How to Make Chili Like the Pros

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Take your chili game up a notch with this recipe from Taste of Home’s Culinary Director, Sarah Farmer. She'll show you how to make chili like the pros.

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 methods for making chili. Your favorite recipe may be a vegan or vegetarian chili, a three bean chili or the Cincinnati chili—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.

Looking for something a little easier? Try these slow-cooker chili recipes.

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 chili like the pros, plus share Sarah’s secret tips for success. Ready to get started?

Here’s What You’ll Need:

Makes 8 servings

  • 3 dried ancho chiles peppers or guajillo chilies
  • 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 corn flour

In a hurry? Try our quick and easy chili recipe!

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.

Best Ever Chili Recipe ingredients; Spice Mixture

Step 2: Boost the Chili 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.

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.

Best Ever Chili Recipe

Step 4: Top Off the Chili

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.

Running short on time to make a batch of chili from scratch? Find out what we deemed as the best canned chili to use in place of homemade chili.

More Tips for Making Chili

What Makes Chili, Chili?

Well, it depends who you ask. Chili is a very regional food with a lot of variations. (Don’t believe us? Check out our guide to the best chili recipes from coast to coast.) That being said, most people would agree that chili is a thick, hearty soup made with some combination of meat and/or beans, spices and vegetables. If you’re looking for a unique twist, these unusual chili recipes are a great place to start.

Can You Freeze Chili?

Yes! Once cooked chili has cooled, divide it into freezer-safe containers labeled with the date. To reheat, let chili thaw in the fridge overnight, then place in a saucepan and simmer until heated through. You can add a little broth or water if necessary. Chili will stay fresh in the freezer for 4-6 months.

What Goes Well with Chili?

While chili is a hearty meal on its own, there are plenty of toppings and side dishes that can take it to the next level. We love topping chili with cheese, sour cream, sliced green onions, tortilla chips, jalapeno or avocado. On the side, serve up some cornbread, crackers or a simple garden salad.

Chili Variations:

Not in the mood for beef? Try one of these other chili variations:

  • White Chicken Chili: This chili variety relies on chicken, white beans and oftentimes dairy mix-ins (such as cream cheese or milk) for its light hue. You can find our best white chicken chili recipes here.
  • Turkey Chili: Lighten-up your meal with lean ground turkey instead of beef. You can find the best-ever turkey chili recipe here, or choose from one of these other reader-favorite turkey chili recipes.
  • Vegetarian Chili: Skip the meat altogether with our favorite vegetarian chili recipe. This hearty dish gets its bulk from beans, veggies and rice.
Next: Try All of These Top-Rated Chili Recipes
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Katie Bandurski
Katie is an Associate Editor for Taste of Home, specializing in writing and email newsletters. When she’s out of the office, you’ll find her exploring Wisconsin, trying out new vegetarian recipes and combing through antique shops.