Homemade Chili Step by Step

There are many stories and accounts of how Chili was developed. One of the more plausible versions I have heard is that in the 19th century, a cook on a wagon train traveling out west was preparing the evening meal.

He was making beef stew, but found he had nothing but onions to throw in the pot, and had run out of black pepper, so he substituted an equal amount of cayenne pepper. Thus Chili was born.

A few notes about this chili

Serve this chili in a bowl with crusty buttered bread and chunks of sharp cheddar. A bitter ale or full-bodied red wine such as Shiraz are good accompaniments. This will impress your date/spouse/family/or you may be impressed with yourself if you are new to cooking.

This is a very simple, basic type of Chili, and is a good choice for beginning cooks. If you can open packages and cans, and stir, you have the skill level to make this chili. This recipe uses powdered onion and garlic, so no chopping is entailed. The flavor of powdered onion and garlic are also very concentrated.

You don’t have to measure if you don’t want to. Add the seasonings to your own taste preference.

The main thing to focus on is to cook the meat thoroughly so you don’t give yourself or your guests’ food poisoning. A heavy bottomed stockpot or stew pot is needed.

The one I have used for 20 years, which is pictured in this article is a Calphalon, one of the best on the marker. It is a little pricey, but very much worth it.

A thin pot will cause the chili or whatever you are creating to burn, as it won’t distribute the heat properly. I like a wooden spoon for mixing and serving. A wooden spoon is a poor conductor of heat, so less opportunity to burn yourself.

Chili is also very good over white rice or noodles, or spaghetti, mixed into rotini or elbow macaroni, or served with grated cheese or chopped raw onions on top. If you want to light it up a little, add a good Louisiana type hot sauce to the bowl before serving.

Homemade Chili Recipe


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs Ground beef
  • 2 lbs sweet Italian sausage
  • 8 oz black beans rinsed, one can
  • 8 oz dark red kidney beans rinsed, one can
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp onion powder
  • 2 tbsp Ancho powder and or 2 tbsp. Chipotle powder
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 16 oz whole plum or diced tomatoes that's 2 cans


  • Heat a heavy bottomed stockpot over high heat. Add olive oil to pot.
    heating olive oil in stockpot
  • Add meat and break up and stir, browning it all thoroughly
    stirring the meat
  • Add garlic and onion powder.
    adding garic and onion powder
  • Add canned tomatoes with juice.
    adding tomatoes
  • Add cans of beans, rinsed.
    rinsing the beans
  • Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
  • Add spices.
    Chipotle and cumin
  • Cook for another 15 minutes.

Chili can be made in a variety of styles…

Chili is a good dish for beginning cooks. It is very forgiving. Once you have mastered the basic chili above, you can tinker with the recipe and make many different delicious styles of chili.

All chili must contain at least chili powder, cumin, onion and garlic. Without these four ingredients, you might make a very good stew, but it will not be chili.

1. Texas chili is a bowl of meat with chili powder, onions, and garlic. It does not contain beans. Texans consider anything else to be SOTC (Stew Other Than Chili). Texans are serious about their chili the way New Englanders are about Maple syrup, and Brits are about their tea.

2. Cincinnati chili is alluded to above. Cincinnati style chili is made to order as follows:

  • One way is just chili
  • Two way is chili over spaghetti
  • Three ways is chili over spaghetti with shredded cheese on top.
  • Four way is chili over spaghetti with shredded cheese and topped with chopped onions

3. New York chili has no beans, uses tomato sauce instead of tomatoes, and is served over hot dogs in a bun with yellow or brown mustard. Only very disturbed individuals put ketchup or relish on their chilidogs.

4. White chili is made chicken breast, onions, garlic, white beans, chili powder, and cumin

5. Veggie chili. Chili with meat and beans, and the quadfecta of onions, garlic, cumin and chili powder, but also sliced roasted red and green peppers, lots of tomatoes, and diced eggplant.

6. Grain chili, aka vegan chili. Instead of meat, quinoa, wheat berries, lentils, or rice is used.

7. Curry-chili fusion is one of my favorites. Make a traditional chili but use chickpeas instead of kidney beans, and add lots of curry powder and diced red peppers. This is just so good.

8. Cocoa cinnamon chili, aka Aztec chili. Add a little unsweetened cocoa powder and cinnamon. Go easy with the cocoa, not more than a tbsp. for flavor. It is easy to get carried away, but if you keep adding cocoa, the chili will turn into a nasty, gooey, inedible mess.

9. California Chili. Ground Turkey is used instead of ground beef, and pinto beans, ground ginger, and green peppers are added to the basic chili recipe.

10. Cajun chili. Add chopped bell peppers, a little molasses and a lot of Louisiana hot sauce to the basic chili recipe, and use tomato paste in place of tomatoes.

11. Here is a link to a really nice bison and quinoa chili for athletes. I cannot stomach red onions for whatever reason, so I substituted Vidalia onions, and used beef broth concentrate in place of chicken broth, as I thought the latter would get lost in the flavors.

12. Beer chili is very good. Stout or as assertive bitter ale work well. Add a bottle to your favorite chili recipe and let it simmer.

13. Honorable mention: Costco’s food court Chili. This is a very respectable meat, kidney bean and tomato chili. I frequently get a cup to go when shopping at CostCo. The only drawback is about 2600 mg of sodium. That is about all the salt you need in one day.

14. Honorable mention #2: Wendy’s chili. Here is a copycat recipe.

Final Tips

Go easy on the salt, or leave it out, and choose lean meat, and chili can be a very healthy and nutritious meal. Lean meat will provide protein and iron, beans will provide water-soluble fiber, and a wide variety of vitamins and minerals, and tomatoes and red peppers are also nutrient packed.

If you add good quality ancho, chipotle, and cayenne pepper to your chili, there will be no need for salt. If you add hot sauce during cooking or for servings, of course you will also add sodium.

homemade chili pin

4 thoughts on “Homemade Chili Step by Step”

    • Hello Donna
      It’s in there. The Ancho or chipotle powders are both chili powders. They are smoky and have a slight sweetness.

      Derrick K.


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