I've learned that Chili as a main dish is a controversial subject, especially among Texans. My dad is a "forgiving and lovable Texan" having become that way because he has lived all over the world ... thereby expanding his world view beyond Texas. The Texans I've met are happy living and thinking within their borders! And those Texans hold to no beans/no tomatoes. But what about the chili that non-Texans grew up with? Does it not have some validity? Yes, I believe it should. And that's where my recipe for Classic American Chili comes from ... something for everyone from any state!
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This recipe is really nothing special. Truly it isn't! But it IS really good!
Classic American Chili is simple, tasty, and trustworthy and it has earned a spot in my recipe collection because of all of those reasons. Reliability gets a lot of points in my book!
Start with browning the most beautiful grass-fed ground beef, then add plenty of onions, celery, and garlic.
As soon as the meat is browned, add the spices and let them become fragrant with the heat.
Chili powder, ground cumin, smoked paprika, and oregano are my usuals and if you want more heat, add cayenne or red pepper flakes. I usually skip adding the heat to the pot and offer it at the table so anyone who wants it can add it as they want. This is a good choice if you are serving a large crowd and especially if that crowd involves kids.
Then add the tomatoes.
What kind of tomatoes should I use for Classic American Chili?
I find it funny that for "classic American chili", I show a photo of two Italian tomato products! It's just that I love these for their quality and taste. I like to use both tomato puree (passata) and whole tomatoes cut into pieces. However, I'm really flexible with this recipe and sometimes only use the passata.
To be honest, I usually only use the passata! Just keeps it simple. And I like that texture rather than the chunky tomatoes combined with the chunky beans and meat.
The Beans ... what kind and how much?
I like to use my recipe for Chuck Wagon Cowboy Beans which would have made any chuck wagon cook drool back in the day! Especially with cornbread slathered in butter! That recipe is all about pinto beans, bacon, and plenty of herbs and spices.
However, if you want a variety of beans, try pinto, black, or kidney beans. Kidney beans are typical for chili, but they aren't my favorite. I throw it back to simplicity and use only pintos. I think all the chuck wagon cooks would approve.
Is there a secret ingredient?
You bet! It is added just before serving. "What is that secret ingredient?" you ask. Check out the recipe card below for the unexpected!
Serve Classic American Chili with cheddar cheese, sour cream, maybe a bit of cilantro. Crunchy Cast-Iron Cornbread or tortilla chips are great accompaniments, too!
The recipe card has instructions for cooking on the stove, in the Instant Pot, or in a slow cooker.
Other one-pot meals you might enjoy:
Classic American Chili
- 2 pounds ground beef
- 3 cloves garlic chopped small
- 3 stalks celery chopped small
- 2 large onions chopped small
- 3½ cups diced tomatoes or a 28-ounce can
- 3 cups tomato sauce or 3 8-ounce cans
- Salt to season
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 dash cayenne
- 1½ teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 4 ounces green chiles see notes
- 4 cups cooked pinto beans see notes
- 2 Tablespoons spicy mustard Dijon is my choice!
- In a large Dutch oven, brown the ground beef.
- Add the garlic, celery, and onions. Saute 10 minutes. Add chili powder, cayenne, smoked paprika, oregano, and cumin and stir till they are fragrant.
- Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chile peppers, and beans.
- Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 1-1½ hours, stirring occasionally. You can use a slow cooker, too, set on low for 6-8 hours. Just before serving, stir in the Dijon mustard.
- Serve with Crunchy Cast-Iron Cornbread, corn chips, cheese, sour cream, crackers, green onions, and extra hot sauce.
- To cook them on the stove, put them in a large Dutch oven, and cover them with water. Bring to a low boil, reduce the heat, and cook for about 2 hours. Check for tenderness at that point and decide whether to keep cooking them.
- To cook them in a slow cooker, cover with water, and cook on high for 5 hours.
- To cook them in an Instant Pot, cover with water, set the IP to Manual 15 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.