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21 Easy Chili Recipe Options for Fall Gatherings

Easy chili recipes are essen­tial for get­ting afford­able, hearty and deli­cious meals on the table as the weath­er cools. Every­one needs an easy chili recipe or two for tail­gat­ing, week­end gath­er­ings and fam­i­ly dinners. 

Chili Round Up Collage that says 21 Easy Chili Recipes for Fall and has five images of random bowls of chili
Post may con­tain affil­i­ate links. See my Affil­i­ate Disclosure.

Beans or no beans? Meat chili or veg­an? Toma­to based chili or white chili? Bring the heat or keep it mild­ly spicy?

There are as many ways to make chili as there are peo­ple who enjoy mak­ing and eat­ing it. Home­made chili recipes can use a vari­ety of ingre­di­ents and come in at all dif­fer­ent heat levels.

Clas­sic chili recipes can sim­mer on the stove or in the slow cook­er all day long. Or you can cre­ate a deli­cious fla­vor pro­file to have on the table in 30 minutes.

Peo­ple get pret­ty pas­sion­ate about their home­made chili recipes. Some are pret­ty unbend­ing about their chili points of view. But, around here, we love to exper­i­ment! I love to try new recipes and expe­ri­ence fla­vors I’ve nev­er had before.

If you’re an adven­tur­er, who hates bor­ing and loves to bring excite­ment to the table, you’re going to love this col­lec­tion of 21 Easy Chili Recipes I’ve curat­ed for you.

These are recipes from some of the top blog­gers on the Inter­net. Once you’ve tried their home­made chili recipes, you’ll under­stand why! So go explore. Be bold. Cre­ate awe­some chili, my friend. These recipes are every­thing you need. Enjoy!

Helpful Tools for Making Easy Chili Recipes

  • Stock Pot [affil­i­ate link] — Per­fect for sim­mer­ing on the stove top all day. Choose a stock pot that can accom­mo­date the batch size you’re making.
  • Dutch Oven [affil­i­ate link] — Some pre­fer a heavy duty Dutch Oven for mak­ing clas­sic chili recipes.
  • Slow Cook­er [affil­i­ate link] — I LOVE my slow cooker(s). Yes. We’ve already dis­cussed that I have a prob­lem. lol But, a slow cook­er is an excel­lent tool for toss­ing togeth­er easy recipes that can cook away all day long while you get on with life — Your house smells great and very lit­tle hands-on time is required. Slow Cook­ers for the win!
  • Instant Pot [affil­i­ate link] — If you want to start from scratch and be the most eco­nom­i­cal, dry beans are the way to go. An Instant Pot can cook them in a frac­tion of the time and pres­sure cook­ing infus­es fla­vor deep into your ingre­di­ents for an explo­sion of deli­cious­ness when your clas­sic chili recipe is done.
  • Bowls [affil­i­ate link] — Deep and wide to hold the max­i­mum amount of deli­cious chili and maybe some corn­bread croutons!
  • Ladles [affil­i­ate link] — The eas­i­est way to move scrump­tious clas­sic chili from the pot to your bowl. They come in all sizes, stain­less steel or sil­i­cone and some even have built-in spoon rests. So many choices!

Choosing the Right Ingredients

raw ground beef on parchment paper sitting on a wooden cutting board

Ground Beef

If you’re a meat in your chili kind of cook, then ground beef is a com­mon ingre­di­ent for a chili recipe. Unless we’re grind­ing our own ground beef (and most of us aren’t), there are a few tips that can help you find the most fresh and fla­vor­ful ground beef when you’re shopping.

  • Check the Sell By Date on the ground beef pack­age, obvi­ous­ly. Buy the fresh­est available.
  • Check to see if the ground beef pack­age says where your meat was sourced from or how it was raised and fed.
  • Pick a good fat to lean ratio in your ground beef for the best fla­vor. 80/20 is usu­al­ly my favorite.
  • Ask for “store trim” ground beef. “Fresh­ly ground” does­n’t always mean fresh. Store trim means that the meat was ground in the store, with fat trim­mings from oth­er cuts of meat. The plas­tic will be pulled tight across the sur­face and touch­ing the ground beef in the pack­age. The meat will be will be bright pink with flecks of white. If it’s not store trimmed ground beef it has like­ly been received at the store in large chubs, reground and then pack­aged. It is “fresh­ly ground” for a sec­ond time and not the fresh­est meat you can buy. This dou­ble-ground ground beef is also more pasty in tex­ture and pro­duces dense burgers.
mixture of raw and whole hot chili peppers on a white counter top

Peppers

Choose chili pep­pers to suit the heat tol­er­ance of the peo­ple you’re cook­ing for. Chili pep­pers come in many vari­eties, heat lev­els and forms. Do some research and see where dif­fer­ent chilies fall on the Scov­ille Heat Units chart. You can use fresh chilies, canned or jarred chilies or dried and ground chilies when prepar­ing a clas­sic chili recipe. Always use safe han­dling prac­tices when work­ing with chili peppers.

