The Best Chili Recipe (2024)

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Congratulations, you’ve found the actual BEST Chili Recipe! It’s won dozens of cook-offs and is about to knock your socks off. Made with bacon (and the option to omit bacon if needed) and ground beef and simmered on the stove for just 30 minutes, this is my family’s go-to cool weather comfort food.

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Chili Cook-Off Champion!

Something savory/cozy for you today because believe it or not Fall is here, which means cold weather and hearty comfort foods like baked ziti, my favorite meatball recipe, and this best chili recipe!

This recipe is actually one that I shared last year, and since then I’ve made it probably 50 times. Not only am I completely obsessed with it, as of this writing it’s also won over two dozen Chili Cook-offs! While I’ve never entered it into a cook-off myself, so many of you who have tried this chili recipe have commented or e-mailed me that it’s taken home first place and I don’t even know how to express how happy that makes me!

So, yeah, I do feel a little bit extra proud of this chili cook-off champ recipe right here.

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Not only does it taste amazing, it’s shockingly simple to make. Basic, no-fuss ingredients and just 30 minutes of simmering yield a complex and rich flavor that’s simply unparalleled.

This best chili recipe (alternating weekly with my potato soup) is on regular dinner rotation for me as soon as the weather starts to dip below 70 degrees. It’s easy to make, incredibly filling, and the flavor is out of this world.

Let’s get started.

How to Make the Actual Best Chili Recipe

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  1. Start with bacon! Cook until crisp, remove to a paper-towel lined plate, and reserve a bit of the grease for cooking your veggies. The flavor that develops from this step elevates a great chili recipe to thebest chili recipe.
  2. Cook your onion and pepper until soft, add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add your ground beef, cook until mostly browned (but not all the way cooked through).
  4. Add all your seasonings.
  5. Stir well, cooking beef through.
  6. Add the remaining ingredients (and your bacon from step 1!), give everything a good stir, and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes and until liquid is reduced.

Tip: Make your chili even better by choosing the right toppings when you serve it! Sour cream is a must, but shredded cheddar, corn chips, sliced jalapeños, avocado, or green onions are all great choices, too!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I freeze this chili recipe?

Yes, leftovers can be frozen in an airtight container for at least 3 months.

Can I make this in a crockpot?

Kind of. For best flavor, you will still need to follow steps 1-4 of the recipe as written, then you can transfer everything to the crockpot and heat it there (I don’t add the bacon back in until I’m ready to serve). Cook on low until ready to serve.

Can I leave out the bacon?

The bacon imparts an incredible flavor and is the secret ingredient that makes this chili the best chili recipe and an award winner. If you’re entering a cook-off, use it! However, you can leave it out if you absolutely must. Please see the notes in the recipe for instructions on making this chili bacon-free.

Can I use a different type of meat?

I most often use 90% lean ground beef but any percentage will work just fine (I’ve used all of them, but usually end up draining some grease if I use 80%). Ground turkey or chicken or really any ground meat will work here, but keep in mind the flavor will be slightly altered!

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What Goes Well with Chili?

  • Buttermilk Cornbread (a must!)
  • Homemade Biscuits
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Homemade Bread

Obviously, breadis my chili side-dishes of choice. Because this chili is so hearty and filling on its own, a slice of cornbread makes for a sufficient side for chili.

Enjoy, and make sure to check out my other easy dinner recipes!! And make sure you let me know what you think when you try this! I love hearing about the cook-offs it wins and if you really agree that it’s the all-time BEST chili recipe!

Let’s cook together! Make sure to check outthe how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!

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The Best Chili Recipe (Award Winning!)

This is the BEST Chili Recipe! Made with bacon (and the option to omit if necessary) and ground beef and simmered on the stove for just 30 minutes, this is my family's go-to cold weather comfort food. It's even better when paired with a side of buttermilk cornbread!

