Chilly out? Chili in

This recipe lives up to its name.


On a particularly raw day recently (and there have been quite a few of those), I sought comfort under a throw on the sofa with my puppy cuddled up close. The only thing missing was a steaming bowl of chili.

With none on hand and no appetite to go back out into the cold, I did a search for chili recipes online. (Our recipe had gotten tired and, honestly, lacked pizzaz.)

I was scrolling through when I came across something boldly called “The Best Damn Chili” on I like that kind of confidence, so I went straight to the comments to see if it was legit. In the first 10, there were four commenters who said they cooked up a batch for local chili contests — and each of them won.

That was enough for me. Not that I’m entering chili contests anytime soon, but I was convinced this was the chili I wanted to make. I got out from under the blanket long enough to grab a notepad and pencil, and began scribbling a grocery list. The number of ingredients seemed daunting, but many of the spices we already had on hand in our pantry.

This chili isn’t overloaded with heat, but it does have a definite kick. I’m not a big fan of overly spicy chili that burns the throat just for the sake of burning the throat. If you’re looking for a five-alarm chili, the Best Damn Chili isn’t for you.

But if you like a chunky, flavorful chili chock-full of ground beef and vegetables, you’re going to love this chili like I did.

It’s quite a bit of prep — a lot of chopping and mincing and clearing the variety of peppers of their seeds — but it’s so worth it for the final product. There are a couple of things I’ll definitely change the next time around — and there will be a next time. I’d add some shredded cheese at the end, and then pass on the contrived sour cream/cilantro topping that this recipe calls for to top off the chili. While it was flavorful, I feel like it’s not worth hauling out the food processor. Instead, I would add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle the top with cilantro to get the same taste without all the work (and the potential harm of getting sliced and diced cleaning the food processor blade).

But that aside, the Best Damn Chili is, indeed, a winner.

The Best Damn Chili

2½ lbs. lean ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 Anaheim chili pepper, chopped
2 red jalapeño peppers, chopped (green worked fine)
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
1 pinch garlic powder, or to taste
2 beef bouillon cubes
1 can of light beer
28-oz. can of crushed tomatoes
14.5-oz. can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 can tomato paste
½ cup white wine
2 Tbsp. chili powder
2 Tbsp. ground cumin, plus ½ Tbsp. for topping
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. chipotle pepper sauce
2½ Tbsp. dried basil
1½ Tbsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. black pepper
2 16-oz cans of dark red kidney beans, rinsed
1 cup sour cream
3 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro

You need to have two pans going. Use a Dutch oven to brown the ground beef, while on the next burner you sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic in the olive oil until they are softened.

Once the ground beef is browned, you add Worcestershire sauce and garlic powder, crush the bouillon cubes over the beef and add the beer. (I might have sipped a little.) You continue to cook the beef, scraping any brown bits off the bottom of the Dutch oven. Once the liquid is hot, you stir in the pepper and onion mixture.

You’re also ready to mix in the crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and wine. Season with all of the spices. (I put them all on one plate and dumped them all in at once. The only thing I couldn’t do that with is the chipotle pepper sauce.) Bring it to a boil, and then simmer for 90 minutes before adding the red kidney beans and cooking for 30 minutes more.

If you want to follow the actual recipe, you can blend the sour cream in a food processor with the cilantro and ½ Tbsp. of ground cumin, but I’m convinced you can get the same effect without the blending.