How To Make Chili Step-by Step
Making chili is essentially about slowly developing and balancing out complex flavors.
1. Sear Your Meats
First, sear your meats in a little oil over medium-high heat until well-browned. Use a deep Dutch oven or heavy soup pot. If you’re using a roast, sirloin steak, or short rib, cube the meat. Then make sure it’s well-browned on all sides. Remove the meat.
2. Sauté Aromatics
Next, sauté your aromatic vegetables in the same pot. Start with your chopped onions, cooking until soft, about 5 minutes. Then, if you’re adding additional veggies — like celery, bell peppers, and carrots — put them in the pot, and sauté for another 5 to 7 minutes. Now it’s time for the minced garlic; cook, stirring until fragrant — about 1 minute.
Now you’re ready for the seasonings. Stir them into the vegetables. By now, you’ll notice a dark brown crust (or fond) has formed on the bottom of the pan. That’s flavor in waiting!
4. Deglaze the Pan
Deglaze the pan with a little beer, white wine, broth, or even water, stirring to bring up those brown bits of flavor.
5. Add Broth and Simmer
Return the meat to the pot and add the broth. Simmer for 1 hour, or until cubed meat is nice and tender. For best results, go low and slow. A gentle simmer on low heat allows flavors to build.
If you’re using tougher cuts of meat, let the meat simmer for at least an hour in the seasoned broth. Add the tomatoes with the broth, too, if you like; or hold off on adding the tomatoes until the next step. Also, if you’re using tofu cubes or crumbles instead of meat, hold on until the next step to add them to the pot.
6. Add the Beans (Optional)
Add the beans, along with tomatoes, tofu, corn, if you’re adding these ingredients. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, and you’re ready to dig in.
Garnish as you like, with shredded Cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, sliced jalapeños, fresh chopped cilantro, maybe some chopped green onions. Keep in mind, though, sometimes the tastiest chili is the one that’s made a day ahead. If you have time, cook it up on the stove, and then reheat it the next day on the stove or in the slow cooker.
More Ways to Make Chili
Choose Your Meats
Chili does best with economical cuts of meat — that’s one of chili’s best features. The slow braising technique favors inexpensive stew meats, chuck roast, rump roast, sirloin — and also venison, buffalo, and elk. Ground meats (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) are also smart choices. For vegetarian chili, try tofu cubes or crumbles.
- Beef Chili Recipes
- Chicken Chili Recipes
- Texas Deer Chili
- Colorado Buffalo Chili
- Terrific Turkey Chili
- Elk Chili
Choose Your Beans
Kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, white beans (great northern and navy) — they’re all worthy contenders. What about canned vs. dried beans? There’s no denying the convenience of canned beans. No shame at all in using them.
However, if you’re using canned, watch for sodium; you might need to adjust how much salt you add to the pot if the beans contain loads of salt. And rinse the beans before adding them to your chili. If you’re thinking dry beans, consider these heirloom dry beans. They’ll take any chili from basic to unbelievable.
- Kidney Beans:My Chili
- White Beans:White Chili II
- Pinto Beans:Beef, Bean, and Beer Chili
- Black Beans: Fantastic Black Bean Chili
- No Beans:Chili without Beans Recipes
Choose Your Seasonings
If making chili is a balancing act, much of the balancing can be accomplished with your spice mixture. For chili, you’ll need cumin and coriander — that’s a given. And maybe some cayenne, chili powder, paprika; possibly a touch of cinnamon, clove, and a little star anise.
You can buy chili seasoning packets at the store. But they’re easy, and cheaper just to make at home. If you’re grinding your own spices, try toasting them first in a skillet to unlock complex aromas.
- Sarah’s Chili Seasoning Mix
- Chili Seasoning Mix II
- Chili Seasoning Mix I
What to Serve With Chili
Ready to try your luck with these chili contest-winning recipes? They could be your ticket to a blue ribbon, too. Or take a peek at our complete collection of Chili Recipes.
A little cornbread with your chili? Nice choice. But consider this savory cornbread waffle. It’s chili’s choice companion. Need more inspirations? Browse our collection of side dishes for chili.
Related: 10 Quick and Easy Chili Recipes Ready in 30 Minutes or Less