Chili is a cool weather staple in our house — as it was when I was growing up — and I’m sure many of you share in that practice. But what I love the most about chili (in addition to the big bowl of yummy comfort it inevitably provides) is all the subsequent meals it can evolve into. Especially now, when I’m working towards simplifying and minimizing, I have an even greater appreciation for 1. all the on-hand pantry ingredients I get to use that likely need to be thinned out; 2. the economical meal in itself; and 3. the ease of dinner prep — not just for the initial night of chili but for the simplified meals that follow. Today, I’m sharing the easy go-to chili recipe I grew up on (and still use), ideas for all those leftovers, and ideas for chili toppings — as a bonus, they’re fun to pull together in what else but a chili board 😉
*Posts on KelleyNan.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.
As simple as the recipe I use is, it’s a proven winner and has stood the test of time. As a matter of fact, my core group of girlfriends request it specifically when I’m hosting.
This homemade chili recipe can easily be altered to suit your personal tastes and preferences. Dave is from Texas where the chili is all about the meat and beans are less common. As far as I’m concerned, the beans are the best part. So, over the past 10 years, we compromise — he lets me stick to one lean ground beef and I cut the beans in half.
In regards to being a “bean” fan, I slightly altered my original recipe to incorporate half dark red kidney beans and half pinto chili beans. My grandmother made her homemade chili with all dark red kidney beans, which adds a nice color contrast to the pot. Black beans are also a great alternative or add in. You can certainly add more heat and spice to the chili pot as it is cooking, but I’ve found that just making sure I have additional toppings to individually dress each bowl works best for my family (and gatherings, too).
What ingredients do I use to make my Homemade Chili?
One of the things I like most about making chili at home is I typically have most of the ingredients on hand. My recipe calls for;
- Ground beef
- Canned petite tomatoes
- Canned beans (I like to use a mix of chili beans and dark red kidney beans, but other canned beans, such as black beans or pinto beans can be used.)
- Chili powder
- Garlic (I use the frozen crushed garlic cubes, but fresh garlic or garlic salt can also be used.)
- Salt and/or onion salt to taste
What kitchen tools are used to make my Homemade Chili?
Like the basic ingredients, most kitchens are typically stocked with all of these needed tools to make this chili recipe.
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Dutch oven or other large pot
- Large cooking spoon
- Strainer or colander
- Measuring spoons
My homemade chili is easy. to make and can easily be doubled to feed a larger crowd. We typically have leftovers that are even better the next day!
- 1.5 lbs Ground Beef I prefer 93% lean
- 2 Onions peeled and chopped
- 2 Frozen Garlic Cubes fresh garlic or garlic salt may be substituted
- 1 large can Petite Diced Tomatoes undrained
- 1 small can Petite Diced Tomatoes undrained
- 1 cans Pinto Chili Beans drained
- 2 cans Dark Red Kidney Chili Beans drained
- 3 Tbsp Chili Powder
- 1 tsp Salt
- Onion Salt to taste
Add ground beef to dutch onion and break apart with large spoon. Set stove temp to low.
Peel and chop onions and add to dutch oven.
Add garlic (I use frozen cubes) to the dutch oven and stir mixture to incorporate.
Continue cooking ground beef mixture on low until the ground beef is no longer pink and the onions are translucent.
Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and either drain in a colander in the sink over paper towels or use a strainer to drain the grease into a discardable container. As a tip, I like to line a bowl with tin foil and drain the grease into that. Once it has cooled and hardened, it is easy to throw it in the trash.
Return the Dutch oven (and ground beef mixture) to the stove and add the cans of tomatoes (undrained.)
Add chili powder, salt and onion salt and simmer for 20 minutes.
Drain the canned beans and add to the chili mixture.
Simmer for another hour and stir regularly. The longer it has to marry, the better.
Additional salt, pepper or garlic may be added to taste.
If you don't have canned chili beans, you can also use regular canned beans.
Serve the chili with the add in's and toppers of your choice.
