This is the best chili recipe with chunky ground beef and beans in a rich sauce loaded with all the classic chili flavors.
When football season hits and the fall leaves start to fly, there’s not much I crave more than a big bowl of beef chili loaded with all the fixins’. I love my Killer Beef with Three Bean Chili spiked with enchilada sauce and beer, and my recipe for Deer Valley’s Famous Turkey Chili is always popular. But when it comes to paring things down to the classics, this thick and rich Ground Beef Chili recipe is simply the best. It reminds me of Wendy’s old-fashioned chili recipe because the ground beef isn’t browned beforehand. Instead, it’s cooked directly in the chili-flavored tomato sauce so it stays tender and flavorful. I like this beef chili with plenty of shredded cheddar cheese and diced onions, with even more jalapeño for extra spice.
What’s in the Best Chili
- Yellow onion
- Green bell pepper
- Vegetable or canola oil
- Tomato paste
- Tomato sauce
- 80/20 ground beef
- Chili powder
- Ground cumin
- Kosher salt
- Cayenne pepper
- Chili beans or kidney beans
- White vinegar, to balance the richness
How to Make the Best Chili
Chop the veggies so they’re all the same bite-size bits. This way the veggies all cook at the same rate and you get a little of everything in every bite.
Saute the onion, celery, garlic, and green bell pepper then add the tomato paste. Once the veggies are softened, add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes so it loses its raw taste and develops its tomato flavor.
Add the water and ground beef to the pot. Instead of browning the beef, it gets added raw to the hot tomato mixture, breaking it into small pieces. This method cooks the beef directly in the sauce so it absorbs the flavor and minces fine.
Add the spices with the tomato sauce to the meat mixture. Stir well and bring to a rolling simmer.
Add the beans to the chili. Bring to a medium boil then drop to a simmer and cook uncovered for 2-3 hours. I used chili beans this time around, but any type of kidney bean (light, dark) is tasty, too.
How to Thicken Chili
- To thicken chili, cook it uncovered so the liquid reduces as the flavors develop.
- Refrigerate the chili overnight then reheat when ready to serve.
- Or, add ¼ cup fine-ground cornmeal to thicken the chili more if desired.
Can You Freeze Chili?
Chili freezes very well and is the perfect candidate for make-ahead meals. Freeze in gallon-size freezer bags for larger portions or individual sizes for smaller. Before serving, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, or microwave on Defrost mode before rewarming to serve.
Substitutions and Variations
- Instead of 80/20 ground beef, go with 85/15 for leaner ground beef. Or try ground turkey or chicken instead.
- Swap the green pepper out for red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, or use a combination.
- Add more veggies like diced butternut squash, zucchini, or sweet potato.
- Add a beer in place of part of the water. I like a lager here best.
- Ratchet up the spice level with minced jalapeño chili added at the end of cooking for more heat. Or, add ¼ teaspoon more cayenne pepper or red chili flakes when adding the spices.
What to Serve With Chili
- Cheddar and Jalapeño Skillet Cornbread
- Classic Waldorf Salad
- How to Make THE BEST Cornbread
- Salad with Pears, Gorgonzola and Candied Pecans
- Kale Salad with Wild Rice and Butternut Squash
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
How to Make THE BEST Beef Chili Recipe
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large yellow onion , diced
- 1 medium green bell pepper , seeded and diced
- 2 celery stalks , diced
- 3 garlic cloves , pressed or minced
- 4 ounces tomato paste
- 3 cups water
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 ½ pounds 80/20 ground beef
- 4 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 15-ounce cans chili beans or kidney beans , drained and lightly rinsed
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat. Add the onion, green bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the vegetables start to soften, about 5-7 minutes. Stir the tomato paste into the vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the water to the pot and stir well, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the ground beef. Use a wooden spoon to break the beef into small pieces. Add the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and kosher salt and black pepper then bring to a medium boil. Add the beans. Stir and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 2-3 hours to reduce and thicken, stirring every so often.
- Before serving, add the vinegar and taste for seasoning. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, minced onion, and sliced jalapeño peppers. Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for 4 months.
More Chili Recipes to Try
- Cincinnati Chili
- Deer Valley’s Famous Turkey Chili
- White Bean Chicken Chili with Butternut Squash
- Killer Beef and Three Bean Chili
- Slow Cooker Fajita Chicken Chili
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