How to Make Chili

The Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen has tested thousands of chili recipes and knows what it takes to make an amazing batch. Here's a tried-and-true recipe that lets you choose the ingredients to suit your taste.

What is Chili Anyway?

The word chili is a spin-off of chile, as in chile peppers, which are usually an ingredient. It is a North American creation that is usually a stew consistency. Chili variations are countless and tend to be regional. Cincinnati residents often serve their cinnamon-seasoned version over spaghetti, Texans like chunky beef but no beans, Midwesterners opt for beans and ground beef, and New Mexicans base their chili bowls on green chiles and sometimes pork. Few recipes are so flexible and yet harbor such allegiance. The popularity of chili-making contests is proof, where top-secret recipes abound. The recipe featured here lets you be the chili chef. It starts with a base recipe but is flexible enough for plenty of customization.

How to Make Chili

This recipe makes 8 main-dish servings and takes about 45 minutes total time (longer for cubed meat). It can also be made in the slow cooker (see directions, below).

1. Choose Ingredients from the Variable Categories Below

The Meat

You need 1-1/2 pounds. Pick one:

  • Ground beef or pork
  • Beef shoulder top blade steak (flat iron) or pork shoulder, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • Beef stew meat

Chopped Vegetables

Pick 1 or more to equal 3 cups:

  • Carrots and/or celery
  • Onions or potatoes
  • Sweet peppers

Beans

You need two 15-ounce cans, rinsed and drained:

  • Black
  • Cannellini (white kidney)
  • Garbanzo (chickpeas)
  • Pinto
  • Red kidney

Liquid

You need 1 cup. Pick one:

  • Beef or chicken broth
  • Beer
  • Water
  • Apple juice

Dried Herb

Pick 1 or more to equal 1 teaspoon:

  • Basil
  • Italian seasoning
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

Pepper

You need 1/2 teaspoon. Pick one:

  • Ground black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Or: 1 tablespoon finely chopped chipotle chile peppers in adobo sauce

Toppers

Optional: Pick as many as desired:

  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Shredded cheddar, Monterey Jack, or Mexican cheese blend
  • Sliced jalapeño chile peppers
  • Sliced green onions

2. Cook the Meat & Vegetables

  • Mince 4 cloves garlic with a knife or in a garlic press. In a large pot cook the 1-1/2 pounds meat, 3 cups chopped vegetables, and garlic in 1 tablespoon hot vegetable oil until the meat is brown and the vegetables are tender. Drain the fat by transferring the ingredients to a fine-mesh sieve or colander set over a glass or metal bowl (see photo, above). Discard fat.

Tip: Do not discard the fat by pouring it into the drain, since this can clog the pipes. Pour or spoon the fat into a jar or can and let cool. Once the fat is solid, discard it in the trash.

  • Stir in two 15-ounce cans beans; two 14.5-ounce cans undrained diced tomatoes, undrained; one 15-ounce can tomato sauce; 1 cup liquid; 2 tablespoons chili powder; 1 teaspoon dried herb, crushed; and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper.

3. Simmer the Chili

  • Bring the chili to boiling over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 20 minutes for ground meat or 60 minutes for cubed meat or until the meat is tender, stirring occasionally.

Slow Cooker Directions: Cook the meat, vegetables, and garlic as directed. Drain the fat and place the meat-vegetable mixture in a 4- to 5-quart slow cooker. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, 1/2 cup liquid (instead of 1 cup), chili powder, dried herb, and ground black pepper. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours.

4. Serve the Chili

  • For a chili buffet, place the chili in the pot on a trivet on your serving table or transfer it to a soup terrine, large bowl, or slow cooker. Place a ladle, soup bowls, soup spoons, and napkins nearby with small bowls of assorted toppers.
  • For single servings, ladle the chili into bowls and top each serving with desired toppers.

For a slideshow of 28 top chili recipes click here.

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