Classic Beef Chili

updated Jan 4, 2024

Mixed with ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and warm spices, this classic recipe is a winter staple.

Serves8 to 10

Makesabout 12 cups

Prep10 minutes

Cook50 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

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When a winter chill hits the air, there is nothing more cozy, comforting, and warming than a big pot of chili simmering on the stove (plus, it also makes your kitchen smell amazing at the same time!). While there are an endless variety of chili recipes to choose from, I always come back to the classic beef and bean chili. This tried-and-true recipe is flavored with onion, garlic, tomatoes, and warm spices — and even better, it cooks in just an hour.

What Beans Go in Chili?

Kidney beans are the classic bean of choice for chili. For ease and convenience, this recipe calls for drained and rinsed canned kidney beans. But if you happen to have a couple of cans of black beans or any variety of white beans in your pantry, they’ll work just fine. And if you’re strongly opposed to beans in chili, then Texas chili — made with cubed beef chuck roast and absolutely no beans — will be right up your alley.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

How Do I Add More Flavor to Chili?

The secret to packing your pot of chili with tons of flavor has to do with both ingredient choice and the cooking process. 

Here are some tips for making the most flavorful chili.

  • Use ground beef with a higher fat content. Fat equals flavor, so 80% to 85% lean ground beef are good choices for chili.
  • Cook the tomato paste. This is the key to really getting flavor from tomato paste. Plan to cook the tomato paste until it takes on a deep red flavor and is fragrant; the process takes just a few minutes.
  • Bloom the spices. Same goes for the spices. After adding to the pot, stir to coat the meat with the spices and cook for at least a full minute, at which point the mixture will be very fragrant.
  • Include unsweetened cocoa powder. A tablespoon of this pantry ingredient adds a deep, rich flavor to chili.
  • Finish with a spoonful of apple cider vinegar. A teaspoon is all you need. If you find that your chili tastes flat, a little bit of acidity really brightens up and rounds out the flavor.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

How to Make Chili

  • Sauté aromatics. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until it’s tender and translucent, then add the garlic and cook just until fragrant.
  • Mix in tomato paste. Stir to coat the onions with tomato paste, then cook until it’s a deep brick red.
  • Cook ground beef. Add 2 pounds of ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through.
  • Add spices. Add a mix of chili powder, cumin, unsweetened cocoa powder, dried oregano, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Stir to coat the meat and cook until fragrant. 
  • Add beans, crushed tomatoes, and broth. Once the beans and liquids are added, bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Simmer. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced and the mixture is slightly thickened.
  • Stir in vinegar. Remove the pot from the heat and mix in a spoonful of apple cider vinegar.
  • Add toppings and serve. Perhaps the best part about chili is adding the toppings. Choose your favorites, pile them on top of the bowl, dig in, and enjoy.

Chili Recipe

Mixed with ground beef, beans, tomatoes, and warm spices, this classic recipe is a winter staple.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes

Makes about 12 cups

Serves 8 to 10

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 3

    cloves garlic

  • 2

    (about 15-ounce) cans kidney beans

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    tomato paste

  • 2 pounds

    ground beef, preferably 80 to 85% lean

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, plus more as needed

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon

    ground cumin

  • 1 tablespoon

    unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon


  • 1/4 teaspoon

    cayenne pepper (optional)

  • 1

    (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes

  • 1

    (14.5-ounce) can low-sodium beef or chicken broth (scant 2 cups)

  • 1 teaspoon

    apple cider vinegar

Serving options:

  • Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt

  • Shredded cheddar cheese

  • Thinly sliced scallions

  • Diced avocado

  • Fresh cilantro

  • Tortilla chips


  1. Dice 1 medium yellow onion (about 1 1/2 cups). Mince 3 garlic cloves. Drain and rinse 2 (about 15-ounce) cans kidney beans.

  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons tomato paste and stir to coat the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until darkened in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Add 2 pounds ground beef, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon ground cumin, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1 teaspoon paprika, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper if using. Stir to coat the meat and cook for 1 minute more.

  4. Add the beans, 1 (28-ounce) can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes, and 1 (14.5-ounce) can low-sodium beef or chicken broth, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld and the mixture is slightly thickened, 30 to 40 minutes.

  5. Remove the pot from the heat. Add 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar and stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Ladle into bowls and serve with desired toppings.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Chili tastes best made a day in advance so the flavors have a chance to meld. Refrigerate in an airtight container. Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days in an airtight container or frozen for up to 3 months.