure can use your instant pot, but it’ll need to start on the stove! Once you reach the “simmer” phase, you can transfer this chili recipe to your instant pot. From there, you can pressure cook for 30 to 35 minutes. Or until the texture and taste are to your liking.
If you’re looking for a cozy soul-warming meal to fill your belly this winter, this hearty chili is here for you! So grab your ingredients, let it simmer away on your stovetop, and dream up your chili toppings line-up while you wait. This delightful recipe has never let me down!
The Best Homemade Chili Recipe
- 8 ounces bacon chopped
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper seeds and core removed, diced
- 1 jalapeno pepper diced
- 2 carrots minced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 2 pounds lean ground beef
- 1 Tablespoon light brown sugar
- 2 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 6 ounce can tomato paste
- 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes with basil
- 3 15 ounce cans of beans 1 red kidney beans, 1 black beans, 1 pinto beans recommended, drained and rinsed
- 3 cups beef broth or 2 cups beef broth and 1 cup pilsner beer
- In a large Dutch oven over medium high heat, fry the bacon until crispy, stirring it frequently. Drain on a paper towel lined plate, then set aside until needed.
- Leave the bacon grease in the pan. Add the yellow onion, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, and carrots and sauté until soft and almost caramelized, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
- Add the ground beef and brown, stirring gently, trying not to break up the beef too much (larger chunks are our goal). Cook until the meat is deeply browned and cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the brown sugar, salt, pepper, and all spices and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomato paste and stir well to break it up into the meat. Cook for about 2 minutes, then add in the crushed tomatoes. Cook for another 2 minutes.
- Stir in the cooked bacon, beans, and broth (and beer, if using) and mix well to combine. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If the chili appears to be thinning out too much, add a little more broth as needed.
- Scoop into bowls and serve with garnishes (see post for garnish ideas).