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.

veggies-1

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

veggies-2

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

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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

Powered by Edamam

  • 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, Edamam.com. 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’ve made this several times, follow the recipe exactly. I freeze the leftovers for future chili dogs. I pour the cooled chili into a cupcake pan and then put the pan in the freezer. The next day I dip the bottom of the pan in hot water to release the chili. I seal each “chili puck” into a small bag using my seal -a – meal & toss them back into the freezer. Each chili puck is perfect for 2-3 hot dogs. We are empty nesters & this is a great way to utilize a pot of chili. My husband thinks I’m a genius. Thanks Jenn for the great recipe.

    • — Barbara B. on July 28, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a great recipe and my go-to — it’s delicious and low fuss. I tweak it by replacing half the ground beef with beans, and usually sub whole chilies for chili powder (reconstituted in hot water and pureed).

    • — Steph on June 13, 2021
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  • I would give this six stars if I could. It is my go-to chili recipe and would never make another after trying this. My only tweak is to throw in some black beans with the crushed tomatoes.

    • — Deb B on May 9, 2021
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  • Fantastic! Spouse said it was the best chili he’s ever had and that’s saying a lot because he’s known for his crowd pleasing football chili. I added a jalapeño and a couple chipotles because we like it spicy. The layering of flavors was so good. Delicious!

    • — Carol D. on March 31, 2021
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  • Once again, Jenn I get to thank you for enhancing my dinner rotations. This chili recipe has such a great depth of flavor! I’ve been using the same “reliable” recipe for years, but your recipe elevates chili to a new level. I did add cannelloni beans. You are my daily chef reference.

    • — Darcy on March 28, 2021
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    • 🙂

      • — Jenn on March 29, 2021
      • Reply
  • I never leave reviews but wanted to for this recipe. This is a truly, fantastic chili recipe. Best I’ve ever made! Only addition I make, as a self-respecting Texan with some border roots, is to use dried ancho and chipotle peppers, rehydrated and skin-scraped if you’ve got access to them. I still add in the other dry seasonings you call for.

    • — Cindy on February 28, 2021
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  • My wife just made the Chili for us (I find the recipes and she cooks them). We left out the Chipotle chili powder and it turned out great. It is by far the best chili that we have ever had. Keep up the good work and thank you for doing such a great job.

    • — Steven Syzdek on February 26, 2021
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  • Big chili fan and always looking for new formulas. Love your site. Wondering how the baking soda benefits this recipe? Does it help with browning the beef?

    • — KennyO on February 18, 2021
    • Reply
    • Glad you like the site! Baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning. Hope you enjoy the chili if you make it!

      • — Jenn on February 18, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is DYNAMITE! So delicious. You never fail. Thanks.

    • — Peggy on February 18, 2021
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  • Hi Jenn,
    Loved this chili but how can I make it a little less spicy for my chili obsessed 15 month old grandson? He is a huge fan of JG Melon chili in NYC which is very similar to this recipe in consistency but is less spicy. Thanks!! Love ALL your recipes!!

    • — robyn on February 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it, Robyn! You can replace the chipotle chili powder with regular chili powder.

      • — Jenn on February 15, 2021
      • Reply
  • This chili recipe is sooooo good. Love it. I did not add the molasses and did add a can of red kidney beans. It was a little spicy for me so next time maybe I’ll do 1/2 tbsp of the chipotle chili powder instead of 1 tbsp.

    • — Kim Clack on February 12, 2021
    • Reply
  • Flavors are amazing but mine is so soupy.

    • — Ann K on February 11, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Ann, To thicken it, just continue simmering, uncovered, until you reach your desired consistency.

      • — Jenn on February 11, 2021
      • Reply
  • Made this for family and it was a major hit! The ground beef was so tender and everyone was in awe at how this ground beef stood out in chili (after mocking me for following your recipes to a T!). Once again, another Jenn Segal recipe that does not disappoint <3 Added a can of red pinto beans and a little extra ground beef. Delicious.

    • — Taylor on February 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • A solid 4-4.5 stars because of a spice choice I made. I couldn’t find ancho chili powder at any grocery store so I substituted guajillo chili powder. I had never tried either before but figured, based on Googling, that they were similar enough. After getting everything in the pot and simmering away I realized that I was going to have a problem with the chili. The fragrance from the guajillo was very off-putting for me. It’s incredibly floral, almost tea-like, and I just didn’t like it. My husband thought it smelled delicious so, again, this was a personal problem. After cooking for 2 hours the meat was amazing texture-wise; the liquid consistency was perfect; and the color was amazing. We ate it with Fritos (à la Frito Pie), shredded cheese, and guacamole. It was actually rather delicious. The Fritos added a bit of a stronger corn flavor that helped mellow the fragrance/taste of the guajillo. We had some leftovers tonight and the flavors have melded wonderfully. I can still smell the guajillo but it’s not nearly as strong. I won’t be using that chili powder the next time I make this, that’s for sure. I wrote all this to say that be careful of which spices you add if you’ve never tasted them before. I fully believe the next time I make this it will be a full 5-star dish.

