Just the basics, please! This Basic Easy Chili recipe on its own makes a hearty, satisfying pot of beef & bean chili. But then, you have so many options for switching up the base recipe to fit your own family’s tastes.
I’ve posted so many different chili recipes over the years, but just realized we’ve been lacking just a plain old Basic Easy Chili recipe to build upon. Let’s remedy that situation, posthaste. (Plus, I really wanted chili for dinner the other day, so this was a convenient excuse…)
Meat, beans, garlic, onion, tomatoes, and spices, oh my. That’s all you need: Chili just kind of cooks itself. To be honest, I don’t usually even measure much when I make up a pot of chili. I just throw in spices until it tastes good — and change up the taste depending on how spicy I feel.
Today, however, I took the time to measure out everything in creating this basic chili recipe for you. My whole not measuring things approach builds upon the same basic chili concept, so take and build upon today’s recipe to create your own perfect pot of chili. (More ideas below on how to change up any chili to your own family’s tastes.)
The other inspiration for today’s chili recipe: As stores look for different suppliers to compensate for current meat shortages, my ALDI has been selling these convenient two pound packs of restaurant quality ground beef lately. Each of these packages makes for two nights of easy dinners for a family of four: Use one pound in a pot of chili, and the other pound in anything from ground beef quesadillas, to an easy cheesy pasta skillet, to Korean-style ground beef & spinach rice bowls, to a satisfying chipotle taco soup.
This basic chili takes just one pound of ground beef and stretches it out with beans to feed a family of four — it’s deceptively meaty! If you don’t have a full pound on hand, though, don’t sweat it; this chili still cooks up hearty & filling with whatever amount of ground beef you have on hand.
Basic Easy Chili
1 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tsp minced garlic (about four cloves)
2.5 Tbsp chili powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp cayenne
Sea salt, to taste
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
1.5 cups water
Chop your onion and garlic.
In a Dutch oven or soup pot, brown the ground beef together with onion and garlic over medium-high heat.
While the beef is browning, rinse and drain the beans.
Once the ground beef is cooked through, drain off the grease and return the beef mixture to the pot. Turn the heat to medium-low, then stir in the spices and cocoa powder until nicely combined with the ground beef.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, and water. Simmer chili over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Note: Serve your chili topped with shredded cheddar and chopped green onions, if desired. (A little tangy cheese takes everything up a notch!)
That’s a satisfactory bowl of chili
Scoop up your chili with tortilla chips, use it to top a baked potato, enjoy it with toast, serve it with corn bread… whatever makes you happy, because a good bowl of chili is sheer happiness in and of itself.
As written, this basic easy chili recipe has a bit of underlying heat but isn’t overly spicy. Change that up to taste, building on the basics to make this recipe your own.
Basic Easy Chili, printable recipe
Basic Easy Chili
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 tsp minced garlic about four cloves
- 2.5 Tbsp chili powder
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp basil
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- Sea salt to taste
- 1 can black beans rinsed and drained
- 1 can kidney beans rinsed and drained
- 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1.5 cups water
- Chop your onion and garlic.
- In a Dutch oven or soup pot, brown the ground beef together with onion and garlic over medium-high heat.
- While the beef is browning, rinse and drain the beans.
- Once the ground beef is cooked through, drain off the grease and return the beef mixture to the pot. Turn the heat to medium-low, then stir in the spices and cocoa powder until nicely combined with the ground beef.
- Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, beans, and water. Simmer chili over medium-low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Mix it up, mash it up
Once you have your chili basics down, it’s simple to change up this easy chili base recipe to fit your family’s tastes and/or the ingredients you have on hand. Just for instance:
- Swap out the ground beef with ground turkey, and add in some chopped sweet bell pepper while browning the turkey and onion
- For a spicier chili, dice up a jalapeño or two and brown the peppers in with the ground beef and onion mixture (omit cayenne)
- Skip the cayenne, but add some chopped chipotle in adobo
- Substitute a little cumin, ground cloves, or brown sugar for the cocoa powder
- Use all kidney beans, all black beans, or swap in pinto beans
- Swap out the ground beef with beef stew meat (chop the cubes slightly smaller)
- Throw half a pack of spicy breakfast sausage in with the ground beef for an extra kick and meatiness
- Swap out the ground beef for meatless crumbles
- Omit the ground beef, and add more beans
- For a smoother chili, dice the onion instead of chopping, and use crushed tomatoes instead of diced
In case you hadn’t picked up on this by now, I do so enjoy a hearty bowl of chili!
Recipes in the real world
Be sure not to miss the free weekly ALDI meal plans, which show you how to use these easy family recipes to meal plan affordably and realistically for your family. Or, find more recipe ideas with the Recipe Search!