The Best Chili Recipe and everyone’s favorite comfort food, this flavorful and delicious recipe is made with ground beef, bacon, and red kidney beans simmered in a simple, spice-filled tomato broth. Enjoy this classic chili year-round topped with gooey melted cheese, sour cream, and green onions.
You will find several versions of chili on this site of mine. From easy steak chili and Instant Pot Coca-Cola chili to vegetarian versions like this 3 bean miso chili and butternut squash chili. This chili, though? This one is the best and definitely my favorite.
Just like how my mom used to make her chili, this one comes with all the classic beef and tomato flavors, but with one very important secret ingredient – BACON!
Now, I’ve made quite a few chili recipes in the course of my life but none come anywhere near this one. So simple, yet so complex… I tell ya, bacon works wonders in this super comforting, super delicious recipe.
A perfect weeknight dinner!
How to Make the Best Chili Recipe
1. Cook the bacon
If you choose to add bacon to your chili recipe (which I hope you do!) then you’re going to want to do this first. Technically, there are a few different ways to do this,
- Chop the bacon before frying
- Fry the bacon in strips, cool, and chop
- Or, cook your bacon in the oven
I find that it’s easiest to chop before frying and since I don’t want to lose any of the delicious bacon flavors, cook it directly in the pot I plan to cook my chili. Whichever method you do decide to go with, remember to reserve 2-3 tablespoons of bacon grease. Anything more than that can be tossed or saved for later use.
2. Brown the beef
Remove the cooked bacon to a clean plate, leaving behind approximately 1 tablespoon of that reserved bacon grease (or olive oil if you’re not cooking with bacon). Add the ground meat and cook over medium-high heat. Brown the meat and season with salt and pepper then transfer to a clean plate and set aside.
NOTE: Why do we want to cook everything separately when we could save a few minutes by tossing the ground beef, onions, and bacon in the pot to cook everything all at the same time?
- Cooked separately, the bacon and the ground beef have a chance to brown on their own and leave behind a little layer of stuck-on bits that ultimately result in more and better flavor.
- We have the ability to decide how much excess grease from the bacon and beef actually remains in the chili and how much is removed.
- The onions. The onions are really important to the flavor of this chili recipe and need to be cooked low and slow (read all about this cooking technique in my post about Mirepoix).
3. Onions, seasoning, and tomatoes
Add that last remaining tablespoon of bacon grease to your Dutch oven and set over medium heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for 5-7 minutes, or until soft, tender, and translucent. If you start to see your onions brown or burn, reduce heat to medium-low.
Sprinkle with salt, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, and sugar. I choose not to go crazy with the spices (especially the cumin) on purpose. With the added smokiness from the bacon and a little balancing sweetness from the sugar, you don’t need a whole lot.
4. Put it all together
Mix it all together then return the cooked bacon and ground beef to the pot. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring continuously – we don’t want it burning – then add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring it to a simmer.
As soon as your onion and tomato mixture reaches a simmer, add in the kidney beans and add 2-3 cups of low-sodium broth (you pick- it can be beef, bone broth, chicken stock, or vegetable broth). Mix well to combine.
How long should you allow your chili recipe to simmer on the stove?
Ideally, you want to let your chili cook over low heat for at least 20-30 minutes or up to an hour. At this point it’s not for food safety reasons- everything has been cooked. The flavors, however, need some time to mix and meld together. No, you don’t need to simmer it all day, but if you have a little extra time to let it cook, I highly recommend it.
- TIP– after everything has been browned and softened (the bacon, ground beef, and onions), you may transfer everything to a slow cooker/crockpot and cook over high heat for 3-4 hours or low heat for 5-6 hours.
What Do You Top Chili With?
This chili recipe may taste delicious alone, but it’s even better when it’s topped with all of your favorite toppings!
- shredded cheese: cheddar cheese, Colby Jack, or even Monterey Jack
- sour cream
- fresh cilantro
- sliced green onions or chives
- hot sauce – I’m particularly fond of Tabasco sauce
- corn chips or crushed tortilla chips
- sliced jalapeño (pickled or fresh)
What to Serve with Homemade Chili?
