Homemade Chili from Scratch (No Seasoning Packet!)
Happy January! Todays high was 15 degrees, the low this evening will be -4 degrees and my yard is pleasantly covered with a good 5ish inches of fresh snow. This is the bitter winter weather that calls for an evening cuddling in front of a good show after a hearty bowl of some bone warming chili 🙂
There was a joke growing up that if my sister or I made soup before a snow storm then my dad (the superintendent) would have to cancel school the next day. I can assure you that any cancelling of school was completely coincidental and 100% weather related 🙂 Nevertheless soup was always fun. My Dad was always the ‘Chili’ maker growing up. It always had tomatoes and ground beef, sometimes had beans, and never had onions or peppers.
Mine is a bit different. I think I first made chili for myself in college on a cold snow day. I learned with the chili seasoning packet spices just like Dad. As I began using more jared spices in my mid twenties, I realized that I was already stocking all of the spices typically found in those seasoning packets. Several years and quite a few batches of chili later, I have come to love this great mild Chili that is hearty, versatile, and super easy to make.
The only fresh ingredients needed to make a great chili are onions and jalapeños (and the jalapeños are optional). Everything else is super easy to keep on hand between the pantry and freezer. I like to stock up on the various canned tomato products when they go on sale. Just last week I was able to buy the 14.5 ounce canned tomatoes for just 0.69 cents per can! I do the same with the ground beef. I combined a good sale with coupons and was able to get five packs of the ground beef for just $4.49 each. Pull the cans from the pantry and the beef from the freezer when you are ready to try this recipe!
You need only a few spices: Chili Powder, Cumin, Garlic Powder and Cayenne Pepper. Plus salt. As is the name of the dish, the Chili Powder is the most used of these. Despite the name and the amount used it won’t actually make a super spicy stew! The Cayenne Pepper helps add a bit more spice too. I prefer my spice level relatively low, just enough heat to make my nose run by the end of a hearty bowl (sorry if that is TMI). The cumin brings a bit of another spice element, combining with the meat/beans/onions to make you think you are eating a bit of tex-mex. And I have found that onion powder is easier to control than fresh garlic cloves when it comes to a good chili.
The only real prep is giving the onion and jalapeños some rough dicing. I used a mid size yellow onion that was about 2/3rds pound. The three jalapeños came in at 1/5th pound before I cut the stems off and removed the seeds and ribs. You can use more jalapeño, not remove the ribs and seeds, or choose a spicier pepper to get more heat. The easiest way to remove the seeds and ribs is to firmly peel it out with a spoon. Then to dice, I recommend you first julienne the pepper longways (make long thin strips or match stick size pieces) then cross cut to dice.
The chili transforms somewhat quickly once we start adding ingredients into the soup pot. Start with about 1 Tablespoon olive oil, the diced onion, and medium heat. Stir the onion frequently. Our goal is to merely soften the onions, not brown them. Four or five minutes into this add all of the jalapeños and keep stirring.
Once the jalapeños start softening it is time to get all of the spices into the mix. The heat will give the spices a slight toast and help infuse their flavors into the entire dish. Stir to combine and let the heat wake up the spices for just a minute or so.
My secrets for the thick texture I like is to add the beef stock then add the ground beef uncooked. Also, instead of a spatula to break down the meat I use my potato masher. This combo almost dissolves the ground beef into the stew as it cooks and really thickens the Chili.
Yes, dissolving meat in broth sounds terrible, but you have to trust me here. This will be a great texture! The best mainstream comparison I can offer is that of Cincinnati Style Chili, AKA Skyline or Gold Star. Note: I am not finished yet! We still have the tomatoes and beans to add!
Get ready! We are almost done! I add tomato paste (rich and thick), a double can of crushed tomatoes (super thick texture), tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes (bigger pieces add texture). If you can find them, I like to use at least one can of fire roasted tomatoes. I think the hint of smokyness adds that something something to the finished product.
If using canned beans take a moment and rinse the beans before adding to the stew. I swear something about the cloudy water and bean funk at the bottom of the can changes the flavor if you let it in the dish. It is also a habit I started because dozens of other recipes recommend it too. If I have more time I do like to soak my own dry kidney beans. When I do this I always make extra and keep some in the freezer.
Here is the hard part. We need to let the mix simmer and reduce a bit to thicken up a bit more. The chili smells so good and tempting already! It still needs some time and taste testing though. The picture on the right shows just how thick I like my Chili. I think a really good Chili should be like a thick meat stew that can really be piled high!
Also, you may have noticed the lack of any salt being added thusfar. I love soups of many kinds and adding too much salt can quickly ruin an otherwise great soup. I am especially conscious of this when using so many canned items simultaneously. I taste test while the Chili is simmering and add salt to taste, plus check on the other spices levels too. I needed two tablespoons salt today (note, the double can of crushed tomatoes was salt free).
The versatility of this semi mild chili can really be shown in the way you serve it. This Chili can be served on top of french fries/baked potato/pasta/Macaroni and cheese. You can top it many ways, including but not limited to diced avocado, extra jalapeños, cheese, sour cream, oyster crackers, or guacamole. Or you can serve it as is next to a grilled cheese or peanut butter sandwich. There are so many different combos you can make! Today I served it with some al dente bucatini pasta, a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkle of cheese. Dad almost always served his Chili with peanut butter sandwiches or cheese and oyster crackers. Pro tip: dipping a PB sandwich into the chili is an odd yet satisfying sweet/salty/spicy combo that just seems to work!
Happy Chili making! I hope this recipe helps warm up your snowy winter days!
Homemade Chili (No Seasoning Packet!)
- 1 Diced Yellow Onion
- 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
- Diced Jalapeños, optional, quantity is your choice (I use 3)
- 5 Tablespoons Chili Powder
- 4 Tablespoons Cumin
- 2 Tablespoons Garlic Powder
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
- 1 can Beef Broth
- 2 Pounds Ground Beef
- 1 6ounce can Tomato Paste
- 4 cans of Tomatoes
- I used a double size can of crushed tomatoes, plus one each of tomato sauce and fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 2 cans rinsed Kidney Beans
- Peel then dice Yellow Onion
- Wash Jalapeños, remove ribs and seeds, julienne, then dice
- Pre-measure your dry spices
- Add oil and onion into soup pot, stir, cook til onion softens, about 4-5 minutes
- Add Jalapeños, stir, add all of the spices about one minute later, stir
- Add Beef Broth, then ground beef, combine using a potato masher (its a texture thing-details above)
- Add all the various canned tomatoes, stir
- tomato paste
- crushed tomatoes (2 cans)
- tomato sauce
- diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
- Simmer, and periodically stir and taste for seasoning, add salt and or other spices as needed
- Once reduced to desired thickness serve as is or with choice of topping/sandwich/side (suggestions above)