THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (2024)

It took many years and hundreds of pots of chili, but I finally found THE ONE. Seriously - this is the absolute best chili recipe out there, thanks to the secret ingredients + perfect spice profile.

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THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (1)

It took many years and hundreds of pots of chili, but I finally found THE ONE. Seriously – this is the absolute best chili recipe out there, thanks to the secret ingredients + perfect spice profile. You have to try it!

THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (2)

Certain foods just remind me of my childhood. Chili is one of them.I love chili so much I’d marry it. (Also filed under “things that used to be cool to say in middle school.”)

Fantastically, my hubby and kids do too (spoiler alert: I ended up marrying a hot Italian pilot instead of chili. Alas.) Aliza, my two-year-old, ate three grown-up-sized portions when I made it last week. So did I. Gracious, I’m getting hungry just writing this post. Good thing I have some of this simmering on the stove as I type.

So. I’ve been searching for the perfect chili recipe for years now. YEARS, I tell you!I just wanted a basic recipe that doesn’t call for any strange ingredients I don’t already have in my cupboards. I wanted it to taste good. Like really gooooood. Ya know what I’m sayin’?

I wanted it to be the kind of recipe I could throw together in 20 minutes, or I could dress it up and experiment with it when I felt like having fun. And did I mention it has to taste amazing?

Side note: I first published this post back in 2012, and that little daughter of mine is now nearly 11. (Holy moly, that was fast!) She still counts my chili recipe as one of her top all-time favorite meals (as do we all), and we’ve made it hundreds of times in the years since!

I Finally Found It – The Perfect Chili Recipe

THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (3)

At long last – I’ve found it.

Or, rather, I sorta made it up.

There are a bajillion ways to make chili, and probably many of them are really good. This recipe hits the sweet spot for me, and I will make it over and over again for years to come. I’ll share it with y’all here in case you, too, are in the middle of a noble quest for the best bowl of chili.

How to Make the Best Chili

Chili is one of those dishes that is 0% pretentious. It’s not fussy about your cooking method. As long as you get those chili ingredients in there to simmer cozily for a bit so everything can cook and the flavors can meld, it’s going to taste amazing.

I most often make it on the stovetop with my two big stock pots (so I can freeze some for later, which is one of my all-time fave strategies for quick healthy meals.)

>> One Small Tweak for Simplified Freezer Cooking

Can I Make it in a Slow Cooker?

You can make it in the slow cooker if you want – just brown the ground beef first, then add all ingredients and cook on high for 6-8 hours.

Can I Make it in the Instant Pot?

Of course you can! You can brown your meat, onions, and peppers together with the sauté function, then add all other ingredients and cook on manual mode for 10 minutes.

Or, you can even make this chili with dried beans without pre-soaking! That method is a huge lifesaver when you don’t have canned beans on hand but have a hankering for chili. Head over to that post for full directions.

THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (4)

What are the Best Secret Ingredients?

I think what makes everyone call something their Favorite Chili Recipe is the secret ingredient! Some may add mole sauce or cinnamon, and of course everyone will vary their spice level by choosing to use bell pepper, chili pepper, or even chipotle pepper. My preference is to use sweet bell peppers and get my medium spice level that ALL will enjoy by using chili powder and my own addition of coriander.

I use two secret chili ingredients to make this THE BEST chili recipe: honey & cocoa powder.

I find that one tablespoon of cocoa powder is great for the two pounds of ground beef I use because it adds just enough warmth (without spice) to have you wondering what it is that tastes so good paired with the brightness of the tomato.

Note: If you add much more you will definitely notice a chocolate flavour which is a bit off-putting, so this is definitely one of those ingredients to measure carefully rather than just sprinkling it in.

My other starring ingredient is honey. Tomatoes can be sweet on their own, but they are also acidic. Honey gives just enough sweetness to balance the acidity and spice.

When I first published this recipe in 2012 (after trying to perfect it for nearly a decade!), these weren’t popular chili ingredients. Today, more and more people are catching on to the “wow factor” that these secret ingredients provide!

What Are the Best Beans for Chili?

Everyone has their own preference of what kind of bean to add to their pot of chili. I like to stick with classic red kidney beans, as it just screams traditional comfort food chili to me. I have also been known to use navy beans, black beans, or even chickpeas if I’m short on kidney beans. They all taste delicious to me, and because this recipe uses 2-3 cups (about two cans, drained) of cooked beans, you can easily sneak in two varieties at once to see what your family thinks of the flavour profile.

