This beef chili recipe, adapted from my years at Lambeau Field, is one I look forward to making when air turns crisp each fall. It is warm, comforting, and relatively easy to make. There are a few additions that set this recipe apart from other basic beef chili recipes, but they are easy to find and definitely worth trying.
Make sure to check out the Helpful Tips and Ingredient Guide below before you making this simple beef chili recipe.
Beef Chili Recipe
- 1 Pound Ground Beef Preferably 80:20 or 85:15 Chuck
- 32 Ounce Beef Stock
- 32 Ounce Pinto Beans Drained and rinsed
- 28 Ounce Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes
- 1½ Cup Diced Yellow Onion
- 1 Cup Diced Red Bell Pepper
- 4 Ounce Tomato Paste
- ¼ Cup Masa Harina
- 2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic
- 1½ Tablespoons Cumin
- 1 Tablespoon Chile Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Guajillo Chile Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1½ Tablespoon Kosher Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
Browning the Ground Beef
- Place a large sauce pot on the stove over medium to medium high heat and allow it a few minutes to get up to temperature. Using thicker bottomed pot will give you best results.1 Pound Ground Beef
- Prior to adding ground beef to the heat, pat it dry with a paper towel. Do not add cooking oil to the pan or any salt at this point. This will encourage browning and a fond to develop.
- When adding the ground beef to the pan, try to evenly distribute over the entire cooking surface. Do not stir or disrupt the beef for at least 3 minutes.
- After you notice some browning taking place, stir ground beef using a wooden spoon. If areas are sticking to the pan, use the wooden spoon to scrape them free. Allow the beef a few more minutes to cook undisturbed. Note: if you notice some burning happening, add a small amount of beef stock (2 Tbsp. ) and lower the heat. You want there to be a nice even brown (not black) tint to the bottom of your pan.
- One beef appears to be browned and a layer of fond has formed on the base of your pan, add ½ cup of beef stock. Give the stock a moment to lift the fond from the pan and assist it by scrapping with your wooden spoon.
- Transfer cooked ground beef from the pan into mixing bowl and set aside till later.
Sweating the Aromatics
- Return your pan to the stove over medium heat. With the ground beef out of the pan, add two tablespoons of oil. Allow oil to come up to temperature.
- Next add the diced onion and red bell pepper along with one tablespoon of salt. Let the vegetables simmer without browning for five minutes while stirring occasionally.1½ Cup Diced Yellow Onion, 1 Cup Diced Red Bell Pepper, 1½ Tablespoon Kosher Salt
- Once the onions appear translucent add the minced garlic, and spices. Stir to distribute and let cook for an additional three minutes.2 Tablespoons Minced Garlic, 1½ Tablespoons Cumin, 1 Tablespoon Chile Powder, 1 Tablespoon Guajillo Chile Powder, 1 Tablespoon Paprika, 1 Tablespoon Black Pepper
- The aroma should be building at this point in the cook. Next add the tomato paste and stir to coat everything in the tomato paste. Let cook for two minutes.4 Ounce Tomato Paste
Simmering the Chili
- Before adding the rest of the ingredients, reduce heat and add the Masa Harina. Stir well, a paste will likely start to form as the Masa Harina coats the vegetables. Once this occurs add the rest of the beef stock. Use your wooden spoon to scrape free any fond that has formed on the bottom of the pot.¼ Cup Masa Harina
- Now add the crushed tomatoes, browned ground beef, and pinto beans. Increase the heat and bring the beef chili to a low simmer for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally making sure to prevent any sticking.32 Ounce Beef Stock, 28 Ounce Fire Roasted Crushed Tomatoes, 32 Ounce Pinto Beans
- Once the chili is simmering, taste for seasoning and check consistency. Adjust if necessary. If the chili is too thin add additional Masa Harina or allow it to simmer and reduce. If it is too thick, simply add more stock or water.
- When seasoning and consistency are to your liking, serve or rapidly cool and store refrigerated. This beef chili is better the next day as flavors will continue to develop overnight.
Equipment Needed to Make this Recipe
In order to make this Beef Chili Recipe you will need the following tools. These are items I personally use and recommend. Any purchases made through the Amazon Affiliate links earn a small commission that support this website.
- A Heavy Bottomed Pot, at least 5 quarts in size.
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- Wooden Spoon
- Chefs Knife
- Cutting Board
Helpful Tips for Making this Beef Chili Recipe
Browning your Ground Beef
When browning your beef, you want to develop a fond. This is that medium tone of brown that forms on the bottom of the pan. This will give you a deeper beef flavor.
- Use a thick bottomed pot and allow it to time to warm up over medium-high heat.
- Your ground beef should also be patted dry and avoid salting to start. Excess moisture will limit the your ability to properly brown.
- Oil is optional. The fat content of the beef is high enough that oil in not needed. I find my best results come from a dry pan. But, if you feel uncomfortable going oil free, a light coating is all you need.
- Do not overcrowd your pan, most residential pots can handle up to one pound / 0.5 kg of ground beef. If using more, cook your beef in batches.
- Limit your stirring. Once you place your beef in the pot, do not touch it for a few minutes. Doing so will release moisture and prohibit browning.
- Watch your fond, if it starts to get past a milk chocolate hue, deglaze it with some beef stock.
