Win the next chili cook off with this award winning, easy homemade chili recipe.  Make this classic comfort food in the crock pot or on the stovetop.  Packed full of ground beef, beans, and veggies, this healthy chili is perfect for a crowd and is slow simmered for the best flavor.

Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
person holding a large bowl of chili
Comfort Food, Soups & Stews

Easy Homemade Chili Recipe

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This post was originally published on September 28, 2017.

Want to win the next chili cook off in your town?  Learn how to make award winning chili with our easy homemade chili recipe.  It meets all the requirements: a touch of spiciness, thick texture, perfect seasoning, lots of beans, ground beef, and veggies.  It’s comfort food at it’s finest, and it’s so easy to throw together with our stove top and crock-pot versions.

person holding a large bowl of chili

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What side dishes go with homemade chili?

In the southern US, most people prefer cornbread with their chili, but here are some other suggestions.

  • Corn muffins
  • Warmed flour tortillas that have been buttered, rolled up tightly, and cut in half.  (A Peruvian twist.)
  • Hot buttered toast
  • Light garden salad for some crunch.
  • Homemade crusty bread which is fantastic for dipping.

What beans should I use to make chili?

  • Dried or canned red kidney beans
  • White beans
  • Pinto beans or black beans

person holding a large spoonful of chili

Can I make chili in a crock-pot?

  • Yes, you can make chili in a crock-pot.
  • Brown the hamburger and the veggies in a skillet first.
  • Place all the ingredients in a large 10 quart crock-pot or two smaller ones.  Mix well, then cover.
  • Cook on low for 6 to 10 hours or on high for 4 hours.  Stirring occasionally.
  • Taste and adjust seasonings.

What toppings should I serve with chili?

Toppings are optional, but they really make chili even better.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream (adds creaminess and tones down spiciness)
  • Green onions or chives
  • Fresh cilantro or fresh parsley
  • Diced fresh tomatoes, or diced avocado
  • Fresh or pickled jalapeños
  • Tortilla chips or crumbled bacon
  • Lime wedges

bowl of chili with cornbread, wooden spoon, and toppings

What can I use leftover chili for?

Chili is wonderful to use in other recipes to make a new twist on your leftovers.  Below are some ideas to try:

  • Baked potato. Scoop out some potato and fill it with chili.
  • Chili mac. Combine the chili with your favorite mac and cheese and stir together.
  • Chili cheese dogs. Chili is great on top of grilled hot dogs in a bun.
  • Navajo tacos. Strain the liquid and place on fry bread.
  • Shepherd’s pie. Place the chili on the bottom and mashed potatoes on top.
  • Skillet chili cornbread. Place the chili on the bottom and cook the cornbread batter on top in a cast iron skillet.

bowl of chili with a wooden spoon

What seasonings can I use to make homemade chili?

Don’t use the chili seasoning packets at the grocery store; make your own custom spice blend instead.  It’s not hard to do, and you’ll drastically improve the flavor of your chili.

It’s probably not surprising to find out that the most common spices for chili are chili powder, salt, and black pepper.  If you want to win a chili cook off, you’ll need some other spices to customize your chili.  Here are some suggestions that can end up being your secret ingredient.

  • Smoked paprika
  • Cumin or coriander
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • White vinegar
  • Beef bouillon cubes or beef base powder
  • Cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes
  • Oregano and basil
  • White or brown sugar
  • Cocoa powder or cinnamon

Can you freeze homemade chili?

  • Yes, chili freezes really well!
  • Allow the chili to cool to room temperature before freezing.
  • Place the chili in airtight container or freezer zip top bags.  Lay the bags flat in the freezer; a thin layer of chili will thaw quicker.
  • Thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
  • Chili can be frozen for up to 3 months.

