How to Make Chili

Chili is an all-American favorite--and one that lends itself to much interpretation. In fact, once you factor in the regional trends and personal tastes, there may be as many variations on how to make chili as there are people who make it. While most recipes use some combination of the same basic ingredients--meat, beans, peppers, tomatoes and spices--chili aficionados are particular about their tastes. Texas chili, for instance, contains no beans and rarely other vegetables beyond chili peppers. Vegetarian chili, on the other hand, relies heavily on beans, as it's obviously meatless. White chili uses great northern beans instead of kidneys or pintos, tends to be a little sweeter and is often served over spaghetti. Other varieties of chili use chunks of pork or other meats. And the list of ingredients that people add to their own recipes includes everything from sweet corn, bourbon and molasses to peanut butter, cocoa and pineapple--and virtually everything in between. A basic chili recipe, such as this one, gives you the framework with which to develop your own personal take on this robust dish.

What You'll Need

  • 1   pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2  cup chopped green sweet pepper (1 small)
  • 1/2  cup chopped onion (1 medium)
  • 4   cloves garlic, minced
  • 1  15  ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1  15  ounce can red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1  14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 - 3   teaspoons chili powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon dried basil, crushed
  • 1/4  teaspoon ground black pepper
  •  Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
  •  Chopped onion (optional)
  •  Dairy sour cream (optional)
  •  Crushed red pepper (optional)

Step By Step

In a 3-quart saucepan cook and stir ground beef, sweet pepper, 1/2 cup chopped onion, and the garlic over medium heat until meat is brown and onion is tender. Drain off fat.
Stir in tomato sauce, undrained beans, undrained tomatoes, chili powder, salt, basil, and black pepper. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. To serve, ladle chili into bowls. If desired, top each serving with cheese, chopped onion, and/or sour cream and pass crushed red pepper. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

  • Chili for Two: Prepare as above, except divide all ingredients in half.
  • Cincinnati-Style Chili: Prepare as above, except omit sweet pepper, basil, and optional garnishes. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper with the tomato sauce. To serve, place 1/2 cup hot cooked spaghetti on each of 4 serving plates; make an indentation in center of each portion. Top each serving with some of the chili, 1 to 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese, 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped onion, and/or 1/4 cup additional kidney beans.
Looking for ideas for how to make chili in your own signature style? A good place to begin is by considering some substitutions--experiment with different types of beans or peppers, adjust the blend of seasonings and herbs, or add some unexpected nuances such as chopped or pureed sweet potatoes. Make your chili lean with ground turkey or chicken. Vegetarians might consider using tofu in place of the ground beef or foregoing the meat altogether.

nutrition information

Per Serving: cal. (kcal) 381, Fat, total (g) 15, chol. (mg) 71, sat. fat (g) 6, carb. (g) 35, fiber (g) 9, pro. (g) 32, sodium (mg) 1265, Potassium (mg) 905, calcium (mg) 111.06, iron (mg) 5.22, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
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