Congratulations, you’ve found the actual BEST Chili Recipe! It’s won dozens of cook-offs and is about to knock your socks off. Made with bacon (and the option to omit bacon if needed) and ground beef and simmered on the stove for just 30 minutes, this is my family’s go-to cool weather comfort food.
Chili Cook-Off Champion!
Something savory/cozy for you today because believe it or not Fall is here, which means cold weather and hearty comfort foods like baked ziti, my favorite meatball recipe, and this best chili recipe!
This recipe is actually one that I shared last year, and since then I’ve made it probably 50 times. Not only am I completely obsessed with it, as of this writing it’s also won over two dozen Chili Cook-offs! While I’ve never entered it into a cook-off myself, so many of you who have tried this chili recipe have commented or e-mailed me that it’s taken home first place and I don’t even know how to express how happy that makes me!
So, yeah, I do feel a little bit extra proud of this chili cook-off champ recipe right here.
Not only does it taste amazing, it’s shockingly simple to make. Basic, no-fuss ingredients and just 30 minutes of simmering yield a complex and rich flavor that’s simply unparalleled.
This best chili recipe (alternating weekly with my potato soup) is on regular dinner rotation for me as soon as the weather starts to dip below 70 degrees. It’s easy to make, incredibly filling, and the flavor is out of this world.
Let’s get started.
How to Make the Actual Best Chili Recipe
- Start with bacon! Cook until crisp, remove to a paper-towel lined plate, and reserve a bit of the grease for cooking your veggies. The flavor that develops from this step elevates a great chili recipe to the best chili recipe.
- Cook your onion and pepper until soft, add garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Add your ground beef, cook until mostly browned (but not all the way cooked through).
- Add all your seasonings.
- Stir well, cooking beef through.
- Add the remaining ingredients (and your bacon from step 1!), give everything a good stir, and allow to simmer for at least 30 minutes and until liquid is reduced.
Tip: Make your chili even better by choosing the right toppings when you serve it! Sour cream is a must, but shredded cheddar, corn chips, sliced jalapeños, avocado, or green onions are all great choices, too!
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, leftovers can be frozen in an airtight container for at least 3 months.
Kind of. For best flavor, you will still need to follow steps 1-4 of the recipe as written, then you can transfer everything to the crockpot and heat it there (I don’t add the bacon back in until I’m ready to serve). Cook on low until ready to serve.
The bacon imparts an incredible flavor and is the secret ingredient that makes this chili the best chili recipe and an award winner. If you’re entering a cook-off, use it! However, you can leave it out if you absolutely must. Please see the notes in the recipe for instructions on making this chili bacon-free.
I most often use 90% lean ground beef but any percentage will work just fine (I’ve used all of them, but usually end up draining some grease if I use 80%). Ground turkey or chicken or really any ground meat will work here, but keep in mind the flavor will be slightly altered!
What Goes Well with Chili?
Obviously, bread is my chili side-dishes of choice. Because this chili is so hearty and filling on its own, a slice of cornbread makes for a sufficient side for chili.
Enjoy, and make sure to check out my other easy dinner recipes!! And make sure you let me know what you think when you try this! I love hearing about the cook-offs it wins and if you really agree that it’s the all-time BEST chili recipe!
Let’s cook together! Make sure to check out the how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!
The Best Chili Recipe (Award Winning!)
- 5 strips uncooked bacon chopped¹
- 1 large yellow onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 red pepper diced
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 Tablespoon)
- 1 lb ground beef (455g) (I use 90% but any will work)
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder²
- 1 Tablespoon ancho chili powder²
- 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ¾ teaspoons ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper³
- 1 ¼ cup beef broth (295ml)
- 15 oz can dark red kidney beans lightly rinsed and drained (425g)
- 15 oz can black beans lightly rinsed and drained (425)
- 14.5 oz can diced fire roasted tomatoes undrained (411g)
- 7- oz can fire roasted green chilis (198g)
- ¼ cup tomato paste (66g)
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Preferred toppings particularly sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and corn chips
- Place chopped (uncooked) bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven and cook over medium heat until crisp and cooked through. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate and drain all but 1 ½ Tablespoons of grease.
