Classic Chili

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

Chili is a winter mainstay at my house, and this is my go-to classic recipe. It is melt-in-your-mouth tender, thick, and richly flavored – perfect to serve over rice or pasta or scoop up with tortilla chips. I don’t add any beans, as my kids tend to eat around them, but feel free to add a can of your favorite drained beans for the last half hour of cooking, if you like.

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, and you can skim it off at the end.

What You’ll Need To Make Classic Chili

chili ingredientsStep-by-Step Instructions

Begin by combining the ground beef, salt, baking soda, and water in a large bowl.

how to make ground beef chili

Using your hands, mix until evenly combined. Let the beef mixture sit for 20 minutes. The baking soda raises the pH of the meat, helping to lock in moisture and accelerate browning. (I borrowed this tenderizing trick from Cook’s Illustrated; it works like a charm.)

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!

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Classic Beef Chili

This 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
  • ¾ 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
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ 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 ¼-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, 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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  • Hi Jenn, just wondering why you use Wesson Oil. Aren’t there better and healthier oils one could use?

    • — Greg LaRosa on February 3, 2022
    • Reply
    • Hi Greg, feel free to substitute it with another oil of your choice. 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 4, 2022
      • Reply
  • Yum, I made Chili recipe several times (I add black and kidney beans) and it is delicious.

    • — TomW on February 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • The baking soda certainly helps with browning and moisture retention but 1 tsp of it contains 1250 mg of sodium. So for folks like myself who are watching sodium levels in my food I prefer to leave it out. Other than that a really nice looking recipe.

    • — Rick on February 3, 2022
    • Reply
  • I made this last night in my cast iron dutch oven and although the flavor was fantastic, the bottom of my dutch oven was covered in burnt chili. I followed the instructions and simmered for two hours, but ended up wasting a full portion because it was all burnt on the bottom of the dutch oven. Any suggestions how to avoid this in the future?

    • — Matthew Marlotte on February 1, 2022
    • Reply
    • Sorry you had a problem with a portion of the chili getting stuck to your pan? Did you have the heat on low? If so, I’d just give it a stir periodically; that should definitely help. Glad you enjoyed it nevertheless!

      • — Jenn on February 1, 2022
      • Reply
  • This was a big hit! The flavors are well balanced and the meat wasn’t the usual dried out beef that happens in most chili dishes.

    • — Kathy on January 16, 2022
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  • Another winner Jenn. Made exactly as written. Delish! Mixing the meat with the baking soda before browning really does make a difference. Tonight I shared the chili with our friends across the way and she even commented on the meat. Another five star dish! Love your website and love your recipes. Thank you!

    • — cindy on January 15, 2022
    • Reply
  • Made this for dinner tonight and it was delicious. The combination of spices are perfectly balanced. Another winner from Jen!

    • — JanM on January 10, 2022
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  • Hi Jenn~
    This chili was excellent…like most of the recipes I try on your site. It was flavourful and tasty without being overly spicy. Everyone loved it, and I’ve been told to “put it on the menu”. Thanks for another wonderful addition to my recipe binder. I will definitely be making this chili again.
    All the best!

    • — Lena Cole on January 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    I’m going to be making one of your chili recipes and serving it with cornbread. should I include a salad and which one would be a good choice? Thank you

    • — BARBARA RIDDLE on December 27, 2021
    • Reply
  • Another fantastic recipe. This Chili was amazing. I will never use another recipe again. I did add a few more cloves of garlic and a little salt nothing had to be adjusted. It could have been that I used no salt broth. I can’t wait to have leftovers today!

    • — Leslie J. on December 26, 2021
    • Reply
  • Yet another winner. Very different from any of the other chili recipes I’ve tried throughout the years but wonderful in its own right. Interestingly enough when I started the two hour simmer I would sample it and it was very spicy to me. However, by the end of the simmer, the flavors had mellowed and it was perfect. So many complex flavors. More flavor than heat; which I prefer bc I’m super sensitive to spicy stuff. Whenever I need the best recipe I just come here. All the work is done. And everything is easy to make!