Ideas for Chili Toppings
More than the chili itself, what I love about serving chili at home, to the family or to guests, is the way you can serve it – bar-style with a mini buffet of accompaniments. I put a LOT in my chili and have a few things I have to have on hand, but here’s a comprehensive list of ideas for chili toppings.
- Greek yogurt or sour cream
- Saltine crackers
- Oyster crackers
- Tortilla chips
- Tortilla strips
- Black olives
- Green onion
- Diced white or purple onion
- Jalapeños (fresh or pickled)
- Serrano peppers
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Banana pepper rings
- Diced avocado
- Diced Tomato
- Variety of hot sauces (Frank’s is my fave; Dave’s is Tobasco)
- Cornbread/corn muffins
General Tips for a Variety of Chili Toppings
You don’t have to have them all (although, if you’re serving chili for an easy make-ahead dinner, the more variety, the better) but I think there’s a few general categories to make sure you’re covered so each bowl can be customized to individual preferences… When you’re going through your chili toppings, try to include at least one things from each category.
- Heat — hot sauce, peppers (anything to spice it up)
- Creamy — sour cream, Greek yogurt (brings down the spice; adds tang; thickens consistency; tames the tomatoes)
- Cheesy — bare minimum. No explanation needed 😉
- Salty — crackers, chips (especially salty with a crunch)
- *Optional Sweet (on the side) — corn, sweet corn muffins, (a contrast to the spicy and savory)
Sources: Larger Bowl on Board
This chili toppings board contains winners for our whole fam and we each dress our bowls of chili differently. My perfect bowl? Shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, Greek yogurt, banana peppers, black olives, green onions, Frank’s hot sauce, with a sweet corn muffin on the side.
Sources: Small Bowls on Board
How to Use Homemade Chili Leftovers
Of course, one of the best ways to use chili leftovers is to have another chili bowl the next day. And, chili makes a phenomenal freezer meal — multiply the ingredients and freeze batches for later. The flavors are typically better than the day it was made! But, if you’re looking for fresh ideas or your family isn’t fans of leftovers of the same meal, here are some ways to use every bit of the chili you’ve made, so it doesn’t go to waste. Some of these dishes are so good, you may want to increase the size of your recipe so that you can plan to have one of more of these dishes for a follow up meal. Plus, you’ll be able to continue to use those chili toppings. Here are several ideas, featuring some of my favorites!
- Chili Salad — just top your favorite salad greens with a spoonful or two of warm chili and the toppings you prefer.
- Chili Pot Pie — Spread chili in a casserole dish, top with cornbread batter and bake in the oven according to the cornbread instructions.
- Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes
- Chili Nachos
- Chili Stuffed Peppers — HERE are some other stuffed pepper ideas!
- Chili Queso Dip
- Chili Stuffed Pasta Shells
- Chili Sloppy Joes
- Chili Frito Pie — For the purist, top a small bag of Fritos with warm chili and eat right out of the bag!
- Chili Mac
- Chili Dogs
- Chili Burgers
- Cincinnati-Style Chili
Here’s a tip!
In you’re in “cooking mode” and want to plan ahead for the week or to make extra meals for the freezer to serve later, you can make chili and spaghetti sauce at the same time, by double batching the quantity of ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes and garlic. Once the ground beef, onions and garlic have been sautéed and drained, add the canned tomatoes to incorporate. Then divide this mixture into two batches to add each recipe’s signature ingredients. For the spaghetti sauce, I add a large jar of marinara sauce and Italian spices. For the chili, I add the beans and chili powder. Both recipes freeze beautifully and also make a great gift to share with others.
Does your chili recipe resemble mine? Have a secret ingredient that you swear by? Are you a chili purist or do you prefer lots of chili toppings? For more easy family recipes and entertaining ideas, subscribe to emails at the bottom of this post!
Other posts you may like:
- 7 Ways to Use Slow Cooker Chicken BBQ
- Clean and Contrast — Starting Fresh with New Additions for the New Year
- Classic Pot Roast and Vegetable Beef Soup Recipes
- Stuffed Poblano Peppers — 25 Ways!
- 7 Easy Family Recipes that Can Evolve Into a Week’s Worth of Frugal Meals
Pin For Later