- Add onion and pepper and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds).
- Add beef, breaking apart with a spatula as you cook. Once meat is partially (about 50%) browned, add sugar and all spices (chili powders, paprika, cumin, onion powder, black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper) and stir well.
- Add all remaining ingredients — beef broth, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, chilis, and Worcestershire sauce — and your cooked bacon and stir well.
- Bring to a boil and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 minutes to allow flavor to really develop.
- Serve with preferred toppings (sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, and corn chips are a must!)
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
I originally shared this chili recipe 10/05/2018. Post has been updated to include more notes, a video, and more helpful information 09/11/2019.
Has anyone tried making this in an Instapot/Pressure cooker? I’m fairly certain do the first four steps on saute mode, but I’m not sure how long I would pressure cook it, or if the bottom would burn.
What would you substitute the fireroasted chilies and tomatoes with?
Its not available in my country.
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Liselotte! You can just use the regular kind (not fire roasted). The chili will just be a little less smoky tasting ☺️
The name is wrong. Should be “The Absolutely Best Chili Recipe”. I have tried lots of so-called award winners. This one is just wonderful. Just the right amount of tomato, heat, sweetness, etc. Of course, I had to tinker a little to make it my own. Put in an extra half Tablespoon of brown sugar. Ha. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m done searching for chili recipes. Amen.
One thing good with Minnesotas never ending winter is I can make this Chile recipe for many months
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy our recipe helps you get through those colder months, Nancy! Thanks for the review ❤️
This recipe is delicious! I followed it exactly and I absolutely love this chili. So many great flavors with the diverse spices and the addition of bacon adds a fantastic depth of flavor. I only added 1/8 teaspoon of cayenne and I think it adds a perfect amount of spice – not overwhelming! Will be saving this for sure! Thank you!!!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy you enjoyed it, Emily! Thanks for leaving a review 😊
100% Best Chili Recipe Ever!
I love making a chili recipe that my family loves, without using prepackages seasonings that contain ingredients I don’t like to use. This recipe is perfect! I skip the cayenne pepper as all the other spices are perfect for the kids. This chili is perfect for our 3 C’s: Camping, Chili, and Cinnamon rolls!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We love your 3 C’s, Shawna! So glad your family enjoyed the chili. Definitely let us know if you try any of our cinnamon roll recipes 😊
Since we don’t eat bacon or beef, I’m gonna use liquid smoke and smoked paprika . And ground chicken instead of beef.
I made these two months ago, I used only pinto beans because the people who were going to eat them are partial to pinto beans.I followed the recipe to the T and before I left for the gym I “turned” the burner off (so I thought). When I returned from the gym almost 3 hours later I was horrified that I turned them to very low. My stove’s low is what I would call VERY, VERY, low. I was never so thankful for that. They were fine. I served them the following day to the women who are great cooks and I do mean great cooks when it comes to a dish like beans. They all said they were the best chili beans they had ever had. I will be making up a pot this weekend but without the meat, one of my sons does not eat beef. We are having several dishes with protein so I won’t bother to use ground turkey. I am pretty. sure they are going to be a hit again with my family.
This is THE best Chilli ever. I know and am an aficionado. It is so incredible. I quadrupled the recipe and now won’t have to cook for quite some time. My husband actually said, “Bravo!” I did some minor alterations as we all do. Just amazing!!!!
Hi From Canada,
After dumping all my canned goods in I realized they weren’t the amount required in the recipe. Cans are a different size in Canada apparently.
Also I used a red BELL pepper rather than a Red Pepper.
But it smells delicious.
Wow! I’m just gonna say this was absolutely delicious. This was the first time I’ve put bacon in chili and it was a game-changer. Loved this recipe and will be sharing this with everyone, thank you!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy you loved it, Junior! Thanks for the review ❤️
These are one and the same!