Spicy Cowboy Chili

Total Time

Prep: 45 min. Cook: 7 hours


14 servings (3-1/2 quarts)

Updated: Jun. 30, 2023
Toasting the peppers for this cowboy chili releases their earthy flavors. I recommend wearing gloves when handling dried peppers and seeds. —Rachel Sprinkel, Hilo, Hawaii


  • 1 whole garlic bulb
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 dried ancho chiles
  • 2 dried chipotle chiles
  • 1 bottle (12 ounces) dark beer
  • 3 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 cans (16 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 cans (8 ounces each) tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: Shredded cheddar cheese and sliced jalapeno pepper, seeded


  1. Preheat oven to 425°. Remove papery outer skin from garlic bulb, but do not peel or separate the cloves. Cut off top of garlic bulb, exposing individual cloves. Brush cut cloves with 1 teaspoon oil. Wrap in foil. Bake until cloves are soft, 30-35 minutes. Unwrap and cool slightly. Squeeze garlic from skins; mash with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast chiles on both sides until puffy, 3-6 minutes. (Do not blacken.) Cool. Remove stems and seeds; coarsely chop chiles. Place in a small bowl; cover with beer. Let stand until softened, about 30 minutes.
  3. In the same skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Brown beef in batches, adding additional oil if needed; transfer to a 6-qt. slow cooker. In the skillet, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium heat. Add onions; cook and stir until tender. Add to beef.
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients, mashed garlic and dried chiles mixture. Cover and cook on low 7-9 hours or until meat is tender. If desired, serve with cheese and jalapenos.
Cowboy Chili Tips

Can you use ground beef in this cowboy chili recipe?

Beef stew meat gives this cowboy chili a heaty, chunky texture. But in a pinch, you can use 3 pounds of ground beef instead. Cook the beef in a skillet over medium-high heat until no longer pink, drain and add to the slow cooker (like in this slow-cooker chili recipe that starts with ground beef). Feel free to experiment with other ingredients as well. Substitute pinto beans for the kidney beans or use beef broth instead of beer. Plus, you can add more seasonings to suit your tastes, like cayenne pepper, ground cumin and even cocoa powder.

What can you use instead of dried chipotle chiles?

You can replace dried chipotle chiles with 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper. Add the ground chipotle to the slow cooker with the mashed garlic and beer mixture.

What do you serve with cowboy chili?

In addition to cheese and jalapenos, top cowboy chili with sour cream, tortilla chips and chopped onions. As for side dishes to serve with chili, give buttery cornbread, crunchy coleslaw and smoky bacon-wrapped jalapenos a try.

Can you freeze cowboy chili?

Yes, freeze cowboy chili in freezer containers. When you're ready to eat the chili, partially thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Add a little water or broth if necessary.

Julie Schnittka, Taste of Home Senior Editor

Nutrition Facts

1 cup: 301 calories, 9g fat (3g saturated fat), 60mg cholesterol, 588mg sodium, 27g carbohydrate (7g sugars, 8g fiber), 27g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 4 lean meat, 1-1/2 starch, 1 vegetable.