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!

Large bowl of chili with jalapenos in the background.


I’ve been making classic beef and bean chili in our home for years now and every time I make it a little differently.  

Sometimes I’ll add a little cinnamon, other times a little extra heat; sometimes I’ll use ground turkey, or even cubed chuck for a Chili Colorado.

So this recipe for classic chili with ground beef is based on hundreds of runs with chili culminating in a perfect recipe that I know you will love.

And if you’re looking for a lighter chili, check out our white chicken chili with roasted poblano peppers.

Recipe ingredients

All ingredients for this recipe are shown in the pic below and special notes are made in this bulleted list to assist you.

Ingredients shown: vegetable oil, tomato paste, dark chocolate, chile powder and spices, whole dried chiles, kidney beans, onion, tortilla chips, beef stock, ground chuck, and beer.
  • Ground beef. I prefer to use 80/20 ground chuck for the best possible flavor.
  • Chiles. 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 I’m using 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.  
  • 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.
  • Beef stock. Use low-sodium beef base or homemade beef stock.
  • Guinness. This is a wonderful addition to chili but you could also use other types of stout, dark beer, or ale. If you can’t have alcohol, you can omit it and use extra beef stock.
  • Cinnamon and chocolate. These two ingredients enhance the flavor and depth of this chili.

See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.

How to make it

Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.

  1. Remove the stems and seeds from 2 dried ancho chiles and 2 dried chipotle chiles. (Photo #1)
  2. 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. (Photo #2)
Classic chili recipe process shot collage group number one with removing seeds and toasting dried peppers and blooming spice in pan.
  1. 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. (Photo #3)
  2. Add the toasted spices along with the dried peppers and a 1/4 cup of tortilla chips to a food processor or coffee grinder and blend until a fine powder is formed, then set aside. (Photo #4)
  3. 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. (Photo #5)
  4. 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 1/4 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. (Photo #6)
Recipe process shot collage group number two with beef and onions in pot, spices cooked in pan being added to pot, tomato added to pot.
  1. Once the beef is cooked, add the bloomed spice mixture to the beef and continue to cook for another minute while stirring to incorporate. (Photo #7)
  2. 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. (Photo #8)
  3. 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. (Photo #9)
  4. 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. (Photo #10)
Recipe process shot collage group number three with beans and guinness added to pot, pot with lid, pot after 75 minutes, finished chili.
  1. 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. (Photo #11)
  2. 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 1/2 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! (Photo #12)
Large Dutch oven with classic chili and large wooden ladle.

Top tips

  • 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.
Bowl of chili topped with jalapeno, cheddar cheese, and sour cream.

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 Chili Recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.

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Classic Chili

5 from 18 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 2 hours
Total: 2 hours 15 minutes
Servings: 8
Classic chili with ground beef and beans flavored with smoky chipotle and ancho chiles, cumin, and cinnamon.

Ingredients 

  • 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 1/2 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
  • 1/4 cup crushed tortilla chips

Instructions 

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 1/4 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!

Notes

  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 768kcal | Carbohydrates: 75.3g | Protein: 45.6g | Fat: 30.4g | Saturated Fat: 10.3g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 814mg | Potassium: 1620mg | Fiber: 17.3g | Sugar: 9g | Calcium: 121mg | Iron: 9mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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54 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is by far THE best chili ever! The dark chocolate really elevates the flavor profile. Finding your website and your YouTube channel is the best thing that’s ever happened to my cooking. It’s quickly become my go to website. Thank you for sharing such wonderful and delicious recipes with us.

    1. I have made this a gazillllllion times it’s our favorite! Today I was hoping to make it in the crockpot since we’ll be gone getting our Christmas tree… do you suggest high or low for how long?

      1. Hi Elizabeth, we haven’t tested this recipe in a crockpot but I’m sure you could do it on low for 6 hours or so and it would be great. Hope you enjoy!

  2. 5 stars
    You’re welcome, Jim! The left overs made a terrific nacho/cheese platter. I was out of fresh Jalapeño, so I subbed green pepper with tomato and onion making for a fresh taste. Best chili I’ve ever made, and I’m old, lol.

  3. 5 stars
    Thank you for this excellent recipe. I chose to stew the onions in the beer for 15 min after a sauté was the only adjustment. Delicious chili enjoyed by the entire family.

  4. Didn’t have a food processor, so I used a blender for the ancho and chipotle chilis; there were some pebble sized bits of chili left, but it wasn’t noticeable after cooking. I think there was a touch too much cumin for my taste, but it was still delicious, thanks for sharing!

  5. Mine is in the oven now
    As recommended I will serve it tomorrow with some rice and you know
    Pretty looking forward to it
    Thanks
    Greetings from Belgium

  6. 5 stars
    This was absolutely the best chili I have ever made! I kept it on the mild side due to family members preferences, and had to use Fritos instead of tortilla chips. I made it with a couple pounds of steak. Everyone loved it! The flavor was soo good!

    1. Hi Moe, thanks for the comment. We will have a video out in a few weeks for this recipe. Our goal is to have a video for each recipe on our site, but there is much more involved with producing, filming, and editing a video. We don’t film our videos with our phones. We always provide step-by-step process photos to walk you through the recipe regardless of whether there is a video.