Weeknight Chili

November  8, 2016
10 Ratings
Photo by Alexandra Stafford
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

Adapted from several sources but mostly America's Test Kitchen's Cook it in Cast Iron.

Note: Though this is a simple chili, it still cooks in total (sautéeing, simmering, etc.) for about 1 hour. A lot of the time is hands-off, and you can work as you go—as the onions and peppers (if using) sauté, you can measure out the spices and mince the garlic. Once everything is in the pot simmering away, you can prepare the garnishes: grate cheese, dice onion or scallions, pluck cilantro leaves, etc.

As always, the chili tastes better the next day, so don't be afraid to make it in advance.

Finally, I've had success simply using diced onions and no peppers, so I've made the peppers optional below—I always feel guilty buying them when they aren't in season. Also, I taste-tested 3 brands of crushed tomatoes, and I found the one pictured in the photo above (Cirio Italian Crushed Tomatoes) to be the tastiest. —Alexandra Stafford

What You'll Need
  • 3 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
  • 1 to 2 onions, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces, optional
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste or ketchup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, homemade is best
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked beans, any kind you like, or one 15-oz can beans, drained and rinsed
  • 15 ounces can crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar, optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar, optional
  • Grated cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped scallion or onion, for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat. When it shimmers, add the onion and pepper, if using, and immediately turn the heat down to low. Season with a pinch of salt and add the chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Cook, stirring every so often, until the vegetables are softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the tomato paste and garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon until no longer pink, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the stock and beans, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to gentle simmer, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover, add the crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili has thickened, about 20 minutes. Taste. If it needs a little bite, add the vinegar. If it needs a little sweetness, add the sugar. If it needs more salt, add a big pinch and cook for 5 minutes more. Taste again, and adjust with more salt, cayenne, vinegar, or sugar. Serve with cheese, cilantro, and scallions on top.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • monacake
  • Sunny Aalami
    Sunny Aalami
  • M.McAwesome
  • willie
  • Sophie Wu
    Sophie Wu
I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

24 Reviews

Debbie P. December 22, 2020
Big hit with my son and husband. It was especially good over brown rice!
New fav. Thanks!
Debbie P. December 22, 2020
It does seem a bit 'soupy' anyway to thicken it up a bit?
monacake December 2, 2019
This is the new go-to. I'm a vegetarian, so I used Beyond Beef and it worked perfectly. The only addition I made was a few squares of bittersweet chocolate...adds nice depth. Thank you!
Sunny A. November 7, 2019
I have made this chilli so many times. It's the perfect chilli recipe for me. Sometimes I substitute the beef with ground turkey and it turns out just as delicious.
M.McAwesome April 5, 2018
Hit the spot! Looking forward to the leftovers.
willie March 5, 2018
Trying this one tonight thanks
Sophie W. January 20, 2018
I've been wasting my time going great lengths to achieve The Perfect Chili and I can ultimately say that this.. is The One.
Alexandra S. January 20, 2018
Traveler November 2, 2017
This was the best! I have been looking for a great chili recipe for many years. Loved, loved this! I used 1 onion, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, a little more salt, and a teaspoon of sugar. I thought the spice level was just right.

Also, this might sound weird, but I really loved the texture. Most of the chili I have made has not combined the meat and beans well. This was all blended perfectly. Can't wait to make again - my "go-to" chili recipe.
Alexandra S. November 3, 2017
I'm so happy to hear this, fisher6188! Love this one this time of year.
Lynn W. February 11, 2017
Hello, great recipe but I found it to be hot in spices ..... what do I reduce be a use I don't want to spoil the actual flavour?
Alexandra S. February 11, 2017
Sorry this was too spicy! I would just omit the cayenne pepper. Alternatively, you could reduce the chile powder as well — the chile powder I use is not very spicy, but I know these mixes vary brand to brand.
Lynn W. February 11, 2017
Thanks... i'll try that and do it again soon. It tasted great so I wanted to get it right 😀
Alexandra S. February 11, 2017
Nanda D. January 31, 2017
Are you supposed to eat it like this, or with rice or potatoes o something?
Alexandra S. January 31, 2017
Just as it is! But rice would be good, too.
Nanda D. February 6, 2017
It was absolutely good, and a perfect cheap but satisfying weeknight meal <3 Will be making again, thank you!
Nanda D. February 6, 2017
Oh, and I added some sour cream for topping :)
Andrea S. January 30, 2017
Loved it -- this is the perfect Monday night dinner. It was easy prepare with ingredients that were already in the house, and smelled delicious while simmering. I added salt and a dash of sugar at the end. My 14 year-old son, who's a vociferous (and picky) eater, had three bowls. Great topped with avocado and some cheese. Thanks!
Alexandra S. January 31, 2017
So happy to hear this, Andrea! The carnivores in my family love this one, too :)
Caitlin C. January 14, 2017
This is delicious and simple. I was craving chili, and had this ready from start to finish (opening the fridge to scraping my bowl) in a little over an hour. I used an extra half bell pepper because I had one to finish, increased the salt a bit, and added both a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar and a teaspoon of sugar in the last 15 minutes. Topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, and cilantro, it hit the spot.
Alexandra S. January 15, 2017
So happy to hear this! I love how the vinegar-sugar combination at the end brightens it all up. So happy this worked for you, too!
liamoran December 18, 2016
I can't wait to try this this week!
Alexandra S. January 15, 2017
I hope you do!