Basic Chili

My basic chili recipe. Meaty and hearty, this easy recipe will soon become a family favorite!

chili in bowl with cheese, cilantro, sour cream and grey napkin underneath
Basic Chili in a pot

I grew up eating Wendy’s chili. Thick, meaty, and hearty, it was one of my favorites as a kid. Back then, I thought chili was fancy-pants cooking. Then I became a poor grad student and started cooking it at home.

There’s nothing like living on your own with a limited budget to make you look for recipes that are wallet friendly, filling, and tasty at the same time. Chili is one of those foods. 🙂

Basic Chili with toppings
Basic Chili ingredients

I love chili so much that it’s now one of those meals that I cook ALL THE TIME.  I cook it for my family of five. I also cook it and serve it at parties. Chili is easy. Chili is tasty. And with lots of toppings served in bowls, chili can seem like a party.

For a weeknight dinner, I’ll go simple and include 3-4 toppings. But for a party, I bring out ALL the toppings! Variety makes it seem like a party.

Also, don’t forget to add a good carby side. Tortilla chips, Fritos, or homemade cornbread are classics. But brown rice or spiral pasta works well, too!

Chili toppings in bowls, on top of brown cutting board
Basic chili and toppings

How to Make Basic Chili:

  • Sweat out the vegetables for a long time.  Longer than you think.  I put the timer on for 15 minutes, keeping an eye on the vegetables so they don’t burn.  Also, cook the spices with the vegetables.  Don’t add them at the end!  It takes time to develop flavor.  
Basic chili - sweating out the veg
  • BROWN the meat. DO NOT let the meat “steam” with heat that is too low.  Of course, you don’t want it to burn either.          
Basic chili - browning the meat
  • Simmer on low until the color changes to a deep, rusty red.  At the end of the long simmer, you will see pools of fat floating around the surface.  Don’t be alarmed!  This may take 30 – 45 minutes but it’s the key to making extra-good chili.  Just keep checking and stirring.
Basic Chili - long simmer
  • Thicken with a slurry of masa flour and water.  Lots of recipes call for tomato paste but this method gives so much more flavor.  *Thank you Pioneer Woman for this genius idea!*

Basic Chili

A basic chili recipe that is meaty, hearty, and sure to feed a crowd!  
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Booze Food, Casual Party, Soup, Stew
Cuisine: American, TexMex
Keyword: Chili
Author: The Subversive Table


  • 2 lbs extra-lean ground beef
  • 2 large onions small dice
  • 2 stalks celery small dice
  • 1 large carrot small dice
  • 1 bell pepper small dice
  • 6 cloves garlic minced


  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 T. chili powder
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika smoked, if you have it
  • 1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder optional
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder optional
  • 2 chipotle chili peppers, in adobe sauce chopped (optional)
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 19 oz can red kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 19 oz can pinto beans drained and rinsed

Masa Slurry

  • 1/4 cup Masa Flour
  • 1/2 cup water


  • Heat a large stockpot over medium heat.  Add 3 T. neutral cooking oil (I used grapeseed oil).  Add vegetables and garlic.  Sprinkle spices and salt on top of vegetables.  Mix around with a wooden spoon, being careful not to let it burn.  Sauté until soft and slightly brown, about 15 minutes, lowering heat if you need.  Add a little more oil if it starts sticking too much to the bottom.
    Basic chili - sweating out the veg
  • Raise heat to medium-high. Add ground beef. Break up meat with a wooden spoon until no pink remains, about 8-10 minutes.
    Basic chili - browning the meat
  • Add crushed and diced tomatoes, chicken stock, kidney beans, and pinto beans. Add the chopped up chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. Mix and bring to a boil.  
    Basic Chili - long simmer
  • Lower heat and simmer with lid partly on/off. Stir once in awhile so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Simmer for about 30 minutes, on low heat, until the color deepens to a darker red.
  • Make the Masa flour slurry. Mix the Masa flour and water in a small bowl. Mix well until there are no clumps. Simmer for 5-10 minutes more.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings with more salt and pepper, if needed. Serve with avocado, grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro, green onions, etc. I also like to serve tortilla chips, Fritos, or cornbread on the side. 
    Basic Chili with toppings


Chili does require a lot of chopping. If you are feeling lazy, you can pulse quartered vegetables in a food processor. Pulse the carrot first and set aside.  Then pulse the other vegetables as they are softer and will be processed more quickly. Also, watch carefully while you pulse. You want the veggies to be chopped into small pieces, about the same size, not pureed.
This makes a generous amount of chili.  Make sure to use a large stock pot or your pot will overflow with chili goodness.  Alternately, you can halve the recipe.  

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One Comment

  1. Nice recipe

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