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.

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 put oregano in chili? ›

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 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 is the most important spice in chili? ›

Spices: Freshly ground cumin is a must. If it's not fresh, then don't bother. Secret Ingredients & Technique: I like extra hot chili, so I round up all spicy ingredients. I cool it down by piling on lots of fresh fixins' including scallions, cilantro, and sour cream.

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 ...

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.

How do you make chili taste richer? ›

I like to give my chili a little more complexity, so I'll often add canned chipotle chili peppers, a touch of cinnamon or Chinese 5 spice, chocolate and cilantro or coriander. A few other flavor boosting ingredients could be: smoked sausage, grilled corn kernels, coffee, beer or roasted tomatoes.

What does balsamic vinegar do to chili? ›

Acid is one of those elements in cooking that is more powerful than you may think. And with all the fat and richness of chili, vinegar can cut through and punch up, adding depth while simultaneously illuminating the layers you work so hard to develop in your chili.

Why do people put baking soda in chili? ›

According to the magazine's food experimenters, the baking soda treatment will definitely keep the meat tender and juicy when cooked.

What does cinnamon do for chili? ›

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.

Which onion is best for chili? ›

Sweet onions are great for caramelizing due to their higher sugar content. You can cook them into your chili, serve them raw over top, or even elevate your chili with a sophisticated caramelized onion topping! Some of my favorite sweet onions are Walla, Walla, Maui, and Vidalia Onions.

Why do you put tomato paste in chili? ›

Tomato paste is a great way to add bonus tomato flavor, and thickness, to a chili recipe. To get the best flavor it needs to be browned. Add a couple tablespoons (or a whole can if you want a thicker soup base) directly to the pan after cooking the meat and onions. Stir the paste occasionally to prevent burning.

What makes the best chili meat? ›

When making chili, former Southern Living Test Kitchen Director, Robby Melvin, recommends using a mix of ground chuck and ground sirloin. "It's the best of both worlds," he says. "You get a balanced lean-to-fat ratio from the chuck and the hearty, beefy leanness from the sirloin."

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 is my chili not flavorful? ›

Change up the beans. Use black beans, pintos, or a combination of beans to give more flavor. Cook the chili! If you don't cook it long enough (or put in a pressure cooker to speed up the process), it won't taste quite right.

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.

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