One of many possible ways of making chili

There are a lot of ways to make chili. Many of them are valid. Here is the way I make mine.


  • 1 pound appropriate protein (ground/cubed beef/turkey/pork/tofu/TVP/whatever)
  • 1 medium-to-large yellow onion
  • an absolute shitload of cumin
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 regular-size can of diced/sliced/crushed tomatoes (fire roasted is good)
  • 2-3 chipotle pods (dried) and/or other peppers to taste (guajillo, jalapeƱo, cayenne, whatever)
  • 1-2 cans of beans of your choice (black/pinto/kidney/northern), drained and rinsed (this ingredient is contentious, do not read this recipe if you are going to be a jerk about it)
  • 1 can of corn, drained (optional)
  • 1 quart of chicken/beef/vegetable broth/stock
  • 8-12 ounces of beer (optional); stout/porter work best, or generally anything lower in hops. Or higher in hops, if you like hops.
  • 3-4 cloves crushed garlic
  • oregano or something
  • salt/pepper/etc. to taste


In a large pot:

  1. brown the protein (add fat e.g. canola/bacon fat/refined olive oil/etc. if it’s lean/veg)
  2. dice the onion and sweat it in the protein’s delicious fat
  3. add the absolute shitload of cumin and stir it in
  4. brown the tomato paste a little bit
  5. add everything else
  6. bring it to a boil
  7. reduce to a low simmer
  8. cover, wait 45 minutes
  9. adjust seasonings as appropriate
  10. enjoy

Some folks prefer to grind up the chili pods beforehand. Some will simmer them in the broth to reconstitute them and then blend them before adding them. If it makes you feel good to do that, go ahead! I don’t find that it makes much difference, personally. I usually just use pre-ground powdered chilis, or if I’m using whole dried chipotle I’ll roughly grind it in my mortar and pestle. Or a spice grinder.

It’s also totally valid to use a pressure cooker if that’s your preference. In my experience that only cuts down the cooking time a little bit and it’s much more of an ordeal, plus you can’t adjust the seasoning during the cooking process. But if you have your spices totally dialed in, go for it.

Another time- and attention-saving thing that some people do is to use a large jar of salsa instead of the tomatoes and garlic and chili and so on. That is also fine, although you’re basically just trading cost for time (and I don’t feel like it saves that much) and losing some flexibility in your seasonings.

If you want it a bit thicker, simmer it with the lid cracked open a bit. If that’s also not thick enough, towards the end mix a couple tablespoons of corn starch with cold water and stir it until there’s no lumps and then add that to the chili and bring it back to a boil for a few seconds. (I do note that the presence of beans and their delicious starch makes this step usually unnecessary.)

For a good time also consider soaking dried beans overnight and using those instead of canned beans. If you do this you’ll want to add the tomatoes and salt after the cooking is mostly done, to prevent the beans from remaining crunchy. (Because crunchy beans aren’t very good.)

I usually top it with cheddar. Sour cream is also good, if you’re into that. And green onions. This can also go on top of potatoes (baked, french fries, tater tots, etc.), or hot dogs, or whatever. Some folks put it on spaghetti, which I don’t understand personally but you do you.

It can be served with any number of things on the side. I like flour tortillas. Corn tortillas are also good. So is corn bread. (As far as what’s “correct” corn bread? Let’s not get into that debate right now.)


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