A big ol’ batch of chili warms up any occasion. It’s quick, easy, and a simple crowd-feeder (and pleaser!). After making it’s way to Texas a few hundred years ago, the one-pot meal has become an American staple, so much so that President Lyndon B. Johnson said, “there is simply nothing better.”
Of course, fast forward a couple centuries and now there are a million ways to make it: classic red, spicy green, white bean, chunky meat, ground meat, chicken chunks, vegetarian, the list goes on. Most of us have all come to know — and love — classic Texas-style chili, but other regions, like Cincinnati, have developed their own variations.
If you’re just looking to make a basic chili right now, we’ve got you covered. We’re always a fan of quick and easy recipes (hence the 25-minute recipe below), but we’re also partial to a slow and steady simmer. To increase flavor, cook chili on low in a big pot (Le Creuset highly suggested) and let the flavors marinate for an hour-plus.
Yes, a slow cooker logically makes sense for this kind of dish, but unless you time it just right, the meat can wind up tasteless and soft. To be safe, rely on that fix-it-and-forget-it method for bean-based chili only.
Now that those basics are squared away, let’s move on to our time-saving stovetop recipe (we we only have so many hours in day, after all).
To make this classic meat chili, simply throw the ingredients in a skillet and let the spicy flavors work their magic. Our recipe easily serves six, but you can double or triple, as needed. And this is only the beginning — try our other favorite chili recipes once you master the basics.
What you’ll need:
•1 tbsp. vegetable oil
• 1 red or yellow pepper, chopped
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 1 1/4 lb. 90% lean ground beef
• 2 tbsp. chili powder
• 1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
• 1 tbsp. tomato paste
• 1 can no-salt added diced tomatoes (28-ounce)
• 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained (can also use pinto, pink, or black beans)
• Garnishes: chopped green onions, cilantro, sour cream, and shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)
• Wooden spoon
• Bowls ($30, amazon.com)
In a 12-inch skillet, heat oil on medium-high. Add pepper and onion and cook for 5 minutes or until softened and brown, stirring occasionally.
Add beef and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook for 3 minutes or until meat browns, stirring and breaking up meat with wooden spoon. To lighten things up, swap ground beef for ground turkey or chicken. But if you want to ditch meat entirely, double up the beans and add 2 chopped carrots.
Add chili powder, cumin, and tomato paste to the mixture. Cook for 1 minute and stir. If this isn’t spicy enough for you, add cayenne pepper or hot sauce. For a smoky flavor, try canned chipotle and adobo.
Next, stir in tomatoes and beans. Heat to boiling, then reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When ready, spoon into serving bowls and garnish as desired. Take your pick — chopped green onions, pickled jalepeños, cilantro, sour cream, shredded Cheddar cheese, or crumbled tortilla chips. Serve the chili with fresh cornbread or warm corn tortillas for dipping.
Our favorite way to pair chili is with homemade slaw. Combine cabbage, cilantro, and lime juice for a tangy mix that will counterbalance the chili’s spicy flavors.
Store your cooked chili in the refrigerator for up to four days. Always double-check that it’s in an airtight container (we’re a fan of Ziploc bags — no staining your favorite plastic set).
A big batch will freeze for up to three months. To prevent freezer burn — and make your life easier when you want to heat it up — pack the chili into one- or two-serving containers.
To reheat, first defrost in the microwave to loosen up the chili. If you’re only heating up a small container’s worth, reheat it entirely in the microwave. Since power varies microwave to microwave, give it a good stir every minute or so. If you’re heating up a lot of chili, start it in the microwave and finish warming in a sauce pan.
We have so many more variations than this. Bookmark these faves, including this Cincinnati Chili.