Sweating your Aromatics
This beef chili recipe benefits when the aromatics are allowed time to develop a rich flavor.
Cooling your Beef Chili
Chili always taste best the next day once the flavors have had a chance to develop. But proper cooling is essential. Doing this not only prevents bacteria growth, but reduces stress on your refrigerator and limits refrigerator odors.
Your goal is to get the beef chili below 40 F as quickly as possible before you place in a covered container in your refrigerator.
It is best to place your chili into an ice bath to cool rapidly. One of the easiest ways to make a ice bath is to fill a clean sink with ice water, then simply place your pot in the it. Stir occasionally to redistribute the heat. Sauces will self insulate as the outer layer cools and prevent the center of the pan from cooling.
Choosing Ingredients for this Beef Chili Recipe
For this Beef Chili Recipe, I prefer to go with 85:15 or 80:20 ground chuck.
Buying ground beef can be confusing. The different ratios 80:20, 85:15, 90:10, etc. all have to do with the amount of fat vs lean beef that are used to make the grind. There is also options on what cuts are used, sirloin, chuck, or regular ground beef, that also can complicate things.
Most regular ground beefs are typically made up of a variety different cuts of beef. Chances are they are combinations of chuck, sirloin, and trimmings from throughout the animals. So there is no real consistency from store to store on what that entails. The mix can even vary day to day.
Sirloin on the other hand is made up of cut of meat meat from the upper mid section. These cuts typically used in grilling or sauté cooking techniques. I find ground sirloin will get dry and grislily when cooked past 155 F or well done. So I avoid it for Chili where it is going to simmer around 200 F.
Chuck is made up of shoulder cuts. Chuck can include the chuck eye roast, chuck pot roast, short ribs, chuck flap, and a few others. All of these different cuts are ones that we traditionally associate with braising cooking techniques. So they are perfect for simmering in a sauce and just get better the longer they are cooked.
In order to keep this beef chili recipe simple, I recommend just using quality canned pinto beans. I try to stay away from anything that is flavored in any way. Many brands offer a chili bean variety, but you will get better results developing your own flavor. You will want to rinse your pinto beans well under cold water before using them. I find mesh strainers like these work great for small quick tasks like this.
This beef chili recipe calls for fire roasted crushed tomatoes. You can find these in the canned vegetable isle in most supermarkets, or you can order them here. I have found that their texture and flavor are best suited for chili. Alternatively, plain crushed tomatoes are an adequate substitution, just avoid anything with basil or other seasonings added. Also avoid a diced or “chefs cut” tomatoes, their size and consistency are unpleasant for this application.
For this Beef Chili Recipe I recommend that you get your hands on the best beef stock you can. Stocks or Broths are one of the things that can really breathe additional life into a sauce. They are made from slow cooking bones along with aromatic vegetables for hours to develop not only a rich deep flavor, but can also add a ton of smooth texture and body.
The most convenient option is going to be cartons of stock you can find in the soup section at the grocery store. These are will add more depth of flavor to your sauce than just using water. But the carton stocks lack any of the additional body that comes with the gelatin found in homemade beef stocks. Also, choose the unsalted versions.
If you can find a refrigerated or frozen beef stock these are typically better quality than the cartons. I have purchased these at Trader Joes near the produce and in the meat department of some grocery stores. If where you shop has these offered, I recommend these over the cartons.
Making your own beef stock is another option. This will give you the best results. I suggest you make a large batch and freeze it in usable portions if you go down that route. It will take over 12 hours to do it the right way, most of that time is hands off. Just make sure to use a filtered water. Any chemicals or sediment in your city water will get concentrated during the cook.
In this recipe I use traditional chili powder, as well as Guajillo Chile powder. Together they make a more rounded flavor. If you are unable to find Guajillo, Ancho Chile Powder can be substituted.
Common Questions Asked about Beef Chili Recipes
Can I use Stew Meat instead of Ground Beef?
Absolutely! There are a few things to take note of when using stew meat versus ground beef when making chili. Your cooking time will increase by roughly two hours. You will want to double the amount of beef in the recipe. I would also suggest waiting till the beef is fork tender before adding the Masa Harina (ground corn flour) to thicken it. Due to the longer cook time, you will likely need additional beef broth as well.
How long will this Beef Chili Recipe keep in the refrigerator?
If properly cooled and stored below 40 F / 4 C, this beef chili recipe should keep safely up to 5 days refrigerated. For longer storage, freeze the chili in air tight containers.
Can I freeze this Beef Chili Recipe?
Yes, this beef chili recipe will freeze just fine and should last three months frozen. Some may separation occurs during thawing, but it will come back together when warmed and stirred. As long as it is stored in an air tight container, there should be minimal flavor loss.
What should I Serve with Beef Chili?
Common garnishes for beef chili are shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, tortilla chips, or oyster crackers.
Is this Beef Chili Recipe Gluten Free?
Yes, this beef chili recipe is gluten free.
Can I substitute a meat alternative for the beef?
Yes, using a meat alternative will work in place of the beef. But without beef you will loose some of umami flavors. I would advise on using a mushroom stock in place of beef stock in that scenario. Simply steep some dried mushrooms in boiling water and you will get a great depth of flavor.