Easy Chili Recipe
This easy chili recipe can be made in the slow cooker or as a one pot meal that requires almost no effort on your part, and is a real crowd pleaser.
This easy chili recipe is loaded with savory beef, tender beans, and aromatic spices that amp up the flavor (like chiles), and is the perfect cozy winter comfort food, great for a crowd or party, and is thick and hearty enough that it can be loaded up with all your favorite things: sour cream, cheese, fritos, avocado, etc.
Serve this easy chili with Classic Cornbread or this fun Cheddar Jalapeno Cornbread.
Before we talk about how delicious this recipe is, I want to focus on the eazy peazy aspects of this easy chili recipe. It literally comes together in just a few simple minutes, then you let it simmer so the flavors can combine and you get this hearty, tasty chili with almost no work required of you.
In fact, the only thing you have to chop is the onions! And you can totally buy them frozen or pre-chopped if you want to skip that step.
Tip: You can eat this after only 20- 30 minutes of simmer time, but it is best if it has a chance to really meld all those flavors and spices together. We sometimes call it “leftovers chili” because we like it better the second day.
And after you make it and devour all the hearty, rich, meaty goodness, any leftovers can be frozen to enjoy later, whenever the chili craving strikes.
How Do You Make HOMEMADE CHILI?
This classic chili recipe is just like mom used to make it with everything you would expect:
- Ground beef
- A homemade blend of chili seasonings
What makes it special is not only are the flavors perfected from rounds and rounds of testing in my kitchen, but this particular recipe can be made two ways:
- On the stovetop in a Dutch oven or large pot.
- Or in the slow cooker!
Want to make it in the morning for a hectic evening ahead? Slow cooker it is! Need it for dinner and forgot to plan ahead? Make it in just 30 minutes. Have a little more time and want to give those flavors a real chance to meld? Start 1.5-2 hours before you want to serve.
Honestly, this is the perfect weeknight meal because it only takes a few minutes to throw together. The only chopping required is the onion, so you could even do yourself a favor and buy one pre-chopped or use frozen chopped onion.
Note: In the recipe you need 90 minutes to make this chili, but it can be made faster, the flavors just won’t be as complex or deep if you do not give it time to simmer. But it will still be delicious.
Homemade Chili Seasoning
If you want the best chili recipe, an easy chili recipe, and one that tastes amazing, homemade spice mix is the way to go. Do not rely on a package of seasoning, rather turn to your spice cupboard. Chances are you probably already have what you need on hand.
Plus, one huge advantage is a homemade seasoning blend can be tweaked to your personal preference.
Because I am usually feeding a crowd, including my kids, I like ours to be fairly mild heat wise, and those who want some heat can add it with jalapeños and toppings after the fact. Or even some hot sauce added to the top.
The seasoning mix in this easy chili recipe does not call for any heat. If you want to add some, do so with cayenne pepper. Start with 1/4 teaspoon and adjust from there.
What it does call for is cocoa powder.
Why add cocoa powder to this easy chili recipe?
I like to call this my secret ingredient, although it isn’t really a secret. Cocoa powder is an excellent way to add depth of flavor to the chili. It can really bring out the richness in the meat, beans, and balance out the acidity of canned tomatoes.
Here is what cocoa powder can do for chili:
- Adds richness.
- Adds body
- Adds color
- Adds depth of flavor
- Balances acidity
The goal isn’t to taste the cocoa itself, but to use it as a way to enhance the existing flavors and give the chili multiple dimensions. We aren’t shooting for chocolate cake with ground beef. Just added dimension and flavor.
Another way to achieve this same results is with coffee…
Try replacing 1/4 cup of your liquid with an equal amount of brewed strong coffee. This will bring out the smoky flavors of the chili and add surprising depth and complexity to your pot of chili.
Most chili recipes are the same, or basically very similar. The trick is finding the balance of spices, and a way to enhance all that flavor so every bite is magic. Cocoa powder and coffee can help do this!
How Do You Make Chili in a Slow Cooker?
The included instructions are for a stove top chili, but this recipe is excellent made in the slow cooker.
Here is what you need to do to make it crock pot chili instead of stove top chili:
- Brown the beef and onion in a skillet with the garlic.
- Drain the fat
- Add mixture to the slow cooker with the remaining ingredients
- Allow it to cook and simmer on low for 4-6 hours.
Drain the Fat
One key component of a good chili is getting rid of the excess fat from the ground beef. I know that fat is flavor. But depending on the percentage of fat in your ground beef, you may need to drain the fat off once it is browned.
If you notice a good amount of grease building up, drain it, otherwise you will have a layer on the top of your chili. And you do not want that.
Do You Drain The Beans For Chili?
No! You can drain and rinse the beans before adding them to this beef chili recipe if you want. However, I say save yourself time and don’t bother. We have made it both ways during our recipe testing, and found we liked it better without draining the beans. There is more liquid in the chili, and the flavor is richer.
How Long to Cook this Ground Beef Chili?
The best results are achieved by following the recipe in the recipe card. Which suggests simmering the chili for 1 hour, then uncovering it and simmering it for an additional 20 minutes.