    • — Kerrin on February 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made a double portion for Super Bowl. It was a huge hit. I personally prefer Jenn’s white chicken chili but our son asked for a beef version. Excellent! I made it the day before and all I needed to do on game day was reheat and put out the toppings. I would STRONGLY advise making the cornbread. It was delicious. 5-minute prep and a great combo. Will definitely make again.

    • — Joe Hanlon on February 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’m sorry, we really did not enjoy this recipe.

    • — Min on February 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • Great beef chili recipe! It was perfect for Super Bowl Sunday! We gave some to our neighbors and they loved it too! Liked the spices utilized( which I had in my pantry) and the addition of molasses and cinnamon!

    • — Joyce J Adams on February 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this for Super Bowl! Added celery and beans.

    • — Yvonne on February 7, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this tonight as written (for the Super Bowl tomorrow) and no more searching for chili recipes because this is it. The depth of flavors is excellent and the baking soda perfectly tenderizes the ground beef. Will make again and again. Thank you!

    • — Jennifer on February 6, 2021
    • Reply
  • Plan to make this for SuperBowl. I apologize if this has already been asked…..can this recipe be made substituting ground turkey and chicken broth in place of the beef and beef broth. My husband has to stay away from red meat. Thank you so much!

    • — Vikki L. on February 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Vikki, I actually have a turkey chili recipe and I’d go that route instead. Hope you enjoy if you make it! 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 5, 2021
      • Reply
      • Great recipe, did the recipe exactly as indicated in instructions and turned out extraordinary.
        Thanks Jenn for this great recipe. My family loved it!!!

        • — Florence on February 7, 2021
        • Reply
  • Great recipe! I used 1/2 beef and 1/2 pork and substituted some of the liquid with an amber beer! It’s was both meaty and saucy! Definitely will make this a regular!

    • — Ginger on February 4, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’m always making new recipes for chili. Waiting to find that recipe that is just the best. For years I’ve done the cincinnati chili, and that was well received … But this one my family LOVED .. especially 2 days later. I’m a vegetarian, so unfortunately I can’t speak from personal experience. But my husband and 3 boys are big chili eaters, so if they loved it, it must have been great!

    • — Kimberly on February 3, 2021
    • Reply
  • It’s a rare chilly night in South Louisiana, and your ground beef chili recipe was ‘just what the doctor ordered”. Followed recipe to the letter. Delicious!

    • — Brenda on February 2, 2021
    • Reply
  • Love this recipe and the instructions and ingredients are always so easy to follow!

    • — Donna Walczyk on February 1, 2021
    • Reply
  • Made this several times. When I don’t have a certain ingredient, I try to find a replacement. Either way, this chili is super yummy. Apparently the internet has caught onto the baking soda ground beef trick as I recently read a “hack” about it. Thank goodness Jenn introduced us to this a while back. Thank you, Jenn, for your hard work and wonderful recipes.

    • — Diana F. on January 30, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is really an excellent chili. I use more onions, don’t use red peppers or molasses and it turns out great every time. After adding the lime juice, I usually serve with chopped tomatoes, finely chopped red onions, avocado, mexican cheese blend and sour cream. It is a huge hit every time I make it. Thank you Jenn!

    • — Judy on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • This is a good classic chili that is easily adaptable. My family loves beans so I usually add some pinto beans if I have them. Delicious and easy!

    • — Susanna Dike on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • I emailed Jenn about the baking soda and was surprised to learn about how it affects the ground meat. Now I do it all the time when I make chili. This is an excellent recipe and my family loves it. I do add one can of kidney beans in addition to the other ingredients. I love cooking from scratch and this is worth the time.

    • — Michelle OLoughlin on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • MY GO-TO Chili Recipe

    This chili recipe is thumbnailed on every device I own. So easy and the baking soda tip is such a difference maker! (**question, do I increase that amount as I increase my beef amount? I have been. Just checking.)
    I also add beans (garbanzos, black and dark red pintos) because my family loves them and I need it to go farther for my huge fam of athletes. I add roasted corn too when I have it. My adult son called me last night to tell me he and his gf and her brother had the chili I had given him and they will be needing mire because they all loved it. Lol. Good thing yesterday I had made 20 qts more!
    In summary, make this, freeze it, always have it on hand!

    • — Melanie on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • Very good. I do add beans at the end for our preference but this is a great tasting chili. I sometimes use masa to thicken in p,ace of the cornmeal. Freezes well, too.

    • — MaryB on January 29, 2021
    • Reply
  • Our go to chili recipe. Everyone loves it!! I do add a little more liquid and toss dried lentils in too.

    • — Jena k on January 28, 2021
    • Reply

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