Southern Chili Recipe

Honey, let me tell you about this Southern Chili Recipe that’s packing some serious heat and heart. It’s loaded with all the good stuff – we’re talking meat, peppers, beans, and a spice blend that’ll keep you cozy all Winter. When that thermometer starts to dip or you’re just having one of those days, trust me, there’s absolutely nothing that slaps like a big ol’ bowl of this chili. And y’all, this ain’t just any chili – it’s like a hug from Grandma’s kitchen on a Sunday. It’s soul-warming, tummy-filling, and just straight-up scrumptious.

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A bowl of the best chili topped with sour cream, crushed tortilla chips and avocado.

Here’s my secret: A successful chili experience is all about layering those flavors. You start with a foundation of quality meat—be it ground beef, chicken, or turkey—then you build on that with aromatic spices like chili powder, smoked paprika, and a touch of cumin. Add in that brown sugar to balance the sweet with the heat, and you’ve got yourself a chili that everyone will rave about. Serve it up with some crusty cornbread or over a bed of rice, and you’ve just turned your dining table into the hottest dinner spot in town! Trust me, this chili recipe is so bomb, you’ll want to make it a staple in your meal rotation.

Why You’ll Love This Southern-Style Chili Recipe!

  • Perfect for Meal Prepping! If you’re still recovering from the holidays or simply need some time to recoup, making this dinner in advance is the best way to make a little extra time in your day.
  • Great for Crowds of All Sizes. You can easily double the recipe when needed and it stores great in the freezer too!
  • Versatile Recipe. This recipe is truly adaptable! You can easily change the ground meats, add some heat with jalapenos or red pepper flakes, or alter the complexities of its flavor by adjusting the spices to your tastes.
  • All Time Favorite One Pot Meal. You might even say chili is the ultimate one-pot meal. All you need is your favorite heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven and a big ‘ole wooden spoon.
  • Easy Meal. In just under an hour I can have a homemade dinner the whole family will love! Even better, it doesn’t require constant attention so I can do other things.

Ingredients to Make the Best Chili

The ingredients are simple and the time spent stirring is therapeutic. Here’s a look at what you need to gather together.

  • Ground meat: You can use ground beef, ground chicken, or ground turkey to make your chili. It also works great to use a combination of meats as well.
  • Aromatics and Veggies: Onion, bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, and garlic are cooked with the beef to layer in some flavor right from the start.
  • Tomatoes: We will be using diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, and tomato paste to add a variety of flavors and textures to the chili.
  • Beans: We’re sticking with the traditional red kidney beans to make the best chili ever!
  • Stock: You can use either beef or chicken. It helps to think out the chili while also adding a bit of flavor you wouldn’t get if you used water.
  • Worcestershire sauce and Steak Sauce: These both contribute more complexity of flavors to the chili
  • Chili powder: The amount of chili powder you add is variable so feel free to adjust it as desired.
  • Chili spices: We add both onion powder and garlic powder which are traditional for chili along with some smoked paprika and cumin which really amps up the flavor of the chili powder.
  • Brown sugar: The brown sugar adds a hint of sweetness and depth with the addition of molasses.
  • Allspice: This multidimensional spice adds hints of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, fennel, and black pepper.
  • Red pepper flakes: They’re the main ingredient adding the heat so feel free to use more or less depending on how spicy you like your chili.

PRO TIP: Use this recipe as a jumping-off point to find your perfect chili. Get creative, get silly, and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. I’d love to hear about any changes you’ve made in the comments! 

Chili recipe ingredients on the table before cooking up a pot of the best chili.

How to Make The Chili

Making chili is pretty easy! Here’s a look at the main highlights but be sure to check the recipe card for all the details.

