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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.