How to Make Easy Homemade Chili from Scratch

Gather all your ingredients.  I used two pounds of dried red kidney beans, Camelia brand and the quick soak method.  It’s a lot of beans, but we like it that way.  To help start your prep, chop the onion and the green bell pepper in small even pieces.  The no salt diced tomatoes pictured below have chilies in them for some extra spice.

meat, beans, tomatoes, onions, and peppers

Slice the mushrooms, and dice the celery.  Measure out your spices, oil, white vinegar, no salt diced tomatoes, and spicy low sodium vegetable juice.

tomatoes, mushrooms, celery, tomato juice, and spices

Brown the two pounds of ground beef in a bit of olive oil over medium high heat.  Use a wooden turner to help break up the beef so the texture is just right.  Once cooked, drain the fat and place in another bowl.

draining browned ground beef with a slotted spoon

In the same soup pot or skillet, saute the celery, green pepper and mushrooms in a bit of hamburger fat, over medium high heat for a few minutes.

cooking the mushrooms, celery, and peppers in a pot

Add the chopped onion and continue sauteing, over medium high heat.

adding chopped onions to pot of cooked veggies

Stir with a wooden spoon.   Cook the veggies until soft but not browned.

cooking onions and other veggies in a pot

If making in the crockpot, transfer the cooked veggies and the cooked hamburger to a large 10 quart crock pot and proceed with the following steps.

If making on the stovetop, use a 10 to 12 quart stock pot.  Dump the 3 cans of diced tomatoes and the 3 cans of diced tomatoes with chilies into the big soup pot.

adding tomatoes to a large pot

Add the quick soaked Camelia red kidney beans.  If you prefer, to use canned red kidney beans, rinse them well and buy the no salt version.  Pour in the spicy vegetable juice for extra flavor and zing.

pouring tomato juice into a large pot of chili

Add the cooked ground beef.  If you want to substitute, use ground turkey or ground chicken.  If you want to add more meat, add some cook ground Italian sausage too.

adding ground beef to a large pot of chili

Add your spices.  Chili powder will give the chili some kick.  2 tablespoons will be for a mild version, 3 tablespoons will be a bit spicier.  White vinegar is also added for a bit of tang.  With the rest of the spices, start off with a little bit of each one: 1/2 teaspoon of salt and black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  More salt and black pepper will be added after cooking for an hour.   If you are using the crock pot version, add 3 1/2 teaspoons of salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper right from the start.  If you want it spicier, add a bit more red pepper flakes near the end.

person holding a plate of seasonings above a pot of chili

With a wooden spoon, stir the chili to get all the ingredients mixed together.  Cover the large soup pot.  Over medium high heat, bring the chili to a boil stirring every 4 to 5 minutes to prevent any of the chili from burning on the bottom of the pot.  Once it is boiling, turn the heat down to medium low and let it simmer covered for an hour – stirring occasionally.

stirring a pot of chili

After an hour, taste the chili and add 3 teaspoons of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper.  Cover and simmer for another two hours on low, stirring every once and a while.

During the last 1/2 hour of cooking, taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary.

person holding a ladle full of chili

When ready to eat, sprinkle on your favorite toppings.  Pictured below is grated extra sharp cheddar cheese and green onion.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a big wedge of fresh skillet cornbread smothered in butter.  Yum!

person sprinkling cheese on a bowl of chili

Pro Tips for Making Chili

  • Brown the ground beef in oil for best texture and flavor.
  • Want to use dried kidney beans?  Quick soak the beans first.  Cover the beans with water, boil for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and let sit for 1 hour.  Drain and rinse.
  • Want to use tomato paste?  Use a good quality brand and add 2 tablespoons up to 6 ounces, depending on how thick you want the chili.
  • Don’t want to use beans?  Cut the diced tomatoes in half and increase the meat to give the chili more protein and substance.
  • Want more meat?  Add 1 pound of Italian sausage with the 2 pounds of hamburger or add some mexican chorizo for a spicy alternative.
  • Don’t want meat?  Increase the vegetables by adding zucchini, diced sweet potato, poblano peppers and corn kernels.
  • Don’t rush it.  Slow simmered chili is the best.  This takes time. 
  • Want to make it in the crock-pot?  Brown beef and veggies first, then dump all ingredients in the crock-pot.  Cook on low for 6 to 10 hours.
  • Want to mellow the spiciness?  Try adding a spoonful of sour cream to each serving.
  • Want to thicken the chili?  Cook longer without the lid on so some of the liquid can evaporate.
  • Want to thin the chili?  Add more spicy tomato juice or filtered water.
  • Want it spicier?  Add one or two seeded jalapeños, one or two canned chipotle peppers, more chili powder, or cayenne pepper.
  • Want it to taste the best?  Make the chili the day before, and you’ll increase your chances of winning the chili cook off.
  • Chili bar ideas: Sharp cheddar, sour cream, green onions, crushed tortilla chips, diced avocado, crumbled bacon, diced avocado, and lime wedges.
  • Have leftover chili?  Use chili on baked potatoes, hot dogs, fry bread, shepherd’s pie variation, chili macaroni, or nachos.

