Best Ground Beef Chili

I never trust Chris Kimball when it comes to spicy food. His Yankee palate just doesn’t understand the flavors of southwestern cooking. True to form, today’s recipe is not nearly hot enough; zero-alarm chili. Also in the back of my mind is that Many of Chris Kimball’s chili recipes turn out to be very expensive (see this $26, 3-star chili). Plus my kids are just as happy with cheap, ground beef chili; So no reason to spend 3-times as much.

As unlikely as it seems; Chris Kimball reaches a happy medium with this recipe; rich flavor of freshly ground chiles, but easy to eat (just 1/4″-chunks ). Plus it uses $3/lb ground beef. Of course, while not hot enough (next time I will add 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper), there is a lot of delicious complexity here. Definitely worth making; 4-stars, but I could easily see a hotter version almost reaching the maximum 5-stars.

Deliciously bold flavors, but easy peasy

Deliciously bold flavors, but easy peasy


  1. It can sometimes be hard to find whole chiles, so I recommend buying them beforehand so you don’t have to run to multiple supermarkets. This recipe calls for Ancho chiles (in California they are called Pasillo; which are dried poblano peppers), but you can substitute guajillo which are hotter.
  2. Chris Kimball says that this chili can be made up to 3 days in advance. I recommend re-heating on the stove-top rather than the microwave, for better flavor. Just add a little water to maintain the desired consistency.

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $11. (not including garnishes).
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Medium.
Start time 3:00 PM. Ready at 6:15 PM.

Chris Kimball’s original recipe for is here. My descriptions of how I prepared it today are given below:

2-lbs 85% lean ground beef
2 cups + 2 tablespoons water
Salt and pepper
3/4-teaspoon baking soda
6 dried ancho chile
1 ounce tortilla chip, crushed (¼ cup)
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
14-1/2-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped fine
3 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons minced canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
15-oz-can pinto bean
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 Lime, cut into wedges
Coarsely chopped cilantro
Chopped red onion
Additional garnishes: diced avocado, sour cream, and shredded Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and/or steamed white rice.

  1. Set a rack to lower-middle of your oven and pre-heat to 275-degrees. In a medium-sized bowl, add beef, 2 tablespoons water, 1-1/2 teaspoons salt, and 3/4-teaspoon baking soda. Toss until thoroughly combined, and set aside for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the stems for the chiles and tear then into 1″-sized pieces. Set a Dutch oven set over medium-high burner; Add chiles and toast for 4 to 6 minutes until they become fragrant, stirring frequently. If the chiles begin to smoke, then reduce the burner. Allow to cool in the bowl of a food processor.
  3. Add tortilla chips, cumin, paprika, garlic powder, coriander, oregano, thyme, and 2 teaspoons pepper to bowl food processor. Process for 2 minutes until it becomes finely ground. Empty spices into a small bowl. Process the tomatoes with their juice in the food processor for 30 seconds until smooth.
  4. Dice your onion and peel your garlic.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to the empty Dutch oven, set over medium-high burner. Add diced onion at cook for 4 to 6 minutes until softened; stir occasionally. Press garlic directly into pot and cook for just 1 minutes. Add beef mixture from Step 1. Cook beef for 12 to 14 minutes; breaking up meat into 1/4″-pieces as it cooks. The beef should begin to brown and a fond should begin to form on the bottom of the Dutch oven. Add spice mixture from Step 3 and continue to cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes; to bloom the spices.
  6. Add 2 cups of water, 2 teaspoons sugar, tomato puree, and pinto beans and their liquid. Bring up to a boil, and scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits. Cover with lid, move to pre-heated  oven. Cook for 1-1/2 to 2 hours until the meat is tender and chili has slightly thickened. Stir occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking.
  7. Uncover chili and let it sit for 10-minutes. Meanwhile, prepare any of your garnishes.
  8. After 10 minutes stir to re-incorporate any fat that has risen to the top and add 2 tablespoons cider vinegar.
  9. Adjust seasoning with salt to taste. Serve, passing separately the lime wedges, cilantro, chopped onion and other garnishes.
A little extra effort; but big flavors

A little extra effort; but big flavors


14 Responses to Best Ground Beef Chili

  1. Alrighty then, I will try this. I love chili but I too am suspicious of his spicy food recipes. But I never thought about the expense issue. You’re right about that.

  2. Robert Jackson says:

    I love ATK and I follow your blog with great respect. However, I feel like a major step has been skipped. Dried whole chilies like the Pasilla need to be reconstituted after the initial heat step and before being processed. Use very hot water (Boiling point) and in a separate bowl cover the prepared chilies for 30 minutes. Drain the liquid off the chilies and then add to processor. You’ll be glad you did. Thanks, TheChiliGourmet

  3. ED says:

    I love chili but prefer more beef rather than tomato flavors. What changes would you recommend to enhance the beef flavor?

    I see you add 2 cups of water. Would using beef broth be better?


  4. Robert Jackson says:

    I too, have wondered about some of the conflicting information concerning rehydration or just burr grinding into a powder. It was Danielle Walsh from Bon Appetite that finally persuaded me to prefer reconstitution when it comes to soups, sauces, or infused beef chili. As far as texture goes, pouring the mixture through a sieve would also achieve the desired consistency but without the depth of flavor of a fresh chili. So now it deserves to be said that given the results side by side could I or Chris be able to distinguish a difference? Probably not, but that’s why we love culinary science. Oh by the way, How about Julia Davison’s new haircut? Very cute.

  5. Ann Cromwell says:

    I have lots of fresh poblanos. Can you guide me on using those instead of dried?

    • Hi Ann,

      The dried ancho chiles (poblanos) are used to make the chili powder. While fresh poblanos will certainly give great flavor to the chili, I still think that a some chili powder is necessary. There are a few chili-powder-less recipes but they have funky ingredients to make up for their lack of chili powder.

      So in order to make chili powder out of fresh poblanos you have to dry them. There are many websites that show you how to do this in the oven (I haven’t done it yet), then from there you can grind them up into a form of paprika (chili powder is generally a recipe including paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder; but that portion is already included in this chili recipe)


  6. jensenly says:

    Haha! You are spot-on with not trusting Kimball when it comes to spicy food! He practically panics whenever cayenne powder or jalapenos are an ingredient in a recipe. There was even a recipe (I can’t remember which one) that they didn’t even bother having Chris partake. They matched up Julia and Bridget and it was one of the best segments, ever!

    It has always struck me as odd that of all the chefs out there in TV land, he seems to be the only one who has hardly any tolerance for heat. Everyone else I have ever watched gushes over heat.

  7. Lisa Case says:

    Maybe I missed it, but I can’t see in the instructions where the chipotle chiles are added?

    • ED says:

      I hate it when writers do not respond to obvious recipe errors. Lisa, I would add the chipotle chiles in step 6.

    • Bill says:

      Given that they’re left to cool in the food processor bowl and the end of step 2 and Step 3 doesn’t mention removing them, I’d say they get ground up with the ingredients in Step 3. (tortillas, cumin, parika, etc.)

    • Anonymous says:

      At the end of step 5 as per the TV episode (Hearty One Pot Meals) for this recipe.

  8. ann says:

    thank you for all the good recipes that are impossible to get from cooks country,i am all ways looking for what you are up to.bless you

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