The Best Chili Recipe and everyone’s favorite comfort food, this flavorful and delicious chili 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.
Secret Ingredient Chili Recipe
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 my very favorite. Classic beef flavors and tomato broth with one very important secret ingredient – BACON!
Now, I’ve made quite a few chili recipes in the course of my life but none have had the flavor of this one. So simple, yet so complex… I tell ya, bacon works wonders in this super comforting, delicious recipe.
What are the Ingredients for Chili?
For the full list and amounts of ingredients, scroll down to the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Bacon– As previously mentioned, the bacon is the magic ingredient in this super chili recipe. Even if you’re not a huge bacon lover, you may be surprised by how much you love it in this recipe. I added one pound as that is equal to one package for me. If you really love bacon feel free to add more. Not so in love with the stuff? Simply add less.
Ground beef– There’s no “best” beef for chili so go with what works for your family. If you find ground beef on sale, awesome! Otherwise, look for 85-90% lean ground beef.
Onion– If you cook your onion properly (low and slow) then I can almost guarantee that for you (and your kiddos) the onions will probably go unnoticed. I added two finely chopped onions (medium yellow onions). Feel free to substitute with your favorite onion or add just one onion if preferred.
Seasoning– What magic seasoning did I add to my chili to make it taste so good? Simple ones like ground cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt and black pepper. The chili powder is not spicy. If you want some heat, add a teaspoon or two of cayenne pepper. Also, start with just 1 tablespoon of cumin. Cumin easily overwhelms the other flavors. We don’t want that here. If preferred, you may swap garlic powder for 5-6 cloves garlic.
Sugar– Plain white granulated sugar is a popular ingredient in many recipes with a heavy tomato base. The sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes and actually strengthens the other flavors in your chili.
Tomato paste– How do you thicken your chili? By adding tomato paste. Start with 2-3 tablespoons and add more at the very end (only if needed).
Tomatoes– Yes! So many tomatoes. You can’t have classic chili without a boatload of tomatoes. I added a mix of diced tomatoes and plain canned tomato sauce, but add whatever you like. If you prefer your chili without chunks of tomatoes, add crushed tomatoes and just tomato sauce instead. Just make sure it’s plain canned tomatoes.
Red kidney beans– Classic chili calls for classic red kidney beans. Black beans and pinto beans are other popular options. 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.
How to Make the Best Chili Recipe
To make this homemade chili recipe you’ll need the following tools and equipment: A large Dutch Oven or pot, can opener, and a fine-mesh strainer. A chef’s knife, spatula, and ladle are also pretty important.
Step 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.
The method you decide to go with is totally up to you. 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.
Now, to actually cook the bacon set your large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the chopped bacon. Once it’s hot and sizzling, reduce heat to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook low and slow, stirring occasionally. When the bacon pieces are golden, remove the lid and allow them to cook until the desired doneness is reached. Transfer the cooked bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside. Reserve 2-3 tablespoons of leftover bacon grease.
Step 2. Brown the beef
I am going to preface this step by explaining why I cook everything separately. After all, I could save a few minutes by tossing the ground beef, onions, and bacon in the pot to cook everything all at the same time.
Ok, so why cook them separately?
- It’s a flavor thing. 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.
- It’s a control thing. Cooked separately I have the ability to decide how much excess grease from the bacon and beef actually remain in the chili and how much is removed. Yes, you guys, we want some of that fatty goodness, but all? My answer is no.
- I’m crazy about my onions. Ok, you guys. This is actually a big part of it for me. Yes, 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).
Anyway, let’s brown some ground beef:
Over medium-high heat, return 1 tablespoon of that 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.
Note that you can break your ground beef up into tablespoon-sized chunks or really crumble it up so that no chunks remain. I usually get annoyed trying to break it down perfectly, so my chili will usually fall somewhere in the middle.
Step 3. Onion, 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 cook 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.
Meanwhile, sprinkle with salt, cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, and sugar. I chose 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 of seasoning.
Mix it all together then stir in the tomato paste and cook for 1-2 minutes over medium heat. Continuously stir the onions with the tomato paste- we don’t want it burning. Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce and bring to a simmer.
Step 4. Return the beef, bacon, 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 (you pick- it can be beef, bone broth, chicken stock, or vegetable broth). Mix well to combine.
Step 5. Simmer
All your ingredients have been added, yay! So 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.
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! Of course, what may be a favorite for me may not be a favorite for you, so add what you love and leave what you hate.
- Shredded cheese – cheddar is the universal chili cheese favorite, but Colby Jack and Monterey Jack are also great options.
- Sour cream – Sour cream is a nice cool, creamy balance to the super flavorful chili. Plain Greek yogurt is a great, and equally delicious alternative.
- Greens – Cilantro, green onions, and chives are all good.
- Avocado – Because anytime I can find an excuse to eat more avocado I take it!
- Hot sauce – I’m particularly fond of Tabasco sauce. Spicy and super vinegary, it’s my fav.
- Corn chips or crushed tortilla chips.
- Sliced jalapeno (pickled or fresh)
What to Serve with Homemade Chili
Chili is best left simple. Serve topped with all your favorite toppings plus a side of simple toasted bread with butter or (my personal preference) cornbread. Drizzle a little honey on that cornbread and you’ll never want to serve your chili recipe with anything else!
Tips and Tricks
- Substitute the ground beef for ground turkey to cut fat and calories
- Optional veggies – red bell pepper, celery, carrots
- 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 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 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. The next day 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.
More Easy Recipes,
- Easy Chicken Salad Recipe
- Easy Egg Drop Soup Recipe
- The Best Meatloaf Recipe; How to Make Meatloaf
- Easy Baked Buffalo Chicken Recipe
- Poached Chicken Breasts (How to Poach Chicken)
If you try making this BEST Chili Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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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, bone, 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 a 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.
- 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).
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)