Nothing quite says fall like a big bowl of hot, hearty chili. This classic dish is the perfect pick-me-up during Sunday football games, after a day of raking leaves or on crisp, chilly nights.
Here at Taste of Home, we know that there are many delicious ways to enjoy chili. Your favorite recipe may nix the meat, call for three different types of beans or be best served over spaghetti—the possibilities are endless! But if you’re looking for a classic beef chili recipe, you’re in the right place. Here’s the secret to great chili.
How to Make the Best Chili
We asked our Culinary Director, Sarah Farmer, to come up with the best-ever chili recipe. And boy, did she deliver. This hearty chili has it all: chunky texture, complex flavor profiles and a spicy kick. We’ll show you how to make it, plus share some of Sarah’s secret tips for success. Ready to get started?
Here’s What You’ll Need:
- 3 dried ancho or guajillo chilies—find them here
- 1 to 2 cups boiling water
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves
- ¼ cup chili powder
- 1 ½ tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 1 ½ tsp. Montreal steak seasoning
- 2 lbs. beef tri-tip roast, cut into ½-in. cubes
- 2 tsp. salt, divided
- 2 tsp. coarsely ground pepper, divided
- 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
- 1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 cups beef stock
- 1 bottle (12 oz.) beer—use any kind, from stout to lager
- 2 cans (14 ½ oz. each) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can (16 oz.) kidney beans, drained
- 3 Tbsp. masa harina—find that here
Makes 8 servings.
Step 1: Kick up the Spice
Start by placing the ancho or guajillo chilies in a deep skillet. Cover them with boiling water and let stand for about 15 minutes or until the chilies have softened. Drain the soaking liquid, being careful to reserve 1/3 of a cup. Discard any stems and seeds, then toss the soaked chilies, tomato paste, garlic and reserved soaking liquid into a food processor. Blend until smooth and set aside.
Sarah’s Tip: A lot of chili recipes fall flat when it comes to spice and seasoning. They either rely too heavily on the basics (like salt, pepper and chili powder) or go way overboard on the spicy stuff. For this recipe, Sarah recommends using Ancho chilies. These chilies are dried poblano peppers, and they have a mild, sweet flavor. When used in conjunction with fresh poblanos, the dish gets extra depth. Here’s our guide to peppers, from sweet to smokin’ hot.
Step 2: Boost the Flavor
In a small skillet, toast the chili powder, paprika and cumin over medium heat until aromatic, about 3-4 minutes. Remove the spices and set them aside. Then, in a Dutch oven, cook and stir the ground beef and the Montreal steak seasoning over medium-high heat until the beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Remove beef and drain away any fat.
Sarah’s Tip: Montreal steak seasoning is a great flavor booster. It’s a handy seasoning to stock in your pantry, but it’s also easy to make your own. In a bowl, mix together 2 Tbsp. each of kosher salt and coarsely ground pepper, and 2 tsp. each of onion powder, dried minced garlic, paprika, crushed coriander seeds and crushed red pepper flakes. Store in an airtight container. (P.S. How much do you know about spices? These six things may change the way you buy.)
Step 3: Make It Thick
Next, sprinkle the steak cubes with 1 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of pepper. In a Dutch oven, brown beef in 1 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat. Work in batches until all of the beef has been browned, then remove it from the Dutch oven and set aside. Saute the onion and poblano pepper in the remaining oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in toasted spices, oregano and pepper flakes. Add the cooked meats along with stock, beer, tomatoes, beans, remaining salt and pepper, and the reserved chili paste mixture. Cook over medium heat 20 minutes, then reduce heat to low. Stir in masa and simmer 30-45 minutes longer.
Sarah’s Tip: Masa harina, which literally means “dough flour,” is flour made from dried corn. Stirred in at the end of cooking, it helps thicken the chili and adds a subtle corn flavor. Find it at most grocers or online.
Step 4: Top It Off
One of the best parts of chili is topping it with all of your favorite fixings. Set out a combination of fresh ingredients, like diced tomatoes, red onion and jalapenos; crunchy toppers, like tortilla strips, corn chips or French-fried onions; and creamy mix-ins, like shredded cheese, sour cream and American cheese slices.
Sarah’s Tip: Always add diced red onion, corn chips, sour cream and a melty blanket of sliced American cheese.