Spicy and Satisfying Chili con Carne

When it comes to a comforting stew, you can’t go wrong with chili con carne.

Vertical image of a white bow filled with red stew with garnishes, with text on the top and bottom of the image.

I love bringing out the stock pot and making a giant batch to nosh on for the next few days. And it’s a recipe that I used to make all the time for cook-offs or potlucks too.

Finding the perfect chili recipe can be a bit tough. Some are too spicy and some are too sweet. There are others that have too many tomatoes or too much meat, that are too smoky or maybe too brothy, and so on.

Chasing down a carefully crafted chili is much like trying to find the best chocolate chip cookie recipe. Everyone has their own version of what they think is perfect, and it may qualify for many different reasons.

Vertical top-down image of two bowls filled with stew topped with chopped onions and shredded cheese.

Maybe you have a foolproof vegetarian version that you love, or a creamy white chicken one that is your personal favorite for every game day.

But this recipe is one that I call pure perfection.

The balance of meat, beans, tomatoes, and spices is just right. There is a ton of flavor in every spoonful.

What gives chili con carne all that flavor? Well, this kind of stew is a popular Tex-Mex recipe made with ground beef, beans, tomatoes, hot peppers, oregano, and spices. The additional aromatics, both garlic and onion, help to boost the flavor even more.

The key to getting the most flavor you can out of this recipe is to cook it for a while. The longer you cook it, the better it tastes. When you cook it low and slow for 30 minutes to an hour, this gives the beef a tender texture and helps to create the best stew ever.

Vertical image of a spoonful of stew in a pot.

This version has a nice medium level of spice that lingers on your tongue after every bite. It doesn’t build up and get too spicy, but if you like more heat, you can easily add more cayenne pepper. If you prefer things more mild, cut the suggested amount of cayenne pepper in half instead.

A note on chili powder: in the US, this often denotes a spice blend, a mixture of ground red chili peppers, paprika, garlic, cumin, and sometimes oregano. For this recipe, you want to make sure you are using pure ground ancho chili powder. Simply look on the back of the bottle or bag to make sure you are getting the pure spice and not a mixture.

Vertical image of a thick red stew in a white bowl topped with shredded cheese and sliced scallions.

The addition of cumin, oregano, and smoky paprika works perfectly with the pepper, making it flavorful without having to make a complicated spice blend of 10 or 12 different spices with a ton of measuring to do. You can even customize the quantities to your liking.

Whip this recipe out when you want to feed a bunch of people on game day or when it’s chilly out. If you are hoping to just make it for a family night in, you can guarantee there will be leftovers in your fridge the next day to enjoy.

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Horizontal image of a bowl of stew topped with diced onions, shredded cheese, and herbs.

Chili con Carne

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 18 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x


Spicy and satisfying chili con carne is a beef stew flavored with jalapeno and spices. Try this hearty version, made with beans and tomatoes.


  • 3 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional, or to taste)
  • 1 28-ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cups low-sodium beef or chicken broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Optional Toppings:

  • Chopped cilantro
  • Sliced green onions
  • Chopped onion
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Tortilla chips


  1. Cook bacon in a large stock pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened and translucent. Add ground beef and cook until beef is no longer pink, stirring with a wooden spoon to break it up as it cooks.
  2. Add jalapeno, garlic, ancho chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Stir to distribute well. Let cook 30 seconds to one minute, until fragrant. Do not let garlic burn.
  3. Stir in the diced tomatoes, stock, and kidney beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  4. Reduce heat and let simmer for at least 30 minutes, or up to 1 hour. The chili should be thickened slightly at this point.
  5. Ladle chili into bowls. Top as desired and serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. To freeze, cool down to room temperature, portion in freezer bags or airtight containers, and freeze. It will last in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.


Recipe adapted from Feed Me Phoebe.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour, 8 minutes
  • Category: Chili
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Stews and Soups

Keywords: chili con carne, beef, stew

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Chop Bacon, Dice Vegetables, Rinse Beans, and Measure Ingredients

Chop three slices of bacon into small pieces.

Horizontal image of prepped ingredients in bowls to make a beef stew.

Peel and dice one medium yellow onion.

Seed and dice one jalapeno.

Peel and mince three cloves of garlic.

Rinse and drain two cans of kidney beans in a colander.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed. I recommend using 85% to 93% lean beef for this recipe, so you won’t have to skim off any extra fat that floats to the top before serving.

Prepare toppings as desired.

Step 2 – Cook Meat

Place a large stock pot over medium heat. Once it’s hot, cook the bacon while stirring occasionally for about 2 minutes, or until it starts to brown.

Horizontal image of cooked ground meat in a pot.

Stir in the onion and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened and translucent. Stir in the ground beef and cook until it’s no longer pink, stirring with a wooden spoon to break up the large pieces of meat.

Step 3 – Make Stew

Stir in the jalapeno, garlic, ancho chili pepper, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, oregano, and cayenne pepper until combined. Add the cayenne to taste, more or less if you like, or skip it if you prefer to forego the extra heat altogether.

Cook for 30 seconds, until fragrant, making sure not to let the garlic burn.

Horizontal image of a tomato stew in a pot.

Stir in the diced tomatoes, stock, and canned beans. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Step 4 – Simmer

Horizontal image of a large spoonful of stew over a bowl.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour, until thickened.

Horizontal top-down image of two bowls filled with stew topped with chopped onions and shredded cheese.

Ladle into bowls and top as desired before serving.

What Other Toppings Can I Use?

I am all about the toppings when it comes to enjoying a bowl of stew or soup, but especially with chili.

This is where you can get creative, and you can even set up a chili bar so everyone can top their bowls with their favorites.

Horizontal image of a bowl of stew topped with diced onions, shredded cheese, and herbs.

In addition to the suggestions listed above in the recipe, here are a few more of my favorites that you can try at home:

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Chopped avocado
  • Crumbled queso fresco
  • Sliced jalapenos
  • Hot sauce
  • Lime wedges
  • Chopped fresh herbs

This is my personal favorite chili recipe, but there are many more versions out there for you to try! Give these other Foodal favorites a shot next:

What toppings do you like best on your chili con carne? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to rate the recipe after you try it at home!

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on December 16, 2012. Last updated on July 20, 2021.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Meghan Yager

Meghan Yager is a food addict turned food and travel writer with a love for creating uncomplicated, gourmet recipes and devouring anything the world serves up. As the author of the food and travel blog Cake 'n Knife, Meghan focuses on unique foodie experiences from around the world to right at home in your own kitchen.

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