Halloween night. Sports team parties. Potlucks. This weeknight chili recipe sees a lot of action in our kitchen. It’s super versatile, easy, fast and savory.
The best part is you can make this chili with either ground beef or ground turkey, canned kidney or pinto beans or no beans at all (just double the meat). Make it in a big pot on the stove, or in a slow cooker or Instant Pot. I’ve tripled the recipe with great results, and you can easily freeze leftovers.
Adjust the red chili flakes and hot sauce to the preference of your eaters, or better yet let your crew add hot sauce to their bowl after the chili is dished up.
It may seem strange that there’s no cumin or chili powder in this recipe, but trust me and go with it. As my kids get older, I may sneak in some chipotle paste or ground d’arbol chili or ancho chili powder, but until then we’re keeping it simple and kid-friendly.
Don’t rush the hour this soup simmers on the stove and reduces. Flavors meld and come together, the base thickens and the chili goes to the next dimension. If you make this in your slow cooker or Instant Pot and the base of the chili looks “soupy” use an immersion blender or potato masher to break up any bigger chunks of tomatoes and ground meat. You don’t want to puree the chili, just thicken the base and help the chili come together.
To sneak in more vegetables, serve in pre-baked squash or sweet potatoes. Leftovers can be made into chili nachos or tucked into a lazy Saturday morning omelette.
Prep all the toppings so they’re ready to go: Grated sharp white cheddar, diced green or red onions, thinly sliced or julienned radish, pickled jalapeños, cilantro and sour cream or thick Greek yogurt. We always have our rice cooker going when a pot of chili is on, and everyone in my family likes their chili dished up over a scoop of sticky rice. You could make brown rice or quinoa to up the nutritional quotient, but don’t tell on us because we like good ol’ sticky rice.
Beef or Turkey Chili
Serve garnished with grated white cheddar, sliced green onions, thin slices of radish and sour cream. To make this into chili con carne, omit the beans and double the meat. This is adapted from a Smart family recipe that has morphed and changed a little over the years.
2 slices bacon, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ pounds ground beef (preferably grassfed, 85-90% fat) , ground bison or dark meat ground turkey (double the meat if you omit the beans)
1 large can (28 oz.) whole tomatoes, no juice, tomatoes broken up with your hands or cut up before adding to the pot
1 can (15 oz.) tomato sauce
1 or 2 large cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
½-1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, to taste
A few dashes of Tabasco or Crystal brand hot sauce (optional)
In a large heavy-bottomed pot, such as a Le Creuset, cook the bacon until the fat separates and renders, about 3 minutes. Add the onion and bell pepper to the bacon fat and cook until softened, about two minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and stir for about 30 seconds more.
Add the meat to the pot, breaking it up as you stir it. Add a generous sprinkling of salt, about a teaspoon and a half, and cook until the meat looses its pink color.
Add remaining ingredients and stir. Cook, uncovered, on the stovetop on medium-low heat for 1 hour. Add a few dashes of hot sauce and taste for salt before serving.
Slow Cooker Directions: Once the meat is browned, add the meat and all the other ingredients to a slow cooker and continue cooking on low for 6 hours or high for 4 hours.
Instant Pot Directions: Follow the steps in the first paragraph, but sauté directly in the base of the Instant Pot. Add the remaining ingredients, stir, seal and set to the chili setting. Let the steam vent before opening the Instant Pot. If the meat is in larger clumps, break it up with a spoon, potato masher or a hand held immersion blender. If you use an immersion blender, be careful not to over puree the chili. Just use it in 3-4 spots to break up any large pieces of meat.