Best Ground Beef Chili

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This ground beef chili is melt-in-your-mouth tender, thick, and rich. Serve it over rice or scoop it up with tortilla chips.

Ground Beef Chili

Chili is a winter mainstay at my house, whether for a cozy dinner in front of the TV or a Super Bowl party, but I’ve always struggled to find a ground beef chili recipe that I loved. Compared to chili made with chuck roast, I typically find ground beef chili to be a little dry and tough, no matter what type of ground beef I use or how long I cook it.

But recently I discovered a tenderizing technique on Cook’s Illustrated that calls for treating ground beef with a baking soda solution before cooking. The idea is that baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning. It works like a charm!

This ground beef chili is melt-in-your-mouth tender, thick, and rich — and wonderful over rice or scooped up with tortilla chips. I keep it on the mild side for the kids but feel free to add more chipotle chili powder at the end, if you like.

What You’ll Need To Make Ground Beef Chili

how to make ground beef chili

Note that the recipe calls for 85% lean ground beef. Don’t be tempted to use extra-lean beef or drain off the fat after browning. The fat bastes the meat during cooking, adding richness and flavor, plus you can skim it off at the end. I don’t use any beans in this chili — my kids tend to eat around them — but feel free to add a can of drained beans for the last half hour of cooking. (Any kind of beans will work.)

How To Make Ground Beef Chili

how to make ground beef chili

Begin by combining the ground beef, salt, baking soda, and water in a large bowl. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit for 20 minutes.

how to make ground beef chili

Meanwhile, chop the veggies.


I use a food processor to speed this up, but it’s fine to chop by hand too.


In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic, and red pepper.

how to make ground beef chili

Cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes.

how to make ground beef chili

Add the beef and increase the heat to high.

how to make ground beef chiliCook, stirring with wooden spoon to break up the meat, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes.

how to make ground beef chili

The beef will release a lot of fat and liquid — do not drain it; you’ll skim the fat off at the end. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon.

how to make ground beef chiliCook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant.

how to make ground beef chili

Add the cornmeal, beef broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses.

how to make ground beef chili Bring to a boil.

how to make ground beef chili

Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours. Skim any excess fat off of the surface of the chili — there will be quite a bit.

how to make ground beef chiliStir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Serve with accompaniments and enjoy!

Ground Beef Chili

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Best Ground Beef Chili

This ground beef chili is melt-in-your-mouth tender, thick, and rich. Serve it over rice or scoop it up with tortilla chips.

Servings: 6
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 2 Hours 30 Minutes
Total Time: 3 Hours


  • 2.5 pounds 85% lean ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion (or 2 small), minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon molasses, such as Grandma's Original (optional, if you like your chili a little sweet)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from 1 lime

For Serving (optional)

  • Cilantro, lime wedges, sour cream, cheese, scallions


  1. In a large bowl, combine the beef, salt, baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of water. Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit on the counter for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the oil. Add the onions, garlic, and red pepper; cook, stirring frequently, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the beef and increase the heat to high; cook, stirring with wooden spoon to break the meat into 1/4-inch pieces, until the beef is browned, 10 to 12 minutes. (The beef will release a lot of liquid -- do not drain it; you'll skim the fat off at the end.)
  3. Add the ancho chili powder, chipotle chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, smoked paprika, and cinnamon; cook, stirring frequently, for 1 to 2 minutes, until well combined and fragrant.
  4. Stir in the cornmeal, broth, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and molasses; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 2 hours.
  5. Skim any excess fat off the surface of the chili. (There will be quite a bit; don't worry about getting all of it, as it adds flavor.) Stir in the lime juice, then taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. For a thinner chili, you can add a bit of water. To thicken the chili, continue simmering, uncovered, until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Make Ahead: Cool slightly, and then refrigerate uncovered until cold. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
  7. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Before serving, defrost it in the refrigerator for 12 hours and then reheat it on the stovetop over medium heat until hot.

Pair with

Nutrition Information

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  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 655
  • Fat: 44 g
  • Saturated fat: 15 g
  • Carbohydrates: 28 g
  • Sugar: 15 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 39 g
  • Sodium: 1711 mg
  • Cholesterol: 134 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • I made this chili today and it was truly the best ground beef chili I’ve ever tasted! The instructions for tenderizing the ground beef were simple to do and absolutely genius! I thought the flavor was amazing but it was a little spicier than my husband usually likes. But it wasn’t so spicy he couldn’t eat it! In fact he praised the chili! Thanks for such a delicious recipe!

