Best. Chili. Evar.

A certain big football game is coming up on Sunday. A game so big that it generates lawsuits just for mentioning its name. It’s like Voldemort, Jr., basically. The halftime shows are usually worse that Voldemort though, let’s be honest. Where was I? Oh, yes, chili. As much as I love pizza and wings, the big game is really not complete without chili.

I spent quite a few years in Texas, so I am very particular when it comes to my chili. All beef, no beans. I understand there are many variations of chili, but all are inferior in my book to the Texas standard (once again, all beef, no beans–just so we’re clear). So when I read articles like this one that start talking about umami, use the phrase “je ne sais quoi,” or advocate for the use of tempeh, my head explodes. Really? I’m doing it wrong? I don’t think so. So although I normally keep it a closely held secret, I’m sharing my favorite chili recipe. One handed down from my Aunt Melodie and Uncle Carl. I’ll give you the basic recipe, and then I’ll tell you how I tweak it.

(As you’ll see, the foundation recipe includes beans, sadly. Aunt Melodie and Uncle Carl live in Colorado, so I’ll forgive them for this oversight.)

Best. Chili. Evar. Recipe

2 lbs ground beef (don’t go too lean, you want some fat)
1 large onion – chopped (go for a white or yellow onion)
1 can tomatoes – 1 lb, 12 oz
1 can tomato sauce (or puree) – 15 oz
1 can tomato paste – small
2 cans of kidney beans – 15 1/2 oz drained
3 T of Worcestershire
2 bottles of good, hearty beer (one for you, one for the chili)
1 can of beef broth
3 cloves garlic – minced or pressed
1 t crushed red pepper
2 bay leaves
1 T chili powder
1 t of each, ground coriander, ground cumin, thyme leaves, basil, oregano

For severing:
more beer
grated cheddar cheese
sour cream
chopped scallions

Brown ground beef and drain. Add onion, and cook till soft. Put mixture into a big pot, and
stir in all the other ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered until all the flavors are blended – 2 hour min. The liquid should cook down to a real hearty chili. Skim off fat and take out bay leaves.

Serve in bowls with grated cheese, sour cream, and scallions (Frito’s if, like my Aunt Melodie, you love Frito pie).


Okay, now here is how you turn that great chili into the greatest chili. First, don’t drain the beef. C’mon–that’s fat, and fat is flavor. You’re already eating queso, french onion dip, and all sorts of other goodies, so a little more fat won’t kill you. I have 90/10 sirloin in my fridge right now, but so long as there’s a bit of fat, any ground beef will do. Second, don’t add the beans. Save them for the side like the rest of your toppings. There’s always someone at the party who doesn’t understand why there aren’t beans in the chili. But do feel free to add extra garlic. Third, I usually stir the mix every 15 mins or so, checking on the flavor, and I usually let it cook for several hours. Every couple of intervals, I usually check the flavor and heat. Feel free to add more chili powder for flavor (it won’t really affect the heat level). Also, I like it pretty hot, so I usually add Sriracha sauce, habanero salsa, Tony Chachere’s spice mix (it’s my Louisiana roots), and crushed red pepper flakes (basically, whatever I have lying around that’s hot–also, feel free to add these things when you’re browning your ground beef). But don’t go nuts (see tip 5). Fourth, have some diced raw red onions to top the chili. Unless you’re that one judge from Chopped, raw red onions make a great addition. Fifth, and this is really the key, make it the day before you want to eat it. Chili is always better the second day.The flavors will mingle and get richer, and the heat will increase a bit from where you left it. If it’s too hot, add more sour cream and cheese to your chili–the extra fat will help kill the heat (yet another reason not to drain the beef).

That’s it, really. Just keep it simple. Ground beef, spices, some tomato products, some heat, and some time. Enjoy. Feel free to post any comments below, but I reserve the right to mock you incessantly if you start making comments like that author of the Slate piece.

2 thoughts on “Best. Chili. Evar.

  1. Colorado Tweaks – Chili is always better after simmering many hours not just 2 – best the next day. Instead of 2 lbs ground beef, like Eric states, go for more. I like a 1 lbs of beef or steak and a 1 lbs of mild or spicy Italian sausage. Get the real thing and skin the sausage out of the lining and brown it with the meat. Also be sure to add the garlic when you brown the meat. Buffalo or Antelope is also a great addition. Though you bleeding hearts out East think killing an animal for food is barbaric, you would much rather have someone else do it for you. Out here where the deer and the antelope roam, we can eat what we kill. And it’s very hard to kill a red kidney bean. Also I always double the recipe, except for the beer. I drink twice as much while making the chili. Chugwater Chili.

    1. How does antelope taste, compared to beef? I’ve had buffalo, and it was good, but lean. I’d probably prefer beef over buffalo just for the fattier, richer taste. But antelope? I’m intrigued.

      And you’re right about fresh meat. Back in Texas, we got our hands on some ground beef that was mooing only a short time earlier. We made burgers with it, but those burgers were better than any steak I’ve ever had. I just wish I had the freezer space to go hunting.

      I also wish I had doubled the chili. Last year at Super Bowl time, I was cleaned out (I had made this chili and a vegetarian chili for some of my guests, and both were gone). You’d think I would have learned my lesson, because leftovers are my favorite part.

%d bloggers like this: