If you're looking for the best, easy chili recipe - the one people will comment on and rave about - then this is your recipe. Perfect for everyday as well as feeding a crowd, you can choose to make this in a slow cooker, Instant Pot, or on the stove.
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I know what you may be thinking, "Really, Jami? A basic chili recipe?"
I know that because I thought it for years, too - that's why there isn't a chili recipe on the site even though I've been posting recipes since 2009 (!). I mean, you can go to any big cooking website and find lots of chili recipes.
Plus I never really used a recipe when making chili, I just threw things in a pot with some spices - it just didn't seem like a need to me.
But guess what? Over the years the one recipe both family and readers asked me for was chili. Really!
So I've had it on my to-make list for a couple years now and I after writing down what I did and testing it I am confident in this recipe enough to say that this is the best easy chili recipe you'll find.
Best, in that is has depth from layers of flavor and spice (always adjustable!) and will have you scraping the bowl.
Easy because it uses basic pantry ingredients (we're not going all "authentic chili" here with beef chuck, no tomatoes, or hand ground spices) and you can choose to make it one of three ways - on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, or using an Instant Pot.
It's also adaptable - you can make it with turkey (and call it "healthier" - see more on this in the FAQs), pork, or any ground meat you have. You can leave out the beans (though they add so much nutrition in the form of protein and fiber), use only sweet peppers if you want zero spice, and add more vegetables.
What you don't want to change is the layers of spices and seasonings, especially the amount of chili powder - it literally makes the recipe.
Since it's hard to find a good chili powder that doesn't have additives, I'm including my homemade chili powder recipe in the recipe card. Again, it is adaptable to your preferred spice levels and it makes enough for multiple batches of chili, so you don't need to make it every time you want to make chili.
Best Easy Chili Recipe
While recipes with "5 Ingredients or Less" are popular, chili is a recipe where you do not want to skimp on the spices and seasonings. At it's basic, it is five ingredients (meat, tomatoes, onions, peppers, beans) but it's the seasonings that make it chili.
- Ground meat (beef, turkey, chicken, pork - your choice)
- Canned tomatoes - crushed and diced
- Peppers - sweet, hot or a combo (this is a great time to use your frozen preserved peppers)
- Canned (or cooked and frozen) beans - your choice (or omit)
- Chili powder (hard to find an inexpensive natural store bought, but easy to make your own - see recipe card)
- Cumin (buy in bulk to save big and use it for salads, soups, and more)
- Salt and black pepper
- Coriander, ground (this is the seed of the cilantro plant and adds a nice pop of flavor)
- Dried oregano
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Optional toppings: grated cheese, green onions, sour cream, avocados, etc.
The reason this is such an easy chili recipe is that it's very straightforward - no matter which cooking method you choose, you start with browning the meat and then adding the vegetables to cook with the meat.
With both the stovetop and slow cooker methods, you'll do this in a pan on the stove, but you can cook it right in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting if going the pressure cooker route.
After the browning, you add all the remaining ingredients and leave it to do it's cooking magic. The most flavor will come from low and slow cooking.
Timing of Three Cooking Methods for Chili
Choose the method you'd like to use based on the amount of time you have, your schedule, and how much you want to be hands-on.
After the 5 or so minutes needed for cooking the meat and vegetables, the remaining time each method will take is:
- STOVETOP: Bringing it to a boil will take a few minutes, then it cooks covered for 30 minutes and uncovered for another 30 = 1 hour and 5 minutes (it can always go longer if you want). You'll also need to monitor and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. (This is a good option for a stainless 6-quart stock pot with a tri-ply base for this recipe.)
- SLOW COOKER/CROCKPOT: Scrape the meat and veggies into the cooker, add the remaining ingredients and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours. Totally hands-off and perfect if you will be out for the day. (This is the slow cooker I have - being able to lock it to take it places is great.)
- INSTANT POT: After adding the ingredients, lock the lid in place and cook on high pressure (manual) for 10 minutes, then natural release for 15 minutes before using the quick release. It will take 10-15 minutes to come up to pressure, so the total time in the pot = 45-50 minutes. It's not that much different from stovetop cooking (it rarely is for these kinds of recipes, I've found) but it is hands-off, which can be nice if you're doing other things. (This is the newer version of the Instant Pot I use.)
