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Classic Beef Chili


Sometimes you just need some classic beef chili. This is a no-frills, flavor-packed, delicious, old-school chili. Most importantly, this is the chili my mom taught me to make. I’ve adapted slightly and moved some of the steps around, but for the most part, it’s the same one I grew up on. Actually, my mom’s chili and bolognese were two of the very first things I ever cooked while on my own at college. So it’s also a sort of reminder of independence for me.

There are no dried chili peppers blended into a mole for the base. Although, that does make a delicious chili too but let’s be honest – not necessarily practical for everyday use. You can hire me to make that for you if you like!

The Elements of Classic Beef Chili

What makes a classic chili anyway? Who came up with chili? I thought I’d dive into the history of the great thick soup so here’s what I found.

First and foremost, Chili is American. It did NOT come from Mexico. Just in case that’s a surprise to anyone.

That’s about the only thing that people can agree on about chili. Apparently, it’s quite a controversial topic! There’s a lot of variety and it seems to be a personal choice about how you take your chili.

Beef Chili or Venison?

I’m a beef person. Some people, such as past presidents apparently, prefer venison. That’s a no-go for me. But hey – it’s a personal choice. Apparently, the venison comes from Chili Con Carne – which also has a mixed past. Something about a Spanish nun that never lefter her convent, except her spirit would leave and she would preach to Native Americans somewhere, and after coming back from a trip she apparently wrote down this recipe. Who’s to say it’s true, who’s to say it’s false?

I’ll stick with the ground beef. Mostly because I like it. (Second, because then I get to open the fridge and say, “Where’s the beef?!”)

Beans or No Beans

I like beans in my chili. This is also a great, and inexpensive way, to bulk it up if you need to feed a crowd. When I was a sous chef at a restaurant, I was in charge of making staff meals. Chili was a great go-to and something that I could prepare and keep on the side. It fed hungry men who could eat more in one meal than I could eat in four days. Chili was my best friend. Especially when I had a mountain of other prep to do. And the staff liked it, so of course, it was a win-win.

Some people believe that classic beef chili shouldn’t have beans – I say, do what you prefer. If you don’t like the texture, don’t worry about it. I have another Texas Chili recipe that actually is a highly seasoned broth with steak. No beans, no onions, no chunks. Just steak. It’s delicious.


Classic Beef Chili

Classic Beef Chili, Beef, Chili

This Classic Beef Chili is simple to prepare and you can easily find all the ingredients in a grocery store. You may even have everything at home right now!

  • Author: thesommchef
  • Prep Time: 5
  • OPTIONAL Inactive Simmer Time: 60-180
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Total Time: 45 – 3 hours
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Units Scale

1 # Ground Beef

1 Large White Onion

3 Large Cloves Garlic

3 Tbsp Cumin – Divided

3 Tbsp Chili Powder – Divided

1 Tbsp Smoked Paprika

1 tbsp Oregano – Divided

2 tsp Cinnamon, ground

1/2 tsp Clove, ground

1/2 tsp All Spice, ground

1 # Ground Beef

1 16oz jar or package of Pureed Tomatoes

1 can of Red Kidney Beans

11 1/2 cups of Water or Chicken Stock

2oz of Dark Chocolate


1. Small dice the onion and mince the garlic. Put in a large dutch oven or soup pot with some olive oil. Gently saute until translucent. Add a pinch of salt at this point.

2. Add in ground beef. Once cooked: If lean, and there isn’t too much fat, don’t worry about straining. If there’s a lot of fat, strain the fat off into an empty milk carton or bowl and discard it in the trash. Return the mixture to a pot. Add a couple of pinches of salt (just a little!).

3. Add in half of each spice (~1.5 Tbsp Cumin, 1.5 Tbsp Chili Powder, etc). It doesn’t have to be exactly half. The key here is to add spices in the beginning, and in the middle. This will build flavor. You can also mix all the measured spices together and just add half of that mixture if easier.

4. Add in pureed tomatoes and red kidney beans. To the pureed tomato can or package, add in 1 cup of water, or add in 1/2 cup of chicken stock. This way you get all the tomato puree stuck on the sides of your can. If you like your soup a bit thinner, add more liquid until you have a nice soupy consistency. It will cook down a bit. **

5. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add in dark chocolate, the other half of all your spices, and another pinch or two of salt.

6. Simmer on low, partially covered, for 2-3 hours. If in a hurry, cover the pot completely and simmer on medium-low for 20 minutes.

7. Once ready to serve, top with tortilla strips, avocado, greek yogurt, sour cream, sliced green onions, sliced jalapenos, or whatever you like!


**Definitely add more liquid if you will be cooking the soup for a long period of time. If only simmering for 20 minutes, feel free to use less liquid.

Keywords: Chili, Beef, Soup, Dinner, Easy Dinner, Simple Dinner, Fast

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Hi! I'm Sydney,

nice to meet you!

I left a marketing career in Hollywood to go to the Culinary Institute of America. After a few years of working in restaurants, I am now a private chef and sommelier in the 30a area.


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