Imagine eating a steaming bowl of spicy chili served with a wedge of moist, crumbly cornbread – tonight.  Make it a reality.  It’s so worth it. 

Our Go-To Kitchen Tools for Making Chili

Love eating chili?  Check out these other skillet recipes on our blog.

skillet cornbread with a butter dish and kitchen towel skillet chilli cornbread with greenery Skillet Hamburger Mac: an easy weeknight dinner idea filled with hearty hamburger meat, macaroni noodles, and tomatoes. This pasta dish has been a family favorite for many years. |

The pleasure of a 5-star review for this award winning easy homemade chili recipe would be greatly appreciated.

person holding a large bowl of chili

Easy Homemade Chili Recipe

  • Author: Brooke
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 hours
  • Yield: 22 cups 1x


Win the next chili cook off with this award winning, easy homemade chili recipe.  Make this classic comfort food in the crock pot or on the stovetop.  Packed full of ground beef, beans, and veggies, this healthy chili is perfect for a crowd and is slow simmered for the best flavor.



For the Chili

  • 2 1/4 pounds ground beef, 80% meat, 20% fat (1.02 kg)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (15 ml)
  • 3 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes, no salt added (3 793g tins)
  • 2 pounds dried red kidney beans, quick soaked for 1 hour (907g)
  • 2 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped (326g)
  • 3 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes with chilies, no salt added (3 283g tins)
  • 8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced (226g)
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped (169g)
  • 1 cup celery, chopped (131g)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-sodium spicy tomato juice (590 ml)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar (30 ml)
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, if needed at the very end

For Garnish (Per Serving)

  • 1 tablespoon sour cream (15g)
  • 1 teaspoon green onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cheddar cheese, grated


Stovetop Version

  1. Quick soak the beans. Place the dried kidney beans in a 6-quart Dutch oven and cover with water.  Cover the pot with a lid and boil for 10 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let the pot sit on the element for 1 hour, then drain and rinse.  (I used Camelia brand dried red kidney beans.)
  2. Brown the ground beef.  Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat.  Add the ground beef and cook until browned, chopping it into small pieces with a metal spatula.  Drain well to remove excess grease.
  3. Cook the veggies.  Saute the onion, mushroom, green pepper, and celery in the large pot with some of the ground beef grease.
  4. Add the other ingredients.  Pour in the three cans of diced tomatoes, three cans of diced tomatoes with chilies, and the soaked red kidney beans.  Add the browned ground beef, sauteed vegetables, vinegar, chili powder, red pepper flakes, black pepper, salt, and spicy tomato juice.  Stir until well combined.
  5. Cook.  Place the lid on the pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer (medium low to start, then turn down to low) for three hours to meld the flavors.  Make sure to stir the chili occasionally so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
  6. Serve.  Garnish each bowl with sour cream, chopped green onion, and cheddar cheese and serve with a wedge of homemade cornbread.

Crock-Pot Version

  1. Follow steps 1-3 from above, using the stovetop.
  2. Put the browned ground beef, sauteed veggies, and all the other ingredients in the crock-pot.  Mix well with a large wooden spoon.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6-10 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.  Stir occasionally.
  4. Garnish each serving as in step 8 from above.


  • Reduce the chili powder to 2 tablespoons for mild chili.
  • The pleasure of a 5-star review for this easy homemade chili recipe would be greatly appreciated.
  • 👩🏻‍🍳 Want to see our latest recipes?  Subscribe to our email newsletter to get our latest recipes, fun food facts, food puns, and behind the scenes news about our blog.
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: chili recipe easy, how to make chili

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4 thoughts on “Easy Homemade Chili Recipe

  1. For me, the chili was a little bit spicy, but I’m usually sensitive to spiciness. 🙂 The chili looked good and tasted great! Of course, I would take seconds. I like all the toppings: sour cream, cheese, and green onions.

  2. This chili wasn’t too spicy. It looked very delicious and the beans, tomatoes, and mushrooms were very yummy. The beans blend nicely with the tomatoes, and the mushrooms are subtle. I would definitely take seconds! My favorite toppings are grated cheese and green onions.

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