  • For Milder Chili con­sid­er using bell pep­pers, poblano pep­pers, ancho or even Ana­heim pep­pers. Chili pow­der and ancho chili pow­der also fit in this heat level.
  • For Medi­um Heat range you’re look­ing at jalapenos, chipo­tle chili pow­der, gua­jil­lo chile pow­der and gual­li­jo peppers.
  • For Spicy Heat that gets your atten­tion try ser­ra­no chilies, chili de arbol pep­pers, and cayenne pepper.
  • And then you can get so hot that the fla­vor of your chili is lost behind the heat. Be care­ful when using Thai pep­pers, habaneros, Scotch bon­nets and ghost pep­pers. Cre­ate a good bal­ance with the heat you bring so the deli­cious fla­vors aren’t smoth­ered out.
dry pinto beans spilling out of a mason jar onto a wooden counter

Beans

You have so many options when choos­ing beans for chili. The time you have for cook­ing can affect your choic­es. And so can the type of chili you’re making.

  • Dry Beans are great for long, slow sim­mers on the stove top or in the crock­pot. You can also cook dry beans in a frac­tion of the usu­al time if you use an elec­tric pres­sure cook­er. Even then, dry beans will take longer to cook than buy­ing them canned.
  • Canned Beans are more expen­sive than dried, but still rea­son­ably afford­able. You can usu­al­ly find more vari­eties of canned beans, than dried too. Find a brand you like and trust and stick with it.
  • You can use all one kind of bean in your home­made chili recipe or you can do a com­bi­na­tion. I love mix­ing it up and hav­ing sev­er­al types of beans. It adds col­or and vari­a­tions in texture. 
    • A Note about Kid­ney Beans: Kid­ney beans are con­sid­ered a tra­di­tion­al chili bean, though they are prob­a­bly my least favorite. Kid­ney beans have tougher skin and to me, seem hard­er to digest. Kid­ney beans are also not suit­ed to slow cook­ing with­out boil­ing them on the stove first. They con­tain high lev­els of PHA (a kid­ney bean lectin) that can cause food poi­son­ing symp­toms if not han­dled prop­er­ly. Dry kid­ney beans must be boiled hard for 10 min­utes to destroy the PHA. After that, the kid­ney beans can be added to a slow cook­er chili recipe. So, while kid­ney beans are one option, they are not usu­al­ly my first choice.
    • Some of the beans I like best for home­made chili are:
      • Red Beans
      • Pin­to Beans
      • Black Beans
      • Can­neli­ni Beans
      • Great North­ern Beans
original and mild cans of tomatoes with green chilies

Tomatoes

In any recipe, fresh­ly diced toma­toes are always the first choice for deli­cious fla­vor. But, when toma­toes are not in sea­son you can still enjoy the rich, acidic and savory fla­vors that toma­toes bring to chili. 

Many peo­ple opt for canned diced toma­toes or diced toma­toes with chilies to add to their home­made chili. Those are cer­tain­ly quick and easy options. And, they’ll even make a good chili. 

But for tru­ly excep­tion­al chili, I tend to bypass the diced toma­toes and go for whole peeled toma­toes in a can. 

Diced toma­toes are usu­al­ly cut from sec­onds and left­over bits and pieces that weren’t high qual­i­ty enough to be used as whole canned tomatoes. 

whole peeled tomatoes in juice in a white bowl

Com­pare and con­trast the col­or and tex­ture of diced toma­toes with whole toma­toes and I think you’ll see what I mean. Diced toma­toes are paler and con­tain more light col­ored stem ends. whole toma­toes are bright red and super flavorful. 

Diced toma­toes are also treat­ed with cal­ci­um chlo­ride to firm them up and keep them from break­ing apart in the can. That also pre­vents them from break­ing down when you cook with them. If you’ve ever won­dered why you can’t get a toma­to based sauce to cook down, diced toma­toes may be your issue.

To use whole toma­toes as a sub­sti­tute for diced, in a chili recipe, I sim­ply crush the whole toma­toes in my hand as I’m adding them to the pot. The crushed pieces will break down as they cook and make fla­vor­ful smooth sauces and broth.

More Easy Recipe Ideas

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