  1. Cook the meat with a bit of olive oil in a large Dutch oven.  Season it with salt and pepper to taste and cook until it’s browned.
  2. Add the onions, peppers, and jalapenos and saute until they’re tender. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.
  3. Add the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and kidney beans to the pot.
  4. Add the stock, Worcestershire, steak sauce, chili powder, onion powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, allspice, and red pepper flakes and stir together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
A collage of making the chili from browning the meat adding the vegetables, then the tomatoes and beans, and last all the spices.
  1. Heat the chili to a slight boil and then reduce the heat and continue to simmer uncovered for about 15-25 minutes. Cook for less time for chili with more liquid and longer if you want it thicker. Taste before serving and adjust any seasonings.
An easy chili recipe being stirred in a large dutch oven ready to serve

Tips for Making the Best Chili

  • Taste as You Go. This is important as you are cooking your chili since you don’t want to overdo it.  It can’t be undone once it is added.
  • Cook the Chili to Your Desired Consistency. If you prefer a soupier consistency the chili only needs to cook for about 15 minutes after everything is added to the pot. For a thicker chili, extend the cooking time to 25-30 minutes.
  • Build Layers of Flavor. The cooking process is setup to layer in flavor right from the start with the browning of the meat and sauteeing of the veggies. You also want to do the same with the spices. Add the initial amount but taste as the chili cooks so you can identify if anything is missing and add a bit more spices as it cooks.
  • Use a Variety of Canned Tomatoes. You get a much more varied texture while the tomato paste adds more depth of flavor and thickness.
  • Don’t Skip the Umami Flavors. The Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce are what adds an extra layer of depth to your chili.
  • Alter the Heat Level. Experiment with heat level by using a poblano or a serrano rather than a jalapeno.
  • Don’t Like Kidney Beans? Use cannellini, black, or even lentils! 
  • Make a Vegan Chili. Use vegetable stock rather than a meat-based stock. Replace the meat with a root vegetable like sweet potatoes or double up on the beans and use several different types of them. There are even a few plant-based alternative “ground meat” like tofu options that you can use in place of the meat. 
  • Add Veggies. You can easily add some diced zucchini, yellow squash, grated cauliflower, or chopped mushrooms if you’re looking to add more nutrients to your bowl of chili.
  • No Bean Chili. There’s a great debate about beans in chili. I prefer my chili to have beans but if you don’t you can leave them out and add another half pound of ground meat.
The best chili ever in two white bowls topped with sour cream, lime, avocado and tortilla chips ready to serve.

What to Serve With this Chili Recipe

  • Add Some Chili Toppings: Half the fun of a bowl of chili is getting to load it up with your favorite toppings! Enjoy your bowl of chili with sliced avocado or guacamole, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, sliced black olives, or salsa. Don’t be afraid to load it up, baby! 
  • Cornbread. There’s no doubt that chili and cornbread are a match made in heaven! Try my honey cornbread, hot water cornbread, brown butter cornbread, or Mexican cornbread.

How to Store & Reheat Chili

Once that chili cools down to room temp, it’s time to tuck it into an airtight container and pop it in the fridge. You’re basically meal prepping like a boss and setting yourself up for some seriously yummy, no-fuss meals for the next few days.

When you’re ready to dive back in, just scoop out what you need into a saucepan and heat it up low and slow on the stove, giving it a little stir here and there until it’s piping hot.

Pulled it from the freezer? No sweat, boo! Let it chill overnight in the fridge to thaw out. Then heat it up stovetop style. If it’s looking a bit thick, go ahead and jazz it up with a splash of beef or chicken stock.

How Long Does Chili Last in the Fridge?

With proper storage, this chili is like a fine wine—it just gets better with time! Expect your chili to keep its flavor and freshness for about 4-5 days. Just make sure it’s sealed up tight to keep all those beautiful flavors locked in.

Does chili freeze well?

You better believe this chili is freezer-friendly. If you’re planning to savor it for another day, just portion it into freezer-safe bags or containers. Stored this way, your chili will be calling your name from the freezer for up to 4-6 months. Just remember to thaw it out in the fridge before reheating, and you’ve got yourself a meal that tastes just as good as the day you made it.

A bowl of best chili on the table without any toppings while limes and avocado are scattered around on the table top.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the secret to great chili?