    • — Nancy on January 24, 2021
    • Reply
  • The baking soda technique works like a charm especially since I like to use the “chili grind ” from the butcher which is bigger,the recipe is good and easy that taste`s good. I`ll be using the g/b technique from now on.

    • — low and slow on January 14, 2021
    • Reply
  • My bride said this was the best chile I’ve ever made, even better than hers.
    ‘Nuff said!
    I made some yellow cast iron pan yellow cornbread as the side.
    And we split a papaya for dessert. Mmmmm….

    Now I have to find a recipe for chili with meat and beans as well…

    • — Michael Thoma on January 5, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this today for a socially distant lunch by our fire pit and it was delicious. We loved the smokiness from the chipotle chili powder and the spice level was just right. Served with your cornbread muffins, which are yummy too.

    • — Linda G on December 29, 2020
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  • Made this chili for our Christmas dinner since it was cold outside and we were really feeling casual. Husband said it was the best tasting chili he ever had (and he is picky about his chili) and now wants this to be out Christmas family tradition. Paired it with moist cornbread and didn’t change anything except opted out of the molasses. Juice from fresh lime at the end really tops it off. Thank you, Jen!!

    • — Sharon from Atlanta on December 26, 2020
    • Reply
  • Whenever I make this chili, my husband tells me it’s the best chili I’ve ever made! I like to serve it topped with Fritos. We got three dinners out of it – the last night we served it on top of spaghetti noodles and it was a huge hit! Thank you for another delicious recipe!

    • — Kelly S. on December 23, 2020
    • Reply
  • Good morning Jenn
    I hope this isn’t a ridiculous question. Made your tomato soup, delish and have a bit leftover. I want to make this Chili but don’t have crushed tomatoes……what do you think? Could I use the tomato soup? Thank you for all you do.

    • — Mary on December 17, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, I don’t think it’d be bad!

      • — Jenn on December 18, 2020
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      • Good morning. Your tomato soup in the chili as a substitute for crushed was great! Making chicken pot pies today. Cheesecake later in the week. Happy holidays to you and your family.

        • — Mary on December 19, 2020
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  • Hi Jenn, I don’t have chipotle chili powder. Should I use cayenne pepper and/or add more ancho chili pepper or paprika? And how much of the substitutes should I use?
    Thank you!

    • — KJ on December 10, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi KJ, You can just replace it with an equal amount of regular chili powder. The chili won’t have as much heat without the chipotle chili powder, so feel free to add a pinch of cayenne. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on December 11, 2020
      • Reply
  • I don’t usually alter your recipes but this time I omitted the cinnamon and molasses and added kidney beans. Nice balance of flavors. Spicy but not too hot. As per your suggestion, made cornbread muffins. Overall, a satisfying winter meal.

    • — Niki on December 9, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I have made this recipe many times and LOVE IT!!!
    Today I wanted to make it but found I did not have any tomato paste. how crucial is it to use tomato paste? Is there a substitute for tomato paste? Thanks in advance!!

    • — Debbie Rodriguez on November 30, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Debbie, while the tomato paste lends a slightly more intense tomatoey flavor, feel free to substitute it with plain tomato sauce. And glad you like it!

      • — Jenn on December 1, 2020
      • Reply
  • If I want to make a single vegetarian serving and the rest no vegetarian, could I just add the meat at the end?

    • — Liza on November 2, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Liza, I wouldn’t recommend it. The vegetarian version will just taste like chunky tomato sauce — sorry!

      • — Jenn on November 3, 2020
      • Reply
  • I making this chili for the first time period what can I substitute the cornmeal for?

    • — Tiffany on October 31, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Tiffany, you can omit the cornmeal (the chili will just be a bit thinner). If you have corn tortillas on hand, you could grind a few up in a food processor and use them. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on November 2, 2020
      • Reply
  • This is really good. I substituted a few chipotle peppers and adobe sauce for the chipotle chili powder and a few tablespoons of brown sugar for the molasses. I typically don’t use a recipe for my chili, rather a “kitchen sink” style. When this is done simmering today, I’m going to pour over some cooked penne, top with some mexican cheese and bake it!

    • — Brett in Portland on October 25, 2020
    • Reply
  • This recipe is wonderful! I made almost exactly, with the exception of the cinnamon and molasses, which I omitted as I just don’t enjoy sweet in my savory. I needed a recipe to use up some of my excess poblanos and tomatoes and this was a home run! Will definitely be making again.

    • — Rachel Harrington on October 12, 2020
    • Reply
  • Sadly I did not care for the texture of the meat with using the baking soda. Flavors otherwise are good, so by no means a flop. It’s rare I’m not super enthused by Your recipes. I guess it had to happen eventually.