I haven’t stuck lentils into my classic chili, but I do make really frugal Cheesy Chili Lentils when I want to use them. It all comes down to what you have in the freezer (if you make your beans from dried and freeze portions!) or the cans in your pantry. Chili is one of the best “use what you have” meals.

And of course – some people insist that “proper chili” doesn’t include beans at all, but I can’t possibly agree! 😉 I will say that I like my Creamy Green Chili Beef which has some of the great chili flavor profile without the beans.

THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (5)

What is the Best Meat for Chili?

I stick to ground beef for my chili recipe. It is one of the most economical meats, and the one that most people can agree on as being best for chili. If you are purchasing a part of a cow then you will often have quite a bit of ground beef as well. Over the years I’ve had many commenters that use ground turkey or chicken. These are great options because they are lean if that is something you need to use, and because they have less flavour than beef on its own, they “soak up” the strong flavors of chili quite well.

I’ve also heard of hunters using up ground venison just about anywhere they would use ground beef, and sausage is always an option, too. Just watch that any sausage you use isn’t already seasoned so that it competes with your chili flavour. Really just about any ground meat will do.

What is the Best Type of Tomato for Chili?

Many people stick to canned tomatoes in their chili ingredients. They are very easy to have on your pantry shelf for when the craving hits. Many people will also freeze garden tomatoes when they are either tired of canning or have run out of time when the season ends and loads their kitchen counter with fresh tomatoes. It all depends on what your whole family enjoys.

I’ve recently started using about a 2:1 ratio of diced tomatoes to tomato sauce (or strained tomatoes), and my kids like this better because some of them are picky about the texture of diced tomatoes. They’re fully obsessed with my chili recipe, so they’ll eat it regardless, but they do prefer it the new way.

Favourite Chili Toppings

I know there is a lot of discussion over what goes under chili (are you a chili mac person, do you like it over baked potatoes, homemade cornbread, maybe over rice?) but really the key to a personalized bowl of chili comes down to the toppings. I like to set out bowls of whatever we have so everyone can add what they like to their individual bowls.

  • shredded cheese
  • fresh cilantro
  • sour cream
  • crumbled tortilla chips or corn chips
  • tortilla strips
  • guacamole

Finally, while a hot bowl of chili is great on its own on a cold winter evening, you can add Chickpea Flatbreads on the side for a little extra fun. They are great for sopping up every last drop of chili from the bowl!

I also often pair chili with a light side salad – this Apple Kale Walnut Salad is a perfect option – because while I may have eaten three bowls of chili in one sitting in the past, I likely shouldn’t do that every time! Plus, there’s nothing better than leftover chili. As it sits, the flavours simply get better.

THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (6)

The Best Chili Recipe Ever

It took many years and hundreds of pots of chili, but I finally found THE ONE. Seriously – this is the absolute best chili recipe out there, thanks to the secret ingredients + perfect spice profile.

5 from 16 votes

Print Pin Rate

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours 50 minutes

Servings: 10 servings

Calories: 264kcal

Author: Beth Ricci


  • 3 tbsp butter or cooking oil of choice
  • 1 cup diced sweet peppers red, yellow, and/or orange
  • 2 medium onions diced
  • 6 cloves garlic minced
  • 1.5-2 lbs ground beef
  • 2-3 cans diced tomatoes 28oz each
  • 2-3 cups cooked kidney beans (or 2-3 cans 15.5oz each)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • a few shakes of black pepper
  • 1 tbsp unrefined sea salt
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 4 tbsp chili powder or more to taste


  • Heat up your pot to medium-low and add butter. When it’s melted, add diced onions and peppers. Cook until soft and translucent, stirring every few minutes so they don't burn. Add garlic and stir.

    THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (7)

  • Add ground beef and cook it until it’s browned and cozy with the onions, peppers, and garlic.

  • Add all other ingredients and simmer on low until dinner. (At least 30 minutes for best flavor.) Be sure to stir every 10 minutes or so so that it doesn't burn on the bottom – especially if your stove's "low" equals a bubbling simmer.

    THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (8)


For best results, a nice long simmer is best to help bring out the flavor. I always aim for at least an hour, but you can serve it earlier if absolutely necessary. (The leftovers will taste even better!)

Tried this recipe? Tag me on Instagram!Mention @redandhoney and use #redandhoney


Calories: 264kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 1007mg | Potassium: 590mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1715IU | Vitamin C: 29.3mg | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 3.8mg

THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (9)
THE BEST Chili Recipe on the Planet! (2024)


What is the secret to really good chili? ›

Only Add Flavorful Liquids

Instead of adding water to your chili, add some more flavor with chicken or beef broth, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or even beet or wine. Each one of these options brings out different notes and levels of sweetness that will enhance your culinary creation.