The secret to great chili lies in the flavor and texture! You want to begin to layer in flavor right from the beginning by browning the meat and veggies together. Then as it cooks you continue to add spices and taste as you go adding more depending on your own tastes. You also want a great chili texture which comes from the vegetables, a variety of tomatoes, and the meat. This chili recipe brings all this together in one delicious bowl!

Is it better to make chili the night before?

Not necessarily! This chili cooks up with plenty of great flavor though it also makes great leftovers. You can easily make it the night before to save time. It also freezes great so you can make a batch and keep it on hand for those nights you need something quick and easy for dinner.

Is this chili spicy?  

It is slightly spicy thanks to the addition of jalapeno and red chili flakes. Some chili powder is spicy so be sure to check your bottle. You can easily make it less spicy by using mild chili powder, removing all the seeds and membrane on your jalapeno, or using a less spicy chile such as a poblano, and using less (or eliminating) the red chili flakes! If you like it spicy, you can pile it on by adding more red chili flakes, using spicier chilies, or leaving the seeds in the jalapeno. If you’re cooking for kids or those sensitive to spice you can always make it on the mild side and then have toppings such as jalapeno slices and hot sauce available for everyone to add as they want.

Why is my chili so watery?  How do I thicken it up?

If your chili turns out too watery, it might be because you didn’t allow it enough time to simmer and thicken. You can either continue to cook it uncovered to allow some of the liquid to evaporate or you can add a tablespoon of tomato paste to help thicken it up. Or use a corn starch slurry.

Can I make this in the slow cooker?

Absolutely, darlings! Making chili in a slow cooker is a fuss-free way to get all those flavors melding together. First, brown the meat and sauté the veggies on the stovetop. Then transfer all the ingredients to your slow cooker. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. Just remember, slow cookers vary, so you may need to adjust the cooking time slightly.

My chili burnt to the bottom of the pon, what did I do wrong?

If your chili burnt to the bottom of the pon, there are a few possible culprits. First, the heat may have been too high during the simmering process. Always keep the heat at a level where the chili is just gently simmering. Second, it’s important to stir the chili occasionally to prevent sticking and burning. Finally, the type of cookware you use can also make a difference. A thick-bottomed pot like a Dutch oven is generally better at distributing heat evenly compared to a thin-bottomed pot.

A half a bowl of chili on the table topped with sour cream and avocado.

Chili is like the MVP of comfort food and a total hit with pretty much everyone. This bomb chili recipe is just a starting point, honey – feel free to switch things up and add your own spin to it! When it’s cold outside, this chili is necessary. And when summer rolls around? It’s the perfect topper for your cookout vibes.

More Easy One Pot Recipes

*Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating and leave comments below!* Post a photo of how your version of the recipe came out on Instagram (using #grandbabycakes)!!

The best chil ever with sour cream, avocado, and tortillas on top and a spoon in the bowl.

Classic Southern Chili Recipe

This chili recipe is made with Southern flare and slow-cooked in a Dutch oven until just right! Its loaded with meat, peppers, beans, and spices to keep you warm all winter.
4.92 from 48 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course: Soup
Servings: 8 servings

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground beef or ground chicken or ground turkey
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ onion finely diced
  • ½ bell pepper finely diced
  • 1 tsp jalepeno finely diced (can go up to 2 tsps)
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 15 oz crushed tomatoes 1 can
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 15.5 oz red kidney beans drained (1 can)
  • 1 cup beef stock or chicken
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp steak sauce
  • 2 tbsp chili powder can go up to 2 1/2 tbsp
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cumin can go up to 1 tsp
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp red pepper flakes can go up to 1/2 tsp

Instructions

  • Add olive oil to a large dutch oven.  Add meat and season with salt and pepper to taste and brown.
  • Next add onions, peppers and jalapenos and saute until tender.
  • Add garlic and stir in and cook for up to 1 minute.
  • Next add crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, kidney beans, and stock and stir together to combine.
  • Stir in worcestershire, steak sauce, chili powder, onion powder, brown sugar, garlic powder, smoked paprika, cumin, allspice and red pepper flakes then add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a slight boil then reduce heat and continue to simmer uncovered for about 15-25 minutes tasting as you go along (closer to 15 min if you want more liquid and closer to 25 and up to 30 minutes if you want a thicker chili).
  • Taste, adjust seasonings to final tastes and serve.

