We Made Ree Drummond’s Pioneer Woman Chili Recipe, and Yes, It’s Perfect

Updated: Jan. 16, 2024

We tried making the Pioneer's Woman's classic winter comfort food, and we have some thoughts.

Few foods are as cozy, comforting and soul-warming as a large bowl of chili. As one of the reigning queens of comfort food, it should be no surprise that Ree Drummond (aka The Pioneer Woman) has created one of the most popular chili recipes on the internet.

Her Simple, Perfect Chili Recipe has hundreds of rave reviews, so we felt we should put this recipe to the test!

Keep reading to see how this Pioneer Woman chili comes together step by step (and how it compares to our most popular chili recipes).

The Pioneer Woman Chili Recipe

The Pioneer Woman Chili IngredientsLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup masa harina
  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Initial Thoughts

This Pioneer Woman chili recipe is without a doubt simple. It’s so simple, we have to admit that we’re a little skeptical of how it will turn out! When it comes to chili, we tend to love recipes that include several types of chilies, a complex blend of spices and one or more surprise ingredients like beer or cinnamon.

Editor’s Tip: If you’re not familiar with masa harina, it’s essentially a special corn flour. If you don’t have masa harina on hand, use finely ground cornmeal instead or omit it entirely. Just note that your chili will have a slightly thinner consistency.

Browning the Ground Beef

Pot Of Pioneer Woman ChiliLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

This chili recipe starts out by browning the ground beef in a large pot with garlic. We opted to use a cast-iron Dutch oven, but a heavy-bottomed stock pot would also work well.

Once fully cooked, a blend of chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt is stirred into the beef along with tomato sauce.

Editor’s Tip: Since this chili has minimal spices and ingredients, it’s worth investing in a high-quality chili powder to get the most complex flavor. Here’s the best chili powder, according to our Test Kitchen experts.

This is where we felt this recipe took a left turn. Other top chili recipes typically add other additional ingredients at this stage, like beans, diced tomatoes or additional cooking liquids. Ree’s recipe, however, directs you to simply cover the pot and let the ground beef mixture simmer on low for one hour, adding 1/2 cup of water if the chili starts to look dry.

In our experience, the additional 1/2 cup of water wasn’t optional, it was necessary. After about 15 minutes of simmering, covered, the chili was starting to look VERY dry. However, adding a 1/2 cup of water rehydrated everything nicely for the remaining 45 minutes of cooking.

Making the Masa Harina

Masa Harina For Pioneer Woman ChiliLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Next, comes the masa harina, which is used to thicken the chili. We whisked it together in a measuring cup with 1/2 cup of water before stirring it into the chili.

From a thickening perspective, we didn’t feel that this chili needed to be thickened at this stage, because it was already fairly thick. However, we loved the subtle aroma that emerged after stirring in the masa harina.

To finish the chili, we stirred in two types of canned beans (pinto and kidney). Then, we let everything simmer for a final 10 minutes to help the flavors meld together.

The Final Verdict

Bowl Of Pioneer Woman ChiliLauren Habermehl for Taste of Home

Wow! Forgive us, Ree, we should have never doubted you. I mean, you live on a ranch with cowboys who basically have chili in their blood. This Simple, Perfect Chili is, well, perfect!

Letting the chili simmer for one hour with minimal cooking liquid really allowed the simple blend of spices to become super concentrated and infuse the tomato sauce and beef with tons of flavor.

We were also surprised by the level of heat in this chili. We expected it to be mild since no peppers or hot chilies are included in the recipe. However, we’d place this chili somewhere in the medium range when it comes to spice.

Overall, we give this recipe a glowing 5-star review! If you like this, don’t forget to try this Pioneer Woman’s corn on the cob recipe.

Editor’s Tip: The chili powder you use will have a big impact on the spiciness of your chili. Not all chili powders are created equal. If you’re using a brand of chili powder for the first time, we suggest scaling back the chili powder to start, taste and add more to get the chili to your preferred level of heat. Serve this dish along with Pioneer Woman’s taco soup.

Discover why this Pioneer Woman cheese ball recipe is perfect for every party.

Topping Ideas for Your Chili

Don’t forget the toppings! Ree suggests topping her Pioneer Woman chili with cheddar cheese, chopped onions, tortilla chips, and a squeeze of lime. Here are some of our other favorite chili toppings:

  • Sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt)
  • Crumbled queso fresco
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Diced green onions
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Ripe avocado
  • Oyster crackers
  • Homemade cornbread crumbles

Can’t get enough Ree Drummond? Head to Walmart and pick up one of her beautifully designed Pioneer Woman kitchen products.

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