The Best Classic Chili

This classic chili is one of the best comfort foods around. Made with simple spices, tomatoes, and kidney beans. Top with your favorite ingredients for a wonderful meal or as a topping for fries and hamburgers. 

Chili has been one of those dishes that I have loved for as long as I can remember. It was great for me in college as it made a ton for a relatively little amount of money. Plus it just tasted so good. This is my take on one of my favorite go to college recipes. By adding a few techniques to this simple dish I have found it is my favorite version. Topped with a little cheese and sour cream, or whatever your favorite toppings are then you are sure to fall in love with this recipe as much as me. 

In this recipe

I think I have been messing around with this recipe for a good couple of years while living in Texas. Now whenever I make this chili for someone in Texas I don’t put the beans in it because all I will hear is that it isn’t real chili with kidney beans in it. Regardless of that however there are some key ingredients and processes that make this chili special. 

Ancho chili powder: this chili powder is made from only ground poblano peppers which adds a more intense chili flavor. 

Brown sugar: will add a richer flavor due to the molasses in it. 

San Marzano tomatoes: are some of the best canned tomatoes available and make the most flavorful sauce.

Ingredients for classic chili on a wooden cutting board
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Cooking the onions

One of the things that I have found is that taking time with your ingredients at the beginning when it comes to chili makes a much better flavor. The first thing that you will want to do is make sure that you caramelize the onions. Instead of just cooking them until they become translucent getting them to start caramelizing will add a richer flavor and a little bit of sweetness to the chili. They do not have to be completely caramelized as that could take up to 20 minutes however if you want to then it’ll be worth it. 

Onions and olive oil in a Dutch oven
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Caramelized onions in a Dutch oven
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Caramelized onions with garlic
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Ground beef added to Dutch oven
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Browning the paste

One of the best things that you can do is to brown the paste. This is called pincer and you should probably do it any time you add tomato paste to a recipe. To pincer you want to cook tomato paste until it starts to brown. By doing so it will allow the sugars to caramelize even further and also deepen the natural umami (yeah I know that word is kinda random) flavor that is in tomatoes. You will get a richer flavor in not just this chili but anything else you make with tomato paste. 

Browned tomato paste and beef in a Dutch oven
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Spices added to Dutch oven
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Beans, tomaotes, and broth added to Dutch oven
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Cooked chili in a Dutch oven
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Classic chili for the win

Once you have added the wonderful spice blend you can actually cook it a bit more before adding the rest of the ingredients. By allowing the spices to cook before adding the liquid will help release all of the flavors within making the everything even more intense. Add the beef broth first to help deglaze the pan. This will get al of the caramelized bits off of the bottom of the pot before adding the rest. I like to add the beans last since they can break apart or depending on who I am serving.

Two white soup crocks with classic chili and toppings
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Time crunch?

You can make this chili in much less time if you need to. By cooking the onions until they are translucent, not browning the tomato sauce (pincer) and adding all of the spices, tomatoes, and broth at the same time you can shave off quite a bi of time and it should only take about 30 minutes to make the chili. Yes it will still be pretty darned tasty. 

To crocks of chili with sour cream and cheese
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Looking for more comfort food recipes?

A white soup crock with chili topped with sour cream and cheese
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The Best Classic Chili

Homemade chili that is the perfect comfort food.
5 from 12 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 498 kcal


  • Blender
  • Dutch oven


  • 28 ounces San Marzano tomatoes divided 1 can, half chopped
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 pound red kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • cups onion chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons garlic minced
  • tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • In the Dutch oven or large soup pot heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions until they are translucent and have started to caramelize about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Next add the ground beef and break apart. Cook until done about 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • While the beef is cooking dice half of the San Marzano tomatoes. Then place other half and the liquid in the can into a blender and pulse until they turn into sauce, and set aside.
  • Add the tomato paste to the ground beef and cook for 2 minutes to brown the paste. Then add the chili powder, cumin, brown sugar, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Stir until well combined.
  • Stir in the broth and mix well. Then add the pureed tomatoes, kidney beans, and chopped tomatoes. Stir until just combined.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-low heat. It should still bubble but very gently. Cook for another 20 minutes uncovered and stir occasionally. Then remove from the heat.
  • Serve with your favorite additions.


Serving: 1servingCalories: 498kcalCarbohydrates: 61gProtein: 42gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0.4gCholesterol: 70mgSodium: 939mgPotassium: 2098mgFiber: 16gSugar: 20gVitamin A: 2537IUVitamin C: 29mgCalcium: 195mgIron: 12mg
Nutrition Disclaimer*
Keyword Chili, Comfort food, Cornbread
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
classic chili pinterest pin
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11 thoughts on “The Best Classic Chili”

  1. 5 stars
    This chili recipe looks much simpler than the one I usually make and I bet it’s tastier, too! It sounds super flavorful. I’ll have to try this soon.

  2. 5 stars
    I’m always on the hunt for a good chili recipe and this one definitely made the top of the list! It’s so flavorful and delicious, plus so comforting my whole family enjoyed it!

  3. 5 stars
    Love making chilis on winter nights. These are the best comforting meal at the end of a long day. I served the chilis with some rice and we all loved it.

  4. This really was one of the best chilies I’ve ever made! Your step-by-step photos helped a lot and made the whole preparation process super easy, the whole family loved it!

  5. 5 stars
    I can never say NO to a good old chili. I have my own chili recipe that I have been using but yours looks so much easier. Definitely need to try it out!

  6. 5 stars
    I love a good, hot bowl of chili! One can never go wrong with making chili for a meal! I am now happy our weather is still cold, so I can make this chili recipe!

  7. 5 stars
    I made this classic chili to take to a friend’s house for a superbowl party and everyone raved about how amazing it was! I’ll definitely be making this on a regular basis.

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