There's a cool breeze in the air, which means chili season is officially here! I'm so excited to share my best chili con carne recipe with you today!
Hearty Chili with Beef Stew Meat
It's packed with comforting ingredients like tender beef stew meat, hearty beans, flavorful vegetables, and authentic Mexican spices. You're going to love it!
I created this homemade chili recipe based on my multi-award-winning Venison Chili that y'all love! I then tested and tweaked it over and over again until I got it just right. Finally, I made sure it was approved by the pickiest food critics of all - my family. I'm proud to say they devoured the whole pot and gave it a huge thumbs-up!
As a Texan, I cook and eat a lot of Tex-Mex comfort food and know what good chili tastes like. So trust me when I say, this chile con carne is the best!
Be sure to add this Tex-Mex dish to your list of cold-weather favorites, along with my chicken tortilla soup, venison stew, and creamy potato soup. Did someone say "comfort food"? My stomach sure did!
Don't feel like tending to the stovetop for 2 hours? No problem! You can easily make this dish fuss-free in the Crock Pot or Instant Pot as well. You can find instructions for these cooking methods in the "Frequently Asked Questions" section below.
What is Chili Con Carne?
Chili con carne is a hearty, spicy stew traditionally made with tender beef chunks, beans, tomatoes, chiles, and Mexican-inspired spices.
The Spanish name for this dish translates to "chili peppers with meat" in English. It's thought to have originated in the Texas-Mexico border towns sometime in the 1800s, so I would definitely consider this a Tex-Mex cuisine.
What You'll Need
This homemade chili uses simple ingredients you probably already have on hand or can easily find at your local grocery store. (For measurements, please scroll down to the recipe card below.)
- cooking oil - for browning the meat. I like to use olive oil, but any kind will work.
- beef stew meat - cooked low and slow for tenderness
- beans - I like to use kidney beans for this recipe, but you can also use pintos or black beans. One time I even used white beans, and the flavor was just as delicious!
- veggies - Onion, bell pepper, jalapeno peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and green chiles add savory goodness to the sauce.
- spices and seasonings - Cumin, chili powder, paprika, oregano, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper give this Tex-Mex dish its warm signature taste.
- chicken broth - While most people use beef broth in their chili, I prefer chicken broth for its milder flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce - adds a savory, slightly sweet taste that really enhances the other flavors
Chili Powder vs. Chile Powder
Here in the United States, chili powder is what you will most commonly find at your local grocery store. It's a blend of ground chile peppers and other spices, such as garlic, cumin, paprika, and more.
In other parts of the world, you will mostly find chile powder. It carries more heat since it's made purely of ground chile peppers with nothing else added.
I prefer to use chili powder (the milder option) for this recipe. If you only have chile powder on hand, you will want to use half the amount. Otherwise, your chili will likely turn out way too spicy.
How to Make Chili Con Carne
Here are brief instructions and process images for how to make this chili con carne recipe. (More detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Step 1: Brown the beef chunks in small batches until a golden crust has formed on all sides. Then, transfer to a plate and set aside.
Step 2: In a large dutch oven, sauté the onion, peppers, and garlic until the onion is translucent, the peppers are soft, and the garlic is fragrant.
Step 3: Add the browned beef to the pot along with the remaining ingredients (except for the beans), and then stir them all together.
Step 4: Cover and simmer for 2 hours, until the beef chunks are tender. Stir occasionally to help blend the flavors together.
Step 5: Stir in the beans and continue to simmer for 30 more minutes.
Step 6: Serve warm in bowls topped with cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and sliced jalapeno, along with corn chips, crackers, homemade cornbread, or fluffy dinner rolls. Enjoy!
Variations and Substitutions
- Spicier: Toss in an extra jalapeno pepper. When the chili is done cooking, smash it up and discard it. You can also add another tablespoon of chili powder or more cayenne pepper for an extra fiery kick!
- Milder: Tone down the heat by adding only one chopped jalapeno and omitting the cayenne pepper.
- Thicker: After the chili has finished cooking, stir one tablespoon of cornstarch, flour, or masa harina into half a cup of water. Pour it into the pot, stir, and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Remember, the sauce will continue to thicken as it cools.
