The Best Chili Recipe

Best Chili Recipe (1 of 1)-2

Chili is not so much food as a state of mind. Addictions to it are formed early in life and the victims never recover. On blue days in {February}, I get this passionate yearning for a bowl of chili, and I nearly lose my mind. ~ Margaret Cousins, novelist

People often ask us what we eat at home since we’re on the road traveling much of the time.  After rich and and often fussy constructed and deconstructed plates of food, and lots of them, meals at our house have become simpler than ever.  While I sometimes still spend a solid day or two in the kitchen whipping up more elaborate meals, the best dinner is often the easiest one.  Take chili, for example.

Chili is one of those perfect comfort foods that I crave, especially when the temperatures are freezing cold, the weather outside is frightful, and I know I’m going to be housebound for several days.  While I was in the grocery store with the masses of other panicked shoppers before the big winter storm hit Atlanta this week, all I could think about was heading home to make a big pot of steaming hot chili.

A rare sight in Atlanta

A rare sight in Atlanta

Chili warms the cockles of your heart :-)

Chili warms the soul on a cold winter’s day

I know there are as many versions of chili as there are types of cheese, but this is the one that I make most often.  I have tweaked it a number of times until I have it where the heat is subtle, but you still know it’s there and the flavors harmonize together perfectly.  Mr. B finally gave it his thumbs up after years of perfecting it.  He likes to serve his over spaghetti (as you do with Cincinnati Chili), but I prefer mine served straight up in a bowl topped with grated cheddar cheese and maybe a dash of hot sauce.

This recipe has always been a hit at football parties and with a crowd.  Make a large batch, let people help themselves, and serve it with a variety of garnishes, such as grated cheese, chopped green onions, sliced Jalapeños, and sour cream.  Of course, a delicious bowl of chili always pairs nicely with an ice cold beer, so don’t forget to offer your guests one of those, too.

As a side note, I add a pinch of sugar to the pot of chili.  Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce can often times have quite a bit of acidity and even a bite.  They’re not like those gorgeous summer Heirloom tomatoes that you eat when perfectly ripe with a touch of sweetness.  Just a little bit of sugar counteracts the acidity and brings out the flavor of the tomatoes.

After a few days of ice and snow, the sun is finally out and the temperatures are rising.  I guess it’s time to polish off that last bowl of chili.  With the unpredictable Atlanta weather, we could be hosting an outdoor barbecue by this weekend! 😉

All of this morning's blanket of white is almost gone

All of this morning’s blanket of white is almost gone

Cheers and stay safe and warm wherever you are!

Here are two other chili recipes that you might be interested in:

Ming Tsai’s Vegetarian Three-Bean Chili

Cincinnati Chili

Enjoy a bowl of steaming hot chili wherever you are!

Enjoy a bowl of steaming hot chili wherever you are!

The Best Chili Recipe

Chili is great when served the same day, but is even better the next. If you can, prepare the recipe ahead of time to let the flavors come together. Earlier in the day is good, but overnight is best. This recipe is easily doubled or tripled and the chili freezes well.


2 tablespoons Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup 1/4-inch dice celery
1/2 cup 1/4-inch dice onion
1 pound ground beef (preferably lean and local)
1 14.5-ounce can stewed tomatoes (original version)
1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
1 16-ounce can dark red Kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Ancho chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar

Garnishes: Grated sharp cheddar cheese, chopped green onions, sliced Jalapeños, and sour cream


  1. Heat olive oil in a medium Dutch oven over medium heat until oil begins to shimmer. Add celery and onion, stir and cook over medium-low heat for two to three minutes, just until vegetables begin to soften. Add the ground beef, crumbling into smaller pieces with your hands. Increase heat to medium and brown the beef, stirring occasionally, continuing to break up the meat with a spoon. Cook until all the meat is browned.
  2. 2. Add the can of stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce, chili powder, Ancho chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt, pepper, and sugar and stir to combine well. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce to a simmer, cover, and let simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the lid and add the kidney beans. Return mixture to a boil and then reduce heat again to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes more. Adjust seasonings.
  3. 3. Serve chili hot and topped with a selection of suggested garnishes.