    • — Evelyn Drake on September 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • This is so good!!
    Thank you! Will be my go to Chili recipe!!
    Great recipe to add too ~~ we like kidney beans and canned mushrooms in our chili–but other than that addition followed the recipe to a T 🙂

    • — Jen on September 28, 2020
    • Reply
  • I made this chili tonight. It was the best chili I have ever made. I didn’t have ancho chili so I substituted regular chili powder. Also, I did not use molasses and I added a can of kidney beans with 30 minutes to go. Delicious!

    • — Russ on September 4, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made the night before last. As usual it was perfect. Made Fritos Pie with it and added pickled jalapeños for extra kick. Adding the baking soda to the meat was noticeable. Wife commented on the texture within first few bites. Very Nice!!

    • — Robert H. Gibbs on May 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • Made this tonight and served in homemade bread bun bowls. A big hit.

    • — Chris the cook on May 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • This sounds delicious, but I don’t have any beef broth. Can I substitute beer for the beef broth?

    • — Maria on May 9, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Maria, I’d probably go with 2 cups of water and one cup of beer. You may need to add an additional pinch of salt. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it this way!

      • — Jenn on May 12, 2020
      • Reply
      • Can I add beans to the chili?

        • — Stephanie on June 9, 2020
        • Reply
        • Definitely!

          • — Jenn on June 10, 2020
          • Reply
  • This was some of the best chili I have ever made/ had. I’m not really into beef but my family is and with all the canned goods we have stocked up wanted to put them to good use. I did add two kinds of beans at the end, used chili powder but not specific types listed. I think the cinnamon really gave this a great flavor and perhaps the cornmeal which I’ve never used in chili before gave the sauce a great consistency. Served over halved baked potatoes. Thank you!

    • — Jennifer on March 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Recently made this recipe and used chili powder instead of ancho chili powder because I could not find it. I did add a can of black beans, rinsed. It was simple to make and very tasty. I thought it had enough heat, my husband would have liked more. It will be made again.

    • — Annette on February 24, 2020
    • Reply
  • I’ve made it three times and it’s the best chili I’ve ever had! The first time I made it I was concerned about the heat concerning some older guests but sour cream leveled the spice factor. It’s delicious!

    • — Glenna Ross on February 22, 2020
    • Reply
  • I first became a fan of Jenn’s recipes after making her pumpkin bread (so delicious!)… After trying out a few random chili recipes and not LOVING any of them, I tried this recipe. Let me tell you, it is my husband’s favorite version and the only one we make now! It is easy and doesn’t require a ton of work or ingredients. It seems a lot more “runny” than your typical chili at first, but it magically adjusts and isn’t too soupy. Once the chili has been in the refrigerator overnight, I’ll skim the visible, hardened fat off of the top.

    Such a great recipe!

    • — Michelle R. on February 13, 2020
    • Reply
  • I think our taste buds are just different from most, or maybe we are just too accustomed to the spicy southwest/Texas-style chili recipes that I’ve made for years. I made this recipe yesterday as a winter storm blew through, and followed the recipe except for using only half of the molasses (thinking I could add the remainder later) and I did add beans at the end. Neither of us liked it – we found it a bit weird – and I am threw away the leftovers. For us the cinnamon was probably the problem, but I won’t try again. The “softer” texture of the ground beef (from the baking soda) also was different, like turkey maybe but with beef flavor. On the other hand we generally LOVE your recipes and are big fans of most we’ve tried. I’m baffled and re-checked the recipe to see if there was something I had missed – tried adding salt, then cayenne… then gave up. (I wondered if we would have liked it better if we didn’t think of it as chili, but decided probably not.)

    • — Judy on February 5, 2020
    • Reply
    • Sorry this one was a miss for you, Judy!

      • — Jenn on February 6, 2020
      • Reply
    • It is very different and I thought it was epic.

      • — Becky Ceelen on May 29, 2020
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  • This chili is excellent!! Only sorry I didn’t have more leftovers. I’ll be making it again very soon!

    • — Glenna on February 3, 2020
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    • Family favourite – added a couple cans of black beans, kidney beans and frozen corn.

      • — Michael Samis on February 8, 2020
      • Reply
  • What a fabulous chili! It’s thick and yum and just how my family loves it. I made it last night and let it sit overnight in the fridge. It turned out to be the perfect Super Bowl Chili. Thank you!

    • — MJ on February 2, 2020
    • Reply
  • Hi! I usually have Grandma’s molasses in my pantry but not today. I have black strap molasses, I’m thinking the tablespoon might be too much, how about a 1/2 T? Thank you!

    • — Glenna on February 1, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yes, Glenna, I’m guessing I may be responding too late to be helpful, but I think 1/2 tablespoon sounds about right.