What makes chili taste better? ›

"Adding fresh ingredients — like diced onions, cilantro, and jalapenos — will take any canned chili to another level," Dunleavy said. "The fresh burst of flavor will brighten and elevate the chili while also adding great texture and crunch."

What makes a good competition chili? ›

It contains NO beans or other “fillers”. Finely cut meat seems to be preferred to ground meat (although some cookoffs advertise as ground meat only). The chili contains very little or no grease. Winning chili must look good, smell good and taste good.

What not to put in chili? ›

Beans and non-vegetable fillers such as rice and pasta are not allowed." If that sounds a bit uptight, the ICS's Homestyle Chili competition defines chili as: "any kind of meat, or combination of meats, and/or vegetables cooked with beans, chili peppers, various spices, and other ingredients.

What adds the most flavor to chili? ›

If you want more of a smoky flavor, add cumin, Spanish paprika, ancho chili powder, or a combination. If you are looking for more heat, add cayenne, crushed red pepper, or Hungarian paprika. If it's too spicy add a little brown sugar and some sweet paprika.

What is chili magic? ›

Bush's Chili Magic Campfire Style chili starter brings tender pinto beans together with smoky chipotle and green bell peppers for quick, unforgettable chili any night of the week.

Does Wendy's put sugar in their chili? ›

Chili Concentrate: Chili Sauce (Water, Tomato Juice, Tomatoes, Calcium Chloride, Seasoning (Sugar, Salt, Corn Starch, Dried Chilies, Spices, Flavor Enhancer [Dextrose, Salt, Yeast Extract, Silicon Dioxide, Modified Corn Starch], Citric Acid, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Xanthan gum), Beans (Pink Beans, Red ...

Why do you put butter in chili? ›

Butter smooths out the bitterness and adds its unique richness, making you take another bite without quite knowing why. A dash of sugar and vinegar gives a sweet-sour flavor that also makes the sauce rounder and more satisfying.

What does cinnamon do for chili? ›

Cinnamon. The beauty of ground cinnamon is that it brings a warmth to your chili, without being spicy. It works well with other flavors commonly found in chili (like tomato, cumin and chile powder) so you only need a little bit to achieve the desired balance.

Does chili need tomato paste? ›

Tomato sauce is not a strong a taste as tomato paste. Also, sauce will increase the liquid content of your chili ever so slightly. Tomato paste has a more full, rich, tomato taste and smell. Using either one is appropriate, but you will need to tweak your seasonings to suit your personal tastes, anyway.

Do you cook onions or meat first for chili? ›

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.

What is the best bean to use in chili? ›

The best beans for chili are pinto, kidney, and black beans, like in this easy and tasty recipe. This 3-bean chili freezes great for meals later in the week. If you prefer thinner chili, add an extra can of tomato sauce. The green chiles are not hot and add a wonderful flavor, so don't be afraid to use them.

What is the best meat combination for chili? ›

The best chili meat is a combination of meats, often a mix of ground chuck, ground sirloin, brisket, diced tri-tip, and/or some bacon or sausage. Do your best to mix smaller pieces with larger pieces to stack textures and make it your own! Happy cooking!

Is it better to make chili the night before? ›

Secondly, an overnight rest in the refrigerator will give all of the flavors more time to meld together and deepen. Recipes like soups and stews (especially ones that are heavily spiced and made with a lot of ingredients, such as chili) almost always taste better the next day.

Does sugar make chili taste better? ›

Now for the piece de resistance: 1-2 heaping Tablespoons brown sugar. The chili tastes completely different without the brown sugar so if you like a subtle sweetness in your chili then you've just got to go for it! Trust me, it will not make your chili taste like candy.

Why add vinegar to chilli? ›

With only about 1 tablespoon per pot added toward the end of the cooking process, the vinegar will make the flavors more vibrant without overwhelming the dish with its biting tang. Through just a splash, everything becomes a little brighter, and the chili's flavors are more balanced.

How do you make chili taste more meaty? ›

Ground Beef: Provides the hearty meaty base for the chili. Opt for 85% lean; the fat enriches the meat, enhancing the dish's overall flavor and texture. And don't stress about the fat—post-cooking, it's easy to skim off any excess. Baking Soda: Helps tenderize the beef by locking in moisture, making it more succulent.

Is chili better the longer it cooks? ›

A low and slow cook time—at least an hour total—is key for drawing out the most flavor in a pot of chili. Yes, a quick chili is most welcome on weeknights, but it won't have quite the same results. A slow cooker works wonders, but if you're short on time, try a pressure cooker.

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