Best Classic Chili

Classic Chili in bowls

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Total: 45 mins
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
336 Calories
16g Fat
21g Carbs
27g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 336
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 16g 21%
Saturated Fat 5g 26%
Cholesterol 67mg 22%
Sodium 873mg 38%
Total Carbohydrate 21g 8%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 27g
Vitamin C 11mg 57%
Calcium 72mg 6%
Iron 5mg 26%
Potassium 881mg 19%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This classic chili is quick and flavorful, making it an excellent choice for dinner after a busy day. The traditional chili con carne ("with meat") of tender beef in a spiced tomato stew is hard to beat; this recipe adds hearty beans as well. Unlike other chili recipes, it's made on the stovetop and ready within an hour, so it's perfect for a last-minute chili night.

Besides being ridiculously easy, homemade chili is quite simple to alter or add ingredients to suit your taste. If your family doesn't like onions, leave them out. If you prefer smaller beans, use pinto beans or black beans instead of kidney beans. Likewise, you can also make the chili more flavorful with additional seasonings like chili peppers and garlic.

Chili is a great leftover, so use a big pot and double or triple this recipe to feed a crowd. Chili is especially good with cornbread or cornbread muffins, or you can serve it with tortilla chips for dipping. Cheese, sour cream, green onions, cilantro, and avocado all make nice toppings. Leftover chili can also be used for other dishes like chili dogs, chili mac, nachos, and dips.


"When you’re used to chili stewing all day, it’s hard to wrap your head around making it in less than an hour. This recipe works surprisingly well though. A no-fuss recipe that’s easy to prepare. And the result is a good, basic chili. If you’ve never cooked chili before, it’s a great place to begin." —Colleen Graham

Quick Beef Chili Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

  • 1 pound ground beef (ground chuck)

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups cooked kidney beans, or a 15-ounce can, drained

  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, green onions, chopped cilantro, optional

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ground beef chili ingredients

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  2. Heat a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions plus half of the salt and pepper to the hot oil and stir until onions glisten and start becoming translucent, about 2 minutes.

    onions sauteeing in pan

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  3. Add chili powder to the onion mixture to bloom the spice. Stir for 1 minute until it is incorporated.

    spices and onions in pan

    The Spruce /Diana Chistruga

  4. Add the ground beef, stirring and breaking up the beef, until it is no longer pink.

    beef and spices and onion in pan

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  5. Add the drained beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce and remaining salt and pepper. Stir to blend. Bring to a simmer.

    tomato and beans in pan with ground beef for chili

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  6. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer the chili for 20 minutes. 

    chili cooking on stovetop with cover off to side

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  7. Top servings with your choice of toppings, like shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, and/or cilantro.

    chili with sour cream, cilantro and cheese in bowls

    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga


  • If the chili isn't as thick as you'd like it, simmer for a few minutes longer with the lid removed. Stir often to prevent scorching.
  • If the chili is too thick, add a splash of broth, beer, or water and stir.

Recipe Variations

  • Add green or red bell pepper to the skillet along with the ground beef and onion. 
  • For some heat, add a diced jalapeño or up to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper.
  • Just before the ground beef is browned, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of minced garlic; sauté for a few more minutes before adding the remaining ingredients. Or, add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of garlic powder to the chili along with the chili powder.
  • This chili can also be made using other ground meat like turkey or chicken.
  • Swap the kidney beans for your favorite. Black and pinto beans are both good options. Add an extra can of beans if you like.
  • Make vegetarian chili by swapping the beef for a vegan "meat" product.
  • To make in a slow cooker, brown the beef and onions before adding all of the ingredients to the insert. Cook on low for about 4 hours.
  • To make in a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot, brown the beef and onions and add the ingredients plus 1 cup of broth. Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes and use a natural release. To thicken, simmer uncovered for a few minutes.

How to Freeze

Cooked, cooled chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Add to a freezer-safe, airtight container and defrost in the fridge before reheating.

Is Chili Powder the Same as Chili Seasoning?

American chili powder is a mixture of Southwestern spices that is commonly used in chili and other spiced dishes. Chili seasoning is a similar mixture but often contains salt and other additives.

Can You Cook Chili Too Long?

While cooking chili low and slow will add to its flavor, it will eventually dry out and the beans will turn to mush. Keep an eye on your chili when cooking it on the stove and add a splash or two of liquid if needed to keep it from drying out.

Should Chili Include Beans?

Adding beans to chili is a matter of personal—and often regional—preference. It's also a topic of great debate. In much of the United States, beans are often found in chili and some people prefer a lot of beans. Texas chili, however, is almost always made without beans. The International Chili Society (ICS) runs some of the biggest chili cookoff competitions and categorizes styles of chili. The rules state that traditional red chili cannot include "beans and non-vegetable fillers" while beans are allowed in homestyle chili.

Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. International Chili Society. Official ICS Contestant Rules. 2019.