Notes

Be sure to check the full post above for info on the ingredients, serving suggestions, storage tips, variations, and more!
  • Taste as You Go. This is important as you are cooking your chili since you don’t want to overdo it.  It can’t be undone once it is added.
  • Cook the Chili to Your Desired Consistency. If you prefer a soupier consistency the chili only needs to cook for about 15 minutes after everything is added to the pot. For a thicker chili, extend the cooking time to 25-30 minutes.
  • Build Layers of Flavor. The cooking process is setup to layer in flavor right from the start with the browning of the meat and sauteeing of the veggies. You also want to do the same with the spices. Add the initial amount but taste as the chili cooks so you can identify if anything is missing and add a bit more spices as it cooks.
  • Use a Variety of Canned Tomatoes. You get a much more varied texture while the tomato paste adds more depth of flavor and thickness.
  • Don’t Skip the Umami Flavors. The Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce are what adds an extra layer of depth to your chili.

Nutrition

Calories: 256kcal | Carbohydrates: 23g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 39mg | Sodium: 281mg | Potassium: 788mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1102IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 5mg
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Filed Under:  Fall Recipes, Soups and Stews, Stovetop, Super Bowl and Game Day Party, Winter Recipes

Comments

  1. Best, easiest, greatest chili ever!!! I will never buy chili packets again. Made exactly as written…minus jalapeno. Thank you soooooo much!!

  2. Usually my chili is very bland, so I decided to try this chili recipe and WOW! What a hit it was with my family! Even my picky son with autism had a couple of bowls of chili!!

  3. OMG! My chili turn out GREAT! I opted out of using red pepper flakes and did a few dashes of hot sauce. AND we had grilled cheese sandwiches on deck! Going back in the kitchen now for round 2. Hubby gives it two thumbs up! Dinner tonight was GREAT!

  4. I thought I made great chili…until I made this recipe…..NOW I make GREAT chili. This soup is so flavorful. I switched out the 1 cup of diced tomatoes with 2 cans of Campbell’s tomato soup and 2 cans of water. We love a lot of broth to soak into some yummy sweet corn muffins. Easy and amazing. My recipe for life!

  5. I really enjoy your recipes, haven’t tried the chili yet but it’s coming soon. Did you ever move? I live in McKinney, Frisco and Prosper are our neighbors. Welcome to Texas!

    1. I did move to Prosper! Hooray! Thank you neighbor. I will be having a book launch. I hope to see you there.

  6. Fantastic chili! Never had it with avocado or sour cream before, but the photo was too tempting; they went great with the dish. I have two opposites at home, my daughter who likes heat and my partner who’d rather not have it. I made the recipe to the letter, and it has some heat, but not like your mouth is on fire. My SO enjoyed it without complaining much and ate it all, my daughter and I loved the amount of heat, it doesn’t overwhelm the other flavours. The liquid’s consistency was creamy and rich in flavor, like I slaved over the pot for hours. You made me look real good, even though I can only cook with a recipe at hand, THANK YOU! Though I did give you credit 😉
    Looking forward to making more of your recipes, this was my first but certainly not my last. Regards from the Caribbean, enjoyed my chili thoroughly even with 91 degree temp outside!

  7. I was raised in Chicago and just recently moved to California. Can’t say that I hate the sunshine! Best of luck and thank you for this amazing recipe.

  8. , you’re moving to Texas? I caught that in your comments! If so, then I’d love to be the first to greet you and welcome you to the Great State of Texas!!!

    Can you tell us where you will be moving?

4.92 from 48 votes (13 ratings without comment)

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