- Thinner: add more chicken broth
- Beans: No kidney beans on hand? No problem! You can swap them out for pintos or black beans. One time I even used white beans, and the flavor was just as delicious! Not a fan of beans in your chili? No worries; neither is my husband and half the state of Texas! Simply leave them out - no harm, no foul!
How to Serve Chili Con Carne
There are so many ways to enjoy this delicious, spicy stew! Here are a few ideas for toppings, sides, and different ways to serve it.
- Toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, corn chips, chopped green onions, sliced jalapeno, and chopped fresh cilantro.
- Sides: homemade cornbread, saltine crackers, Mexican rice, refried beans, and even dinner rolls
- Serve it warm in bowls or on top of hot dogs, nachos, and baked potatoes. You can also use leftovers to make frito pie and chili cheese dip.
How to Store Leftovers
Place leftover chili in a food storage container and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
When you're ready to eat, simply reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until heated through.
Tips and Tricks
Here are a few pointers to help you make the best chili con carne.
- Cook low and slow to give the stew meat enough time to become tender and for the flavors to marry.
- Add the kidney beans toward the end of your cooking time so that they don't become too mushy.
Frequently Asked Questions
While both of these spicy stews are very similar in how they are made, there are some slight differences. Chili is mostly made with ground beef and has a thinner sauce, while chili con carne is heartier and meatier with tender beef chunks and a thicker sauce.
Add your browned beef along with the rest of the ingredients to the crock pot. Stir them all together, and then close the lid. Cook on High for 3-4 hours or on Low for 6-8 hours. Serve warm and enjoy!
Using the saute setting, brown the meat as directed in the recipe. Turn the Instant Pot off and drain any excess grease. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Lock the lid in place and cook on high pressure for 20-30 minutes. Then, release the pressure naturally or with the quick-release valve.
Other Recipes You'll Love!
Be sure to check out my how-to video in the recipe card below!
Chili Con Carne
For Browning the Meat:
- 3 pounds beef stew meat (trimmed and cut into1-inch cubes)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons cooking oil (divided)
For Sauteing the Peppers and Vegetables:
- 1 Tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 medium green bell pepper (chopped)
- 1 medium yellow onion (chopped)
- 2 jalapeno peppers (seeded and chopped)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
For the Chili Sauce:
- 2 (10 ounce) cans Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies (undrained)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 1 Tablespoon chili powder (see notes)
- 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground oregano
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending on the spice level you like)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 (15.5 ounce) can kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
Brown the Meat
- Pat the stew meat dry and then season it with salt and black pepper.
- In a large dutch oven, heat 1 Tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. (Watch your oil closely. You want it hot but not smoking.) Brown the stew meat in 3 batches, turning the cubes over until a golden brown crust has formed on all sides, about 4 minutes per batch. Add an extra Tablespoon of oil for each batch. Drain excess juices if needed. (The key to browning stew meat is to not overcrowd the pan and to let the cubes develop a nice golden brown crust before turning them.) Move the meat to a large plate and set aside.
Saute the Peppers and Vegetables
- Add another Tablespoon of oil to the dutch oven, if needed.
- Add the chopped bell pepper, onion, and jalapenos. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes until the onion is translucent and peppers are tender.
- Add the minced garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes, until fragrant.
Cook the Chili
- Add the browned stew meat back into the pot along with the remaining ingredients (except for the beans) and stir.
- Bring the chili to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally to help blend the flavors together.
- Add the beans and continue to simmer for 30 more minutes.
- Serve the chili warm in bowls topped with cheese, sour cream, and cilantro along with corn chips, crackers, or homemade cornbread. Enjoy!
- There's a difference between chili powder (a blend of spices) and chile powder (purely ground chili peppers). This recipe calls for chili powder, the milder option. So if you are using chile powder instead, only use half the amount.
- Cook low and slow to give the meat enough time to become tender and for the flavors to marry.
- Add the kidney beans towards the end of your cooking time so that they don't become too mushy.
- For a spicier chili, add more chili powder and cayenne pepper.
- For a milder chili, omit the cayenne pepper and one of the jalapenos.
*Nutritional facts are calculated by third party sources and are not always accurate. If you are on a special diet, we highly recommend you calculate these values personally.