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The Perfect Chili

Feb/05/2023 / by Cate Reynolds

Put together the kind of dish that gets people rushing back for more

Turkey chili
Turkey chili. Shutterstock

Whether you’re craving a cozy meal for a cold day or preparing to host friends on Superbowl Sunday, chili is a simple, delicious, and versatile meal that’s always a crowd-pleaser. From base ingredients to delectable toppings, here’s how to make chili that will have your friends and family begging for seconds.

Start With a Base

Traditionally, chili is made with a combination of beef chuck or ground beef and beans, but there are plenty of other delicious alternatives. If you want to go the traditional route, we recommend pairing one pound of meat with one can of beans.

For vegetarian chili, pick two different types of beans. Or, one can of beans and a cup of lentils. Beans and lentils should be the last ingredient added to your chili to prevent them from becoming mushy. This will give you enough chili to serve four to six people. Be sure to cook/brown any meat fully before assembling your chili.

We recommend cooking your chili in a large stovetop pot, although it can also be made in a slow cooker.

Meat-based = 1 pound of meat + one can of beans

Vegetarian option A = 1 can of beans + 1 can of beans

Vegetarian option B = 1 can of beans + 1 cup of lentils

Meat options

Ground beef, ground turkey, chicken, ground sirloin, short ribs, chorizo, sausage, bacon

Bean options

Pinto, kidney, black beans, Cannelli beans

Add Veggies

Vegetables add flavor and heartiness to your chili, and are especially important in vegetarian chili. If you’re making a meat-based chili, aromatic vegetables are the way to go. We recommend a large onion, diced, and at least one other aromatic vegetable. For vegetarian chili, it’s always good to get a nice mix of aromatic, meaty, and root vegetables, but always include an onion.

Vegetables will be the second ingredient added to meat-based chili, after the meat is cooked. For vegetarian chili, start your chili by sauteing your veggies. Soft or leafy vegetables shouldn’t be added until later.

Meat-based = 1 diced onion + at least 1 aromatic vegetable

Vegetarian option A = 1 onion + several root vegetables

Vegetarian option B = 1 onion + 1 pound of root vegetable + mushrooms + up to 1 pound of tender vegetable

Aromatic Veggie Options

Onion, bell peppers, celery, green chile

Root Veggie Options

Parsnips, turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, winter squash

Meaty Veggie Options

Mushrooms, cauliflower

Tender Veggie Options:

Tomatoes, corn, zucchini

Spice It Up

The spices you decide to season your chili with are very important. Depending on the flavor you’re going for, there are several different options. Add spices before adding any liquid. While it’s fun to experiment, here is a blueprint to start things.

Chili seasoning = 2 tbsp of chili powder + 1 tbsp of cumin + 1 tbsp of garlic powder + salt and pepper to taste

Other spices to experiment with:

Cayenne pepper, oregano, onion powder, paprika, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes

Get Saucy

To give you chili that classic stew-like consistency, you’ll need to add some liquid. Broth is a great starting point because it will add great flavor to your chili.

Here are some options:
a. 1 can of diced tomatoes (not drained) + 1-3 cups of vegetable or meat broth

b. 1 can of diced tomatoes (not drained) + ½-1 ½ cups of broth + ½-1 ½  cups of beer

c. 1 can of diced tomatoes (not drained) + ½-1 ½ cups of broth + ½-1 ½  cups of red wine

Top It Off

Once your chili is complete, you need one last step before digging in: toppings. Perhaps the best part of any bowl of chili, toppings let each person customize their chili to their liking. When it comes to toppings, the options are endless, and there is no magic number of toppings to include. Get creative and top your bowl with whatever appeals to you, then dig in! 

Toppings

Sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado, tortilla chips, oyster crackers, corn chips, cilantro, scallions, lime, jalapenos, queso fresco, green or red peppers, fried onions, raw onions, bacon, corn salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, ranch, Greek yogurt, hot sauce, soy sauce, wasabi sauce, sriracha, horseradish, parsley, chives.

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