Chili is easy to make in large batches, making it perfect for game days. The classic recipe calls for sautéing onions and garlic with lean ground beef or another protein of your choice (including vegan or vegetarian options), then simmering with tomatoes and beans. And of course, chili wouldn’t be chili without its flavorful and robust seasonings, most importantly its namesake chili powder.
What Ingredients Are in Homemade Chili?
While Texas chili is bean-free and beloved, most other chili recipes call for beans of any variety — kidney, white, pinto or black beans are all great additions, and can be substituted in any recipe. Lean ground beef is commonly used, but there are many recipes for white chicken chili and other chilis that call for turkey, bison or vegan-friendly meat alternatives.
Nutritionally, the beans and meat (or meat alternative) provide protein and fiber. The tomatoes – which make up the base of the chili and are typically canned, crushed, diced or stewed – are high in potassium and vitamins A, C and K. Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties and aids the immune system, and the capsaicin found in chili peppers can increase your metabolism.
Different Methods of Cooking
Chili is traditionally made on the stovetop, but there are recipe variations that use a slow cooker or instant pot.
The stovetop directions are to brown the beef (drain the fat), brown the onions and/or garlic, add the other ingredients and simmer 2-3 hours over low heat. Then you can stir in the beans before serving. The process is the same for slow cookers – brown the beef and aromatics in a skillet before putting it all in the cooker – though you can cook on low heat for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. The slow-cooking process mixes the flavors of the seasonings into every bite and makes the beef especially tender. We have collected our favorite slow cooker chili recipes to try this fall.
In an instant pot, use the sauté setting when browning your beef, onions and garlic. Once finished, add in all other ingredients except the beans. Follow your manufacturer’s guide for locking the lid, then pressure cook on high for 10-15 minutes. Follow the guide for releasing the pressure, and once the steaming stops, stir in the beans.
Chili Seasoning and Chili Toppings
For chili to be truly great, it must have excellent seasoning. Be sure to work the chili powder and other seasonings into your meat before sautéing it and continue to season the chili throughout the cooking process.
You can heighten your chili’s flavor by allowing it to simmer longer on a lower temperature, which also thickens the chili as it cooks.
Some people love chili served over white rice, which is also a great way to stretch the meal if you have more hungry mouths than anticipated.
If you want your entire batch to be spicier, add an extra tablespoon of chili powder and 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to your recipe. If you need to keep the chili mild for some in your crowd, then those who crave extra spice can add hot sauce to their bowl when serving.
Garnishes are critical when serving. Set out a colorful chili toppings bar so everyone can customize their own bowl. Pick and choose toppings to your liking or based on what you have available. Here are a few ideas:
- Sliced avocado or guacamole
- Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
- Sour cream
- Hot sauce and/or salsa
- Lime wedges
- Red or green onion
- Tortilla chips, cornbread, saltine crackers or oyster crackers