Serve your chili with warm, buttery toasted bread or (my personal preference) cornbread. Drizzle your cornbread with honey and you’ll never want to serve this chili recipe with anything else!
Recipe Notes & Tips
- Substitute the ground beef for ground turkey to cut fat and calories
- Optional veggies – red or green bell pepper, celery, carrots, or zucchini
- Optional seasonings – paprika, oregano, chipotle powder
How to thicken chili?
The best way to thicken this recipe is to let it simmer on the stovetop over medium-low heat until the desired consistency is reached. This will allow it to thicken naturally without changing (or messing) with the flavors at all.
If you don’t have the time to let it simmer, you may sprinkle with a little cornmeal or add an additional tablespoon or two of tomato paste.
Avoid adding cornstarch or flour at all costs.
Can you Freeze Beef Chili?
To freeze any leftovers first allow your chili to cool at room temperature before transferring to freezer-safe ziplock bags or airtight containers. You may choose to freeze your leftovers as individual servings or all together in one gallon-sized ziplock bag- this is up to you. Remove as much air as possible and transfer it to the refrigerator to cool overnight. The next morning, transfer your chili to the freezer and store for up to three months.
To reheat, allow your chili to thaw in the refrigerator overnight. Then transfer to a pot and gently heat over medium heat, adding more water or broth as needed. You may also heat in the microwave at high heat for 1-2 minutes.
Try these other easy beef recipes,
Did you try this best-ever classic chili recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts.
The Best Chili Recipe
- 1 pound bacon (chopped into small pieces)
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 2 medium onions (diced)
- 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 3-4 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (28 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans (drained (not rinsed))
- 2 cups broth ((beef broth, bone broth, chicken, vegetable) plus more as needed)
- Optional Toppings (sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, Tabasco sauce)
- Cook the bacon - Add the chopped bacon to a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Once the bacon is hot and sizzling, reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook low and slow, stirring occasionally. Once the bacon pieces are golden, remove the lid and allow your bacon pieces to cook until the desired doneness is reached. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Reserve 2 tablespoons of leftover bacon grease.
- Brown the ground beef - over medium-high heat, add 1 tablespoon of reserved bacon grease back to your Dutch oven, and add the ground beef. Brown the ground beef and season with salt and pepper. Transfer beef to a clean plate and set aside.
- Cook the onions - Add the remaining tablespoon of bacon grease to your pot and set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Sprinkle with salt, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, and sugar. Mix well to combine. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes over medium heat, stirring continuously. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
- Return the beef and add some beans - As soon as your onion and tomato mixture reaches a simmer, return the bacon and ground beef to the pot. Stir in the kidney beans and add 2-3 cups of low-sodium broth (beef, bone, chicken, or vegetable broth). Mix well to combine.
- Simmer - Allow your chili to simmer for 15-20 minutes before serving. Add additional salt, pepper, or spices, if needed, and add additional broth if your chili is too thick.
- Serve - Serve with all your favorite toppings including sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, and Tobasco sauce, if desired.
- Beef: I recommend using 85-90% lean ground beef.
- Bacon: Unless you don't eat pork, don't skip the bacon! Such a flavor game-changer. If you prefer not to include it as part of the chili, feel free to serve it on the side as a topping.
- Beans: I added red kidney beans as they are (in my opinion) the classic chili bean. Black beans are another popular bean choice. You will also notice that I drained, but did not rinse my beans - this was intentional as that bean liquid does come with some great flavor. This is completely optional, so feel free to rinse those beans if preferred.
- Seasonings: The chili powder used in this recipe is not spicy. If you want some heat, add 1-2 teaspoons of cayenne pepper. Also, start with just 1 tablespoon of cumin. Cumin easily overwhelms the other flavors. Finally, if preferred, swap the garlic powder for 5-6 cloves of fresh minced garlic.
- Broth: add a low-sodium broth instead of water. Choose your favorite store-bought version or try my homemade chicken stock or bone broth recipe.
- The longer you allow your chili to simmer, the more time the flavors will have to mix with each other. This is a good thing! So unless you're in a hurry, let your chili simmer a while (note on this- cover your pot and reduce heat to the lowest possible setting).
- As written, this recipe is gluten-free (although, you may want to double-check the packaging on the bacon to be extra safe)
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)