Classic chili with beef and beans is one of our go-to comfort foods. Cumin, plus ancho and chipotle chiles lend a deep and smoky flavor to the beef while cinnamon and a little dark chocolate give it just the right balance. This chili is great served with sliced jalapeno, sour cream, and diced white onion. But truth be told, it has so much flavor, you don't even need any toppings!
We've been making classic beef and bean chili in our home for years now and every time we make it a little differently.
Sometimes we'll add a little cinnamon, other times a little extra heat; sometimes we'll use ground turkey, or even cubed chuck for a stew-like chili.
So this recipe for classic chili with ground beef is based on hundreds of runs with chili culminating in a perfect recipe that we know you will love.
Our secret here is that we've used whole dried chile peppers that are toasted and freshly ground to yield maximum flavor.
But if that doesn't suit you, we do include instructions to substitute with store-bought chili powder (more on that below).
Trust us, this really is the only classic chili recipe you'll ever need!
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Remove the stems and seeds from 2 dried ancho chiles and 2 dried chipotle chiles.
- In a pan over medium heat, toast the chiles for 30-40 seconds on each side until fragrant. Remove the chiles from the heat and set aside.
- To the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 3 tablespoons of ground cumin, and 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon and toast for 1 minute stirring frequently. Note: If you opt to not use dried whole chiles, increase the amount of chili powder to 5 tablespoons.
- Add the toasted spices along with the dried peppers and a ¼ cup of tortilla chips to a food processor or coffee grinder and blend until a fine powder is formed, then set aside.
- Dice one large onion and preheat the oven to 300f, placing a rack in the middle. Heat a large Dutch oven to medium heat and saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil for about 5 minutes or until soft. Add 2 pounds of ground beef chuck and saute until browned while breaking it up with a wooden spoon, about 7-10 minutes.
- While the beef is cooking, bloom the spice mixture by heating a pan to medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil along with the spices. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until very fragrant. Once fragrant, add ¼ cup of water to the pan. Note: You can scoop some of the beef fat out of the pot and use that instead of the vegetable oil for this step.
- Once the beef is cooked, add the bloomed spice mixture to the beef and continue to cook for another minute while stirring to incorporate.
- Add 6 ounces of tomato paste to the beef and cook for 3 minutes while stirring to combine. Then add 2 teaspoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of garlic powder and mix well.
- Add one 12-ounce bottle of Guinness or other dark beer, along with 2 cups of low-sodium beef stock, and 3 16-ounce cans of drained kidney beans. Bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once boiling, give it a stir, then turn the heat off. Place a lid on the Dutch oven and move to the oven for 75 minutes.
- After 75 minutes, remove the lid and return to the oven for another 45-60 minutes or until the chili has thickened substantially. Note: If the chili has thickened, feel free to remove the pot early or if needed add a touch of water. Most likely though, the chili will be on the more liquid side and will need to be thickened with the extra cooking time.
- For a thicker chili, cook uncovered for another 30 minutes. Alternatively, place the pot on a burner and cook over medium heat until thickened to your liking. Remove the pot from the oven and add 1 ½ ounces of 70% dark chocolate, stirring to combine. Taste test the chili and adjust salt and spice levels to taste. If more spice is desired, add cayenne powder to taste. Serve in bowls and offer toppings such as sour cream, diced raw onion, cheddar cheese, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, or any other toppings you'd like. Enjoy!
Top tips for incredible chili
- Spices. Since the flavor in chili relies heavily on the blend of spices used, we believe that going the extra step of freshly grinding whole-dried chiles is the best way to achieve maximum flavor. Here we've used a combination of ancho and chipotle chiles and find that blend gives us the perfect rich and smoky flavor we always crave in a chili. If you can't find whole dried peppers, you can always use store-bought ground chili powder or buy them through Amazon.
- Cinnamon and chocolate. Yes, these are two ingredients that are often in desserts, but we've found that they both go incredibly well in beef chili. The cinnamon is bloomed along with the other spices adding to the depth of flavor. The chocolate is added at the very end to add another layer of flavor and to cut a bit of the heat. Dark chocolate is one of those ingredients that pairs incredibly well with slow-cooked beef and we love adding it as a topping to other dishes like short ribs with pappardelle.
- Guinness. Guinness is a wonderful addition to chili but you could also use other types of stout, dark beer, or ale. We've used winter warmer style ales in chili before and find that the cinnamon and clove flavors also work incredibly well. If you can't have alcohol, you can forgo this and use extra low-sodium beef broth or stock.