This will give you a nice thick, tasty chili, where all the flavors have a chance to meld together.
But I am a realist, with 4 kids, so if you’re short on time, cook this easy chili recipe on medium heat for 15 minutes after you brown the meat and add everything in. Give it those 15 minutes to cook down some and thicken, and then go ahead and serve it.
If you have a longer, simmer until you’re ready to serve. The longer a chili simmers the more the flavors will meld together and the more complex and delicious it will be.
How Do You Thicken Chili?
If you cook this recipe according to the directions the results will be a nice thick chili. And you may even want to thin it some.
However, if you are in a hurry, or if you like super thick chili, there are a few ways to thicken chili quickly:
- Cook it down. The most effective way is to simple cook the chili uncovered over medium-high heat until enough liquid evaporates to reach your desired consistency.
- Cornstarch slurry: This method is faster, you simply make a mixture of 1 tablespoon COLD water, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mix it together well with a fork or spoon, then slowly add it to the beef chili and cook uncovered until desired thickness is reached.
- Another option is to add a little cornmeal or a few crushed up tortilla chips to the chili and cook. You only need a few tablespoons to make it work. But this can change the texture of the chili.
Toppings for Easy Chili:
The chili itself is awesome, and simple to make, but you can bring it up a notch higher with the toppings you choose. I love topping my chili with all kinds of fun things, and will often serve chili “bar style” with a bar of topping options to choose from. This way each person at my table gets to customize their chili as they see fit.
Here are a few ideas to get you started
- Chopped chives
- Sliced jalapenos
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- Crackers or Chips
Have fun with it!
This chili also goes great with cornbread, or over corn chips for a chili pie kind of thing.
How to freeze chili:
Ok if you have leftovers you can store them in an airtight container in your fridge for about 5 days, or you can freeze them.
I love how easy this chili is to make, and sometimes I will simply double the recipe, and toss half into a ziptop freezer bag to use on a hectic night. Often I will just dump the bag into a slow cooker in the morning and let it heat throughout the day.
While it is already easy, this allows me to not even brown the meat on the day I need an easy meal.
So if you want to double up, or simply freeze your leftovers for later here is what you need to know:
- Cool the chili completely.
- Pour into a freezer gallon size zip top bag, (or whatever size makes the most sense).
- Remove all the excess air and seal it closed.
- Lay it flat so it freezes in a thin, easy to store, and easy to defrost shape.
- Keep in freezer for up to 3 months.
- Remove frozen chili from the freezer,
- Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
- Pour into a large pot,
- Heat over medium heat, bring it to a simmer.
- Add any additional liquid as needed.
Or because you freeze it in a thin flat bag, you can just pop it into a slow cooker from frozen. As long as you froze it flat, it will defrost quickly and not be in an unsafe temperature for too long, which means you can set it and forget it until you are ready to eat.
Best Chili Substitutions:
One of the best things about this beef chili is that it is easy to customize to what you have on hand and what you like. Here are a few common substitutions for this beef chili recipe.
- Ground turkey. When I make this easy chili recipe I like to use a lean ground beef, but honestly, because you can drain the fat before adding the extra ingredients, it is possible to make it with whatever ground beef you have on hand. I also really like it with ground turkey.
- Garlic Powder. This recipe calls for minced garlic, you can mince it fresh, or use the jarred kind. If you find you don’t have minced garlic, feel free to substitute garlic powder (1/2 tablespoon). Instead of using it in the recipe where it calls for garlic, simply add it to the spice mix.
- Spice mixture. Feel free to adjust to your preference with more chili powder, extra cumin or coriander, or even add in some cayenne powder to amp up the heat if you wish. Just remember, this was tested and created to make the best mixture possible, so taste as you go, and adjust only slightly to reach your preferred spice levels.
- Tomatoes. In this recipe we use stewed tomatoes and Rotel, which is tomatoes with chilies added. You could sub in fire roasted or petite diced too.
- Additions: I like to keep it simple so I have made this a very basic chili. But feel free to add bell peppers, any color, or spicier peppers. You can also add other varieties of beans. Like spicy pinto beans. We love just using Kidney beans. If you like yours with more beans, feel free to adjust the amount. A few variations we have tried and liked include great northern white beans and pinto beans. Corn is another addition you may like, it can add sweetness and flavor.
How to Make Easy Chili Video:
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Easy Chili Recipe
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 1 ½ cups onions chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 29 ounces stewed tomatoes 2 cans
- 14.5 ounces Roasted tomatoes with green chiles (Rotel)
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 15 ounces kidney beans with liquid
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Combine ground beef, onion, and garlic in large dutch oven over medium heat.
- Cook and stir over medium heat until beef is brown. Drain and excess grease off the meat.
- Stir in remaining ingredients, and heat to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low.
- Let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.
- Simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
- Serve and enjoy
Our recipe card software calculates these nutrition facts based on averages for the above ingredients, different brands, and quality of produce/meats may have different nutritional information, always calculate your own based on the specific products you use in order to achieve accurate macros for this recipe.
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