4.98 from 1679 votes

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Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes minutes

Servings: 6 servings (this recipe makes 10 cups total, so one serving is approx 1 ⅔ cup)

Calories: 611kcal

Author: Sam Merritt


  • 5 strips uncooked bacon chopped¹
  • 1 large yellow onion diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
  • 1 lb ground beef (455g) (I use 90% but any will work)
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder²
  • 1 Tablespoon ancho chili powder²
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ¾ teaspoons ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper³
  • 1 ¼ cup beef broth (295ml)
  • 15 oz can dark red kidney beans lightly rinsed and drained (425g)
  • 15 oz can black beans lightly rinsed and drained (425)
  • 14.5 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes undrained (411g)
  • 7- oz can fire roasted green chilis (198g)
  • ¼ cup tomato paste (66g)
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Preferred toppings particularly sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and corn chips


  • Place chopped (uncooked) bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until crisp and cooked through. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate and drain all but 1 ½ Tablespoons of grease.

  • Add onion and pepper and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes.

  • Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).

  • Add beef, breaking apart with a spatula as you cook. Once meat is partially (about 50%) browned, add sugar and all spices (chili powders, paprika, cumin, onion powder, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper) and stir well.

  • Add all remaining ingredients — beef broth, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, chilis, and Worcestershire sauce — and your cooked bacon and stir well.

  • Bring to a boil and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

  • Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 minutes to allow flavor to really develop.

  • Serve with preferred toppings (sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and corn chips are a must!)


¹For best flavor, DO NOT OMIT THE BACON. However, as someone who spent 23 years not eating bacon I wanted to include tips for those of you who might have the same restrictions. if you wish to make this recipe without bacon you *can* do so by skipping the first step, heating 1 ½ Tablespoons of oil over medium heat, and then beginning from step 2. On the other hand, if you want additional bacon for garnishing, cook it now and reserve.

²You can substitute one chili powder for the other and use just traditional chili powder or just ancho chili powder, but I personally like the blend of the two.

³This gives the chili a mild spice, if you like more heat increase to ¼ teaspoon for a moderate spice. Add additional cayenne pepper at your own risk!


Serving: 1serving (not including toppings) | Calories: 611kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 1315mg | Potassium: 758mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 30IU | Vitamin C: 72mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 20mg

Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.

Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @SugarSpun_Sam or tag #sugarspunrun!

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I originally shared this chili recipe 10/05/2018. Post has been updated to include more notes, a video, and more helpful information 09/11/2019.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Petra V Holland

    The Best Chili Recipe (8)
    I’m about to enter a chili cook off. But, regardless, I love this chili. It’s really the best I’ve ever made or had.


  2. Kevin Anderson

    The Best Chili Recipe (9)
    I made this recipe and placed first in people’s choice and second in critics choice in a cook off in December 2023.


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The Best Chili Recipe (2024)


What is the secret to making good chili? ›

Rumi Spice's top tips for making chili:
  1. Brown the Meat.
  2. Don't Forget Vegetables.
  3. Elevate with Extra Flavor.
  4. Only Add Flavorful Liquids.
  5. Opt for Dried Beans.
  6. Season Early and Often.
  7. Add Some Acidity at the End.
  8. Top It Off.

What is the most important spice in chili? ›

Most Common Chili Spices. Cumin, Chile Powders, and Paprika are the most common spices in chili followed by garlic, onion, coriander, Mexican oregano, and bay leaves. These ingredients can be combined to create a savory and well-balanced pot of top notch comfort food.

How does Martha Stewart make chili? ›

Add chili powder, cocoa, and tomato paste; cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes more. Add tomatoes, broth, and cooked beef. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, until thickened slightly, 25 to 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper; serve with sour cream and chives.

Why do you put brown sugar in chili? ›

The brown sugar gave it a sweet/tangy flavor that reminded me of BBQ-sauce! Th chili was so good - it was hard to stop eating it! I did had some extra veggies (1 cl. garlic, 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot, 1 bell pepper, 1 hot pepper) and used a can of diced tomatoes rather than tomato juice.