      • — Jenn on February 4, 2020
      • Reply
  • We all love chili – your looks and sounds delicious, however the sodium count is high, over 1700. Too much sodium is unhealthy. I would love “skinnier” sodium version for all recipes. I give a “2” because of the high sodium. Thanks.

    • — Lynn on January 31, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Lynn, yes, this one is pretty high in sodium. Feel free to use low sodium beef broth and reduce the salt.

      • — Jenn on January 31, 2020
      • Reply
  • Jenn am making Coney Dogs for two couples for Superbowl and have been searching for a recipe for a chili without beans. Having trouble finding one I like. If I make half a recipe how could I thin this out when I reheat it to go over the buns with the hot dogs. With a recipe from you. I KNOW it will be good.

    • — Carol Winkelman on January 30, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Carol, What a fun idea! I’d probably just thin it out with a little extra beef broth.

      • — Jenn on January 31, 2020
      • Reply
      • Actually gave it a couple of blasts with my immersion blender and added about 1/3 cp water. It was the perfect consistency to spoon over the jumbo Kosher hot dogs which I served in brioche hot dog buns with shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onions. The Coney Dog is reported to be a Detroit invention. Served with a sweet and sour red cabbage slaw and roasted potato wedges with EVO, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, dried rosemary, and Parmesan cheese…a big hit with all

        • — Carol Winkelman on February 4, 2020
        • Reply
        • Sounds delicious!

          • — Jenn on February 4, 2020
          • Reply
    • I don’t have corn meal. Only corn flour. Can I substitute?

      • — Nidhi on November 1, 2020
      • Reply
      • Sure, that should work. Enjoy!

        • — Jenn on November 2, 2020
        • Reply
  • My wife and I were on Maryland’s Eastern shore several years ago and were introduced to Brown Sugar Chili in a very popular restaurant. I tried several times to replicate the recipe, with little success. Finally, I used this recipe and added 2/3 cup of brown sugar (yes, 2/3 cup). We’ve made it made times and recently had a large group of friends over for a football game. Everybody brought a dish and the Brown Sugar Chili received rave reviews. Most did not stop at one bowl. Naturally, Jenn was given all the credit and I’m sure that this terrific site will have a few more loyal followers.

    • — David Lowry on January 21, 2020
    • Reply
  • Jenn, going to make this for Superbowl, what should I serve with it? Thanks. Carol

    • — Carol Winkelman on January 20, 2020
    • Reply
  • This IS the best chili! My husband’s coworker begs for it. I was never a huge chili fan until this recipe. Thank you so much!

    • — Elizabeth on January 19, 2020
    • Reply
  • Adding the baking soda to the ground beef made a BIG difference! Totally tender beef. With all of the other ingredients, this chili was total touchdown!

    • — Robin on January 17, 2020
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    • I also heard that baking soda helps those that have acid reflux.

      • — Cathy Kellen on February 21, 2020
      • Reply
  • Excellent. I added some canned black beans, but beyond that wouldn’t change a thing. Thanks so much!!

    • — Deb Boyce on December 20, 2019
    • Reply
  • Making this for Christmas Eve. Don’t want to make it sweet. So do I leave out both the cinnamon and molasses? Also adding a can of beans do I drain the red kidney beans or not? Would 1can be enough? Lastly, if it is too thick how much water do u usually add? Thank u, love all your receipts so far.

    • — Mary on December 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Mary, Yes, I would omit the molasses and cinnamon. One can of beans should be sufficient (but if you love beans, you could add two) and I would rinse and drain them before adding to the chili. If the chili is too thick, add water a few tablespoons at time until thinned to your liking. Glad you’re enjoying the recipes!

      • — Jenn on December 22, 2019
      • Reply
  • I prefer the non-sweet variation of this chili, but both are amazing. My house smelled great all day! It’s the perfect chili recipe.

    • — Chad on December 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • Thank you só much for this lovely recipe!! A warming dish for a Dutch climat. I have put a can of drained and rinsed red kidney beans in it 20 min before serving the sauce…. and the beans tastend greet because of the Ground Beef Chili sauce. I served it with Rice and the tortilla chips. A BIG Thank you for sharing this recipe 🎉

    • — Lisa Weis on November 25, 2019
    • Reply
  • I want to make this recipe for 12. Should I double everything in the recipe??

    Also, can this be made in a crock pot after initially browning, etc?

    Thanks Jenn … love your recipes!!

    • — Sharron Scheibel on November 14, 2019
    • Reply
    • Yes and yes — hope you enjoy! 🙂

      • — Jenn on November 14, 2019
      • Reply

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