Beef Chili With Bacon & Black Beans

August 18, 2020
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food stylist: Anna Billingskog. Prop stylist: Amanda Widis.
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 6
Author Notes

There are as many styles of chili as there are elaborate topping schemes. (I favor a crushed chips, sour cream, and red onion outfit myself.) There’s chili con carne, a well spiced stew built around hunks of slow-simmered beef. There’s chili verde, with pork and tomatillos. There’s white chili, usually featuring some sort of poultry, plus lots of beans. And there are countless other varieties, ranging from stews with tender pieces of meat, to legume-only weeknight bowls. This version is a ground beef take, built on the flavors of crisped bacon and deeply browned beef, with a slightly sweet, assertively spiced tomato broth that thickens naturally as it simmers away.

It gets a few flavor enhancements in the form of pan-fried tomato paste, seasoning at every step, and fully bloomed spices. Speaking of spice: Feel free to skip the jalapeño—or halve it—for a mellower bowl. Similarly, you can omit the cayenne pepper, depending on your taste. (Me? Sometimes I double down.) As for other seasonings, this recipe leans hard on chili powder. The one I use includes garlic powder and ground cumin right in the mix—check the ingredient list of your chili powder and supplement with a teaspoon or two of each if they’re missing.

A few more notes and tips: As you’re prepping, toss the bacon into the freezer to make chopping a cinch. When selecting beans, it’s tough to go wrong. I like a mix of pinto and red, but have used black and garbanzo to great effect. If you’d like to swap in dried ones, go right ahead—just be sure to soak and par-cook until they’re tender. (They’ll only join the chili for 20 minutes or so before serving.)

Now, back to elaborate topping schemes. After much experimentation, I can say confidently that crushed tortilla chips will make you many friends. Ditto: chopped scallions or finely diced red onion. You could also quick-pickle an allium (red onion, yellow onion, shallot) for punch, and dollop on sour cream, labne, or Greek yogurt for creamy balance. Shredded cheese wouldn’t be out of place either. —Ella Quittner

What You'll Need
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6 ounces bacon, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly diced (1 1/2 to 2 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large carrot, roughly diced (1 scant cup)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato purée
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans beans (see Author Notes), drained and rinsed
  • 1 lime, juice of
  1. Add the vegetable oil and bacon to a large Dutch oven or pot, and cook over medium heat until the bacon is crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Toss a bit of the fat if there’s a lot, leaving at least 2 tablespoons in the pot.
  2. Increase the heat to high and add the beef. Brown thoroughly on all sides as you break it apart, sprinkling with several generous pinches of salt as it cooks. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate. Again, toss a bit of the rendered fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons in the pot.
  3. Lower the heat to medium and add the onion, garlic, carrot, and jalapeño to the fat. Sauté 8-ish minutes, until the onion is translucent and beginning to take on color around the edges. Nudge the onion mixture to the sides, and add the chili powder, cayenne if using, and tomato paste to center. Stir into the onion mixture and, once fully combined, let it fry another minute.
  4. Add the chicken broth, brown sugar, tomato purée, fire-roasted tomatoes, 1 cup of water, and another couple pinches of salt. Use your spatula or spoon to scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, reserved beef, and half of the reserved bacon. Bring mixture to a jolly simmer and cook 20 to 25 minutes, or until juices have thickened slightly and are becoming jammy around the edges. Just before serving, stir in the lime juice, and season to taste with more salt if needed.
  5. Serve sprinkled with the reserved crisped bacon, plus any other toppings you like.

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1 Review

Isaiah W. November 1, 2020
I made the recipe as specified, without the optional cayenne (my children don’t like the heat) and found it to be pretty bland. I ended up doctoring it up with some paprika (1 tsp), fresh ground black pepper (2 tsp), ground cumin (1 1/2 tsp), and garam masala (3/4 tsp). Plus I was generous with the shakes of sea salt. It took the flavor up without adding too much heat.