Is chili better the longer it cooks? ›

A low and slow cook time—at least an hour total—is key for drawing out the most flavor in a pot of chili. Yes, a quick chili is most welcome on weeknights, but it won't have quite the same results. A slow cooker works wonders, but if you're short on time, try a pressure cooker.

What chili has the best flavor? ›

The best chile peppers for adding both flavor and heat to your...
  • Serrano chiles. Paul Stephen / Staff.
  • Fresno chiles, often mistaken for jalapenos, are fruity and sweet, with a mild smokiness that's ideal for sauces. ...
  • Habanero chiles. ...
  • Jalapeño chiles. ...
  • Poblano chiles. ...
  • Thai chiles, also known as bird's eye chiles.
Sep 15, 2021

What does paprika do for chili? ›

Think of paprika as the gentler, sweeter cousin of hot chili peppers. It enlivens your favorite dishes with fruity notes and a toasty red color without ever taking over the show.

Does chili need tomato paste? ›

Tomato paste is a great way to add bonus tomato flavor, and thickness, to a chili recipe. To get the best flavor it needs to be browned. Add a couple tablespoons (or a whole can if you want a thicker soup base) directly to the pan after cooking the meat and onions.

Why do you put butter in chili? ›

Butter smooths out the bitterness and adds its unique richness, making you take another bite without quite knowing why. A dash of sugar and vinegar gives a sweet-sour flavor that also makes the sauce rounder and more satisfying.

What is chili magic? ›

Where there's chipotle smoke, there's chili fire. Bush's® Chili Magic® Campfire Style brings tender pintos together with smoky chipotle and green bell peppers for quick, unforgettable chili any night of the week.​

What gives chili its distinct flavor? ›

Stir in some molasses.

But it's great in chili — especially those featuring lots of cumin and black beans. Its smoky, bittersweet flavor adds complexity to chili and you won't need more than a teaspoon to capitalize off of its assertive and distinct taste.

How do you make chili taste richer? ›

Cocoa powder, bacon, cinnamon, ground coffee and tomato paste will all add a rich sweet & salty flavors that are sure to surprise and delight. Warming spice blends, like Garam Masala, Ras el Hanout or Baharat are another simple and delicious way to add layered flavors to this simple one-pot meal.

Why do people put baking soda in chili? ›

According to the magazine's food experimenters, the baking soda treatment will definitely keep the meat tender and juicy when cooked.

Does Ina Garten have a chili recipe? ›

It's no surprise that Ina's chili recipe is a cinch to make. You start by cooking a ton of onions in a pot until translucent, then adding garlic, bell peppers, and several spices — including chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and red pepper flakes. Next, Ina has you crush canned plum tomatoes with your hands.

Why add vinegar to chili? ›

With only about 1 tablespoon per pot added toward the end of the cooking process, the vinegar will make the flavors more vibrant without overwhelming the dish with its biting tang. Through just a splash, everything becomes a little brighter, and the chili's flavors are more balanced.

Should you simmer chili covered or uncovered? ›

Chili can be cooked uncovered or covered, but both are preferable. Chili cooked uncovered will thicken and reduce in liquid, making it a more hearty dish. When covering your chili, you will keep the heat in and prevent it from boiling over.

What does coffee do for chili? ›

Though it may be an unusual choice, coffee adds an earthy richness to the existing flavors and plays well with spices like cumin and cayenne pepper. Plus, it's a flexible ingredient – while we typically reach for instant espresso powder, you can also add in brewed coffee, making this dish the perfect use for leftovers.

How important is oregano in chili? ›

Mexican oregano is the herb you should be using for chili recipes. (Along with any other southwestern or Mexican recipe for that matter.) Mexican oregano is more robust and citrusy than Greek oregano, standing up to the bold, competing flavors in chili recipes like cumin and chile peppers.

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