    • — Dawn on December 17, 2021
    • Reply
  • I love this recipe. I love how simple and versatile it is. I’ve tried it several ways including as written. As written it’s interesting & unique but not classic. And not for everyone. Also very spicy. I ended up tweaking it by adding more garlic decreasing the chili powder to one tbs of each. It’s worth it to get the ancho, I can’t find it easily and have subbed reg chili powder but I can totally taste the difference. Now I stock up when I see it. I leave out the molasses and cinnamon and add one can of black and kidney beans toward the end of simmering and it’s the perfect chili for us! With or without the lime. I threw out my old recipe I used for years. Oh! I’ve also used water and chicken broth in lieu of the beef when I don’t have any. You can’t go wrong.

    Thanks for another keeper! I’m sure I’ll be passing this one down to my girls someday. 🙂

    • — Dani on December 9, 2021
    • Reply
  • I made this chili tonight for the first time. It was superb—absolutely restaurant-worthy! I only had 1/2 pound of ground beef on hand, so I used that and added a large can of red kidney beans. Also had no beef broth, so I substituted vegetable broth instead. The blend of flavors and seasonings was delicious, and my wife and I loved the hint of smokiness from the smoked paprika. This will now be my go-to chili recipe!

    • — Jeff from Maine on November 23, 2021
    • Reply
  • I’m making this chili and have many many times, my favorite. However, today I opened a can of crushed tomatoes fire roasted and hesitated because I’m making it for guests tomorrow and luckily found regular crushed tomatoes in my pantry. Out of curiosity, do you think the fire roasted would have affected the taste? And thank you for what you do, you’ve been my go to for years. Thanks Jen!

    • — Glenna Ross on November 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Glenna, so glad you like it! Fire roasted tomatoes would have just added a slightly smoky flavor to the chili.

      • — Jenn on November 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • Wow, I didn’t think that adding the baking soda to the beef would make that much of a difference by it certainly did! Thank you again, Jenn – another fabulous recipe to add to my growing list from your amazing website!

    • — LMRM on November 18, 2021
    • Reply
  • Can I substitute Impossible Ground Beef (not using the baking soda)?

    • — Karen Stafford on October 30, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Karen, I’ve never worked with impossible ground beef so I can’t say for sure – I’m sorry! If you do try it, I’d love to hear how it turns out!

      • — Jenn on November 1, 2021
      • Reply
  • This is a great recipe! I have tended to favor chicken or turkey chilis for the very reason that ground beef can get so dried out (and I love your White Chili). The simple countertop tenderizing prep really works. Delicious and flavorful, but not too spicy. I did add a can of Bush’s mixed pinto/kidney beans, and we served with cheddar, sour cream and chopped scallions toppings. We also made a package of the Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits, and they were the perfect complement. Will definitely make again.

    • — PaulainVA on October 15, 2021
    • Reply
    • Did you add beans and liquid or were they drained first?

      • — Kym on October 16, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Kym, just in case she doesn’t see your comment, I’d suggest draining and rinsing the beans. Hope you enjoy!

        • — Jenn on October 18, 2021
        • Reply
  • I made this chili this week and everyone loved it. It has all the same ingredients we’ve always used to make chili, but in all different amounts. Yours is the BEST. Thank you.

    • — Cindy on October 11, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn. I’m going to try this chili this week. I couldn’t find chipotle chili powder in my store and didn’t have time to chase it up. Can I use one of those chipotle peppers in adobo (chopped up) instead for the smokiness? Thanks for your help.

    • — Lori on September 13, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, Lori, that should be fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 13, 2021
      • Reply
  • 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
    • What a great idea! Thanks for sharing!

      • — Kristie on September 18, 2021
      • Reply
    • I think you are a genius too! What a great idea, thanks for sharing!

      • — Glenna Ross on November 22, 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
    • 🙂

      • — 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Reply
  • 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
    • Warms my soul. Easy, fail-proof recipe. I love the molasses and pinch of cinnamon…really rounds out the flavor. One can easily beef up the heat (no pun intended). I like to add red beans and an assortment of toppings: cheese, diced onion, avocado.

      • — Elizabeth on November 1, 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
    • Hi Kerrin,
      If you admit that the reason the recipe didn’t turn out to be 5 stars was because of your own substitution, then why give stars at all? I appreciate the tip, and I think it is good that you commented, but by rating the recipe lower because of your error, it affects the overall rating for Jenn. Just my two cents.

      • — Kelly on November 5, 2021
      • Reply
      • Kelly, totally agree. Nice suggestion but unfair to rate unless made exactly as written.

        • — Linda Brown on February 3, 2022
        • 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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