My favorite is using the slow cooker since I love to set-it-and-forget-it. But when I have a busy morning and miss the window for slow cooking, I go for either the Instant Pot (as shown in the photos here) or stovetop (which produces a slightly thicker chili than the other methods since it cooks part of the time uncovered).
Serve the chili with the classic toppings of grated cheese, sour cream and sliced green onions. If I have avocados or guacamole, I'll add that, too.
The classic side dish is corn bread (this moist and tender cornbread is perfection), but we often like it with crushed tortilla chips or Trader Joe's Corn Chip Dippers (basically an organic version of Fritos).
Here are some salad options to serve alongside:
- Spicy Cumin Lime Coleslaw Recipe
- Green Salad with Best Homemade Ranch Dressing Recipe
- Orange Almond Salad with Orange-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Easy Chili Recipe FAQs
No, you can leave out the beans. If you'd like the same number of servings, replace the beans with more meat or vegetables.
Chili is basically made from meat, vegetables, and seasonings so yes, it is healthy. This recipe in particular has under 300 calories in a serving (about 1-1/2 cups) yet packs a nutrition punch of 17g protein, in addition to fiber, potassium, vitamins, and calcium with 7g carbs (even with the beans). Made from scratch with all real foods, chili is a good-for-you comfort food!
Food historians tell us the first chili was made with meat and chili peppers and no beans. You can always leave out the beans in any chili recipe but beans in chili add fiber and protein to the dish, as well as make it less expensive to make.
While you'll see lots of "secret" additions to chili like beer, coffee and cinnamon, the real secret to the best everyday chili is to liberally layer the spices and seasonings, as I've done with this recipe. Add enough chili powder (not just a teaspoon...), cumin, garlic, salt and pepper and it will have amazing flavor that will have people asking for more.
This recipe can easily be doubled and will fit in all 6-quart sized appliances and pots. However, if using an Instant Pot, two pounds of meat will not brown well in the bowl on sauté, so use a separate skillet like you do with the slow cooker.
The Best Easy Chili Recipe (Stovetop, Crockpot, or Instant Pot)
- 6-quart stock pot, slow cooker, or Instant Pot, depending on cooking method
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 pound ground beef, turkey, pork, or chicken
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped mild peppers like Anaheim or Poblano (or can sub sweet red peppers for even less heat)
- 1-2 jalapeno peppers, diced (optional for less heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 14 ounce can tomato puree (can use sauce, though puree is better)
- 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 15 ounce can kidney or black beans (drained) or bean of choice (can use 1½ cups cooked beans if you have them frozen) - can omit
- 2½-3 tablespoons quality chili powder or homemade version - see notes
- 1½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
- Add oil to a large (6-quart) stock pot or skillet and heat over medium high (or Instant Pot bowl and push sauté). Crumble in the meat and cook 1-2 minutes, just until starting to brown.
- Add in the onions, garlic, chopped peppers, salt and black pepper. Cook until the onion starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any grease if needed.
Choose one of the following cooking methods to continue:
- To the large stock pot add the remaining ingredients - tomatoes, beans, and spices - and bring to a boil. Lower heat and cook, covered, for 30 minutes stirring occasionally.
- Remove the lid, stir and cook for another 30 minutes uncovered.
- Scrape the meat and vegetables from the skillet into the bowl of a 4 to 6 quart slow cooker. Add tomatoes, beans and spices - stir well and cover.
- Cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or HIGH for 3-4 hours.
- Turn sauté function off and add tomatoes, beans and spices - stir well. Lock on lid, set knob to seal and choose Manual (high pressure) for 10 minutes.
- Release pressure naturally for 15 minutes and then use quick release. Open lid and stir. (If you'd like the chili to be thicker, you can push sauté again and cook another 5-10 minutes, stirring often - it will bubble quite a bit).
- Serve the chili with the toppings like grated cheese, sour cream, green onions and enjoy!
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon chipotle powder
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
I like your addition of coriander. That's new twist for me and I look forward to trying this recipe soon. Over the many many years of chili making and countless variations, two constants I've found are 1) using home canned tomatoes creates a flavor profile beyond any commercially canned product and 2) chili is always better once reheated. In fact I typically make it a day or more ahead, or even in the morning then cool to reheat for serving.
SO agree, Fred!
Do you drain your beans for this chili, or add juice and all?
I drain them, John - I'll update the recipe to be clearer on that!