When we dared to create the perfect basic chili recipe, we knew the stakes were high. Attempting to top grandma’s chili means treading into dangerous territory—so, we punched up the classic formula (ground beef, spices, red kidney beans, and tomatoes) with our own fresh tweaks.
Our easy chili is hearty, comforting, and wholesome—plus it significantly slashes calories, fat, and sodium from the classic recipe. Smoked paprika and a splash of beer kick up the flavor, and our clever trick for perfectly browned ground beef would surely make any grandmother proud. Instead of overcrowding the Dutch oven, we brown the beef separately in a large skillet.
Master this recipe—then customize it however you like. Swap out kidney beans for black beans, pinto beans, or a combination of all three. Instead of ground sirloin, use ground turkey or ground bison meat. Don’t forget chili toppings—we love fresh cilantro, queso fresco cheese, avocado, crushed tortilla chips, sliced radishes, or a squeeze of lime.
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 pounds lean ground sirloin
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large onion)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons ground chili powder
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 ounces amber lager (such as Negra Modela or Dos Equis Amber Lager)
2 15.5-ounce cans no salt added dark red kidney beans
2 28-ounce cans no salt added whole peeled tomatoes
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the oil, swirling to coat the skillet. Add ground beef, and cook until browned (drain fat if needed), about 6 minutes. Set aside.
Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the remaining oil, then add the onions and garlic. Reduce heat to medium and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the spices, salt, and pepper. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add beef, beans, and beer, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook until beer is slightly reduced, about 1 minute.
Stir in tomatoes and juice from the can (try this hack to avoid a mess: instead of a spoon, use kitchen shears to gently break up the tomatoes); bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes to an hour. Let cool and top with desired garnishes.
Slide the ground beef straight from the package into the hot skillet. Brown the beef as is on both sides (it sounds a bit odd, but trust us!), then break it up. It browns more easily as a whole mass, as opposed to smaller chunks.
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