The Best Chili Recipe (2024)

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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.

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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.

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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

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  1. 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 thebest chili recipe.
  2. Cook your onion and pepper until soft, add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add your ground beef, cook until mostly browned (but not all the way cooked through).
  4. Add all your seasonings.
  5. Stir well, cooking beef through.
  6. 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!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I freeze this chili recipe?

Yes, leftovers can be frozen in an airtight container for at least 3 months.

Can I make this in a crockpot?

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.

Can I leave out the bacon?

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.

Can I use a different type of meat?

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!

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What Goes Well with Chili?

  • Buttermilk Cornbread (a must!)
  • Homemade Biscuits
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Homemade Bread

Obviously, breadis 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 outthe how-to VIDEO in the recipe card!

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The Best Chili Recipe (Award Winning!)

This is the BEST Chili Recipe! Made with bacon (and the option to omit if necessary) and ground beef and simmered on the stove for just 30 minutes, this is my family's go-to cold weather comfort food. It's even better when paired with a side of buttermilk cornbread!

4.98 from 1684 votes

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Course: Main Course

Cuisine: American

Prep Time: 10 minutes minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes minutes

Servings: 6 servings (this recipe makes 10 cups total, so one serving is approx 1 ⅔ cup)

Calories: 611kcal

Author: Sam Merritt


  • 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
  • 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!)


¹For best flavor, DO NOT OMIT THE BACON. However, as someone who spent 23 years not eating bacon I wanted to include tips for those of you who might have the same restrictions. if you wish to make this recipe without bacon you *can* do so by skipping the first step, heating 1 ½ Tablespoons of oil over medium heat, and then beginning from step 2. On the other hand, if you want additional bacon for garnishing, cook it now and reserve.

²You can substitute one chili powder for the other and use just traditional chili powder or just ancho chili powder, but I personally like the blend of the two.

³This gives the chili a mild spice, if you like more heat increase to ¼ teaspoon for a moderate spice. Add additional cayenne pepper at your own risk!


Serving: 1serving (not including toppings) | Calories: 611kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 40g | Fat: 19g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 1315mg | Potassium: 758mg | Fiber: 11g | Sugar: 14g | Vitamin A: 30IU | Vitamin C: 72mg | Calcium: 9mg | Iron: 20mg

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.

Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @SugarSpun_Sam or tag #sugarspunrun!

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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.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Molly

    Is it really just 1 1/4 cup of broth??


    • Sam

      Hi Molly! You will want 1 and 1/4 cup of broth. You get more liquid from other ingredients in the chili. 🙂


  2. Christine Benakovich

    The Best Chili Recipe (8)
    I made this for my Bible study group and it was a big hit!! Making it again for a women’s group!


  3. Lisa

    The Best Chili Recipe (9)
    My boyfriend said this is the best chili he has ever had and to make sure I save the recipe!!


  4. Ruth

    Which brand of Worcestershire sauce do you use? Since Lea & Perrins ingredients has sardines in it & another brand don’t. Thanks!


    • Sam

      Hi Ruth! I have use anything from Lea & Perrins to store brand to coconut aminos and it all works well. 🙂


  5. David

    This IS an award winning recipe. I used this to enter the chili cookoff at work. I WON!!!! But, since I used someone else’s recipe, is this considered “food plagiarism”?


    • Sam

      Not everyone has to create their own recipes. 🙂 I’m glad it was such a hit! 🙂


  6. Petra V Holland

    The Best Chili Recipe (10)
    I’m about to enter a chili cook off. But, regardless, I love this chili. It’s really the best I’ve ever made or had.


    • David

      I used this recipe for a chili cookoff and WON!!!!!!


      • Mase

        The Best Chili Recipe (11)
        Same here man lol, only other addition was my buddy smoked some brisket and I added that in there as well.

  7. Kevin Anderson

    The Best Chili Recipe (12)
    I made this recipe and placed first in people’s choice and second in critics choice in a cook off in December 2023.


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The Best Chili Recipe (2024)


What is the secret to making good chili? ›

Rumi Spice's top tips for making chili:
  1. Brown the Meat.
  2. Don't Forget Vegetables.
  3. Elevate with Extra Flavor.
  4. Only Add Flavorful Liquids.
  5. Opt for Dried Beans.
  6. Season Early and Often.
  7. Add Some Acidity at the End.
  8. Top It Off.

What is the most important spice in chili? ›

Most Common Chili Spices. Cumin, Chile Powders, and Paprika are the most common spices in chili followed by garlic, onion, coriander, Mexican oregano, and bay leaves. These ingredients can be combined to create a savory and well-balanced pot of top notch comfort food.

What can I add to chili to make it amazing? ›

There are lots of ideas. You can add chili beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes, onion, garlic, green pepper, jalapenos, habaneros, serranos, potatoes, hominy, corn, chili powder, cumin, tomato sauce, cayenne peppers, cheese, sour cream, banana pep...

Why do you put brown sugar in chili? ›

The brown sugar gave it a sweet/tangy flavor that reminded me of BBQ-sauce! Th chili was so good - it was hard to stop eating it! I did had some extra veggies (1 cl. garlic, 1 celery stalk, 1 carrot, 1 bell pepper, 1 hot pepper) and used a can of diced tomatoes rather than tomato juice.

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.

What chili has the best flavor? ›

In talking with many pepper enthusiasts, we've found the Habanero to be universally considered to be one of the best tasting peppers.

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.

What is the most flavorful meat for chili? ›

What is the best meat for chili? The best meat for chili depends on the type you're making, but professionals generally use a combination of ground chuck, brisket, short ribs, or diced tri-tip sirloin mixed with bacon and sausage to layer multiple textures and flavors.

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 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.

What makes Wendy's chili taste so good? ›

Wendy's chili is made with a blend of beef and spices that create its unique flavor. The beef is slow-cooked and blended with a mix of chili spices, including chili pepper, cumin, garlic, and onion.

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 my chili missing? ›

Sometimes after a long simmer, your chili will taste wonderful be maybe missing one little thing you can't figure out. Try a tad bit of vinegar or a squeeze of lime! The acidity in vinegar & limes bring a good roundness to the pot and binds all the flavors together.

What are the best beans for 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.

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.

Should you simmer chili with lid on or off? ›

For quicker-cooking chili like this recipe, don't cover the pot. We want the liquid in the chili to reduce, and leaving the lid off is crucial. If you're simmering the chili for a longer time, partially cover the pot to prevent the liquid from evaporating too quickly.

What does coffee do for chili? ›

This is why adding coffee—or even beer—to your chili will produce a result that works. Using coffee in the mix adds all the subtle flavor notes you love—like the subtle hints of chocolate and cherry from Death Wish Coffee. Beer, meanwhile, incorporates a light, malty sweetness.

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