- Beans. Kidney beans are a great addition to chili and allow the dish to stretch even further. Alternatively, you can use pinto or black beans for this recipe.
- Cooking the chili. This chili is great when slow-cooked in the oven, but you can still achieve great results on a stovetop. The idea is to cook the high-fat ground chuck in a low and slow manner until the desired thickness is achieved.
- Better the next day. As with any soup or stew, chili is better the next day. If you're able to plan ahead, allow your chili to chill in the fridge overnight, then reheat the next day.
- Condiments and sides. We all have our favorite condiments for chili so be as creative as you'd like. Must-have condiments for our family include sour cream, diced white onion, sliced jalapenos, cilantro, and cheddar cheese. While we usually add Tabasco or other hot sauces to our chili, we found that this particular version did not need any hot sauce as it was perfectly seasoned and flavored. We also usually serve chili with rice or cornbread which allows you to stretch the meal even further.
More beef recipes you'll love
If slow-cooked soups and stews are on your list of favorite comfort foods, we think you'll love these recipes.
- Beef barley soup - chunks of tender beef, carrots, and barley with fresh thyme.
- Peposo - Tuscan-style black pepper beef stew.
- Italian beef stew - beef braised with carrots, celery, and mushrooms.
If you’ve enjoyed this classic beef chili recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and leave a review.
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil divided
- 1 large onion diced
- 2 pounds ground chuck
- 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3 16-ounce cans kidney beans drained
- 1 12-ounce bottled Guinness
- 2 cups low sodium beef stock
- 1 ½ ounces 70% dark chocolate
- cayenne pepper to taste, see notes below
For the ground spice mixture
- 2 dried ancho chiles stems and seeds removed
- 2 dried chipotle chiles stems and seeds removed
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons chili powder note: if not using whole dried chiles increase to 5 tablespoons
- 3 tablespoons ground cumin
- ¼ cup crushed tortilla chips
For the ground spice mixture
- Remove the stems and seeds from the dried ancho and chipotle peppers. Toast the chiles in a dry pan over medium heat for 30 seconds per side or until fragrant. Remove chiles from the heat to a plate then add the chili powder, cumin, and cinnamon to the pan and toast for 1 minute stirring frequently.
- Place the peppers along with the chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, and tortilla chips into a food processor. Blend until a fine powder is formed.
For the chili
- Preheat oven to 300f and set the rack to the middle level.
- Heat a large Dutch oven to medium heat and saute the onion in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until soft (about 5 minutes).
- Add the ground beef and saute until browned while breaking it up with a wooden spoon (about 7 minutes).
- While the beef is cooking bloom the spice mixture. Heat a pan to medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil along with the prepared spice mixture. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until very fragrant. Once fragrant add a ¼ cup of water to the pan.
- Once the beef is browned add the bloomed spice mix to the beef and continue to cook for another 1 minute stirring to incorporate.
- Add the tomato paste to the beef and cook for 3 minutes stirring well to combine. Next, add the salt, sugar, and garlic powder and mix well.
- Add the Guinness, low-sodium beef stock, and kidney beans, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, give it all a stir then turn the heat off and cover. Place the Dutch oven in the oven for 75 minutes.
- After 75 minutes remove the lid and return to the oven for another 30-45 minutes or until the chili has thickened. For a thicker chili, cook uncovered for another 30 minutes. Alternatively, place the pot on a burner and cook over medium heat until thickened to your liking.
- Remove the pot from the oven and add the chocolate, stirring to combine. Taste test the chili and adjust salt and spice levels to taste. An easy way to bring up the spice level quickly is with cayenne powder to taste. Serve in bowls topped with sour cream, diced raw onion, cheddar cheese, or whatever you like. Enjoy!
- The single most important thing you can do to improve your chili is to make it one day in advance and refrigerate overnight! The flavors will be so much better.
- The amount of cayenne or omitting completely will depend on the spice level of the dried chilis and commercial chili powder you use. For this reason, it's recommended to wait until the end before adding the cayenne.
- Anaheim, Pasilla, or Guajillo can be substituted for the Ancho chiles.
- 2 dried ancho chiles equal approximately 2 tablespoons of chili powder and 2 dried chipotles equal approximately 1 tablespoon of chili powder. If using just ground chili powder increase from 2 to 5 tablespoons total.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated on the stovetop or in the microwave.