Nothing warms you up on a cold winter’s day like a steaming bowl of chili. Whether you’re a purist who favors a meaty, Texas-style chili, a vegetarian looking for a hearty meal, or a creative cook looking to experiment a bit in the kitchen, we’ve got five delicious chili recipes that will bring the heat on even the iciest of days.
1. Venison Chili
Venison is a welcome alternative to beef in chili. This leaner meat has just 159 calories per 3-ounce serving, compared to 213 calories for lean ground beef. If you’re not a hunter yourself, look for venison in specialty grocery stores or head to a butcher shop that stocks game. Recipe from Hank Shaw at Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.
1 pound dried pinto or black beans (optional)
4 each, dried ancho, guajillo, pasilla, cascabel, mirasol, or mulato chiles (12 to 16 total)
½ pound Mexican chorizo or bacon
2 to 3 pounds venison, ground or diced
1 large onion, diced
6 to 8 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon chipotle powder (optional)
2 or 3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup of black coffee
3 tablespoons molasses
1 quart beef or venison broth
2 tablespoons salt
Cilantro and shredded cheese to garnish
Directions: Soak the dried beans overnight.
Break up the chilies and remove the seeds. Place in a bowl and pour boiling water over. Let stand for about 1 hour. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid. Puree the chilies in a food processor until they have the consistency of gravy, adding 1 cup of reserved soaking liquid and 1 cup of coffee as you do so.
Chop the bacon into small pieces or break up the chorizo into chunks. Cook over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large, heavy-bottomed pot. Once the meat is fully cooked (the chorizo should be browned or the bacon crispy) remove from the ban using a slotted spoon and set aside.
Add the venison to the pot and cook over very high heat until browned. Do not crowd the pan while cooking; if all the venison doesn’t fit, cook it in batches. Stir occasionally as the meat browns and add a little salt.
Once all the meat is cooked, add the onion to the pot (return any venison you set aside during cooking to the pan as well). Cook the onion for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. If using the chorizo, add it to the pot. Add the chopped garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add the beans, paprika, cumin, coriander, chipotle powder, and salt, in that order, stirring between each addition.
Add the pureed chilies and the tomato paste to the pot and stir to combine. Pour in the molasses and enough of the beef or venison broth to cover the entire contents of the pan (the consistency should be soup-like). Stir to combine, reduce to a low simmer. Cover the pot halfway with a lid and let cook for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.
The chili is done when the liquid is cooked down and you have a thick broth. If using the bacon, add it to the pot now. Serve cooked chili with cornbread or over rice, and garnish with cilantro or cheese if desired.
2. Sausage Chili
Spicy Andouille sausage is the star ingredient in this Cajun-influenced chili recipe from Emeril Lagasse. It’s also easy to prepare – you need just one pot, and can save time by purchasing Emeril’s signature-blend spice mix to season the dish (though you can also make your creole seasoning if you like by following the recipe below).
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 pounds Andouille, or other spicy, smoked link sausage, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Emeril’s Essence (or use recipe below to make your own)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 (12-ounce) bottle dark beer
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, crushed, and their juices
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
6 cups cooked red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, garnish
1 cup finely chopped green onions, garnish
For the Essence creole seasoning:
2½ tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Directions: To make the seasoning, add all ingredients to a small bowl and stir to combine. Store in an airtight container until ready to use (recipe yields about ⅔ cup).
To make the chili, heat the oil in a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, chili powder, Essence, and cumin and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 4 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the beer and cook until the foam subsides, about 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and kidney beans to the pot. Stir well and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the chili from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.
Remove from the heat. To serve, ladle into bowls or thick cups. Sprinkle each serving with grated cheese and green onions, and serve hot.
3. Four-Ingredient Chicken Chili
There’s a time and place for complex chili recipes with dozens of ingredients, but they’re not a good choice when you just want a quick and easy meal. Enter this super-simple, four-ingredient chicken chili recipe from Broad Appetite. It’s the perfect solution when you want a bowl of hearty chili without all the fuss.
1 pound boneless chicken breast
3 (14½-ounce) cans northern white beans, rinsed
14 ounces prepared salsa
16 ounces Monetery jack cheese, coarsely chopped into small cubes
6 cups water
Directions: Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Add chicken breast to pot and simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the meat is very tender. Remove chicken from pot and shred. Reserve 3 to 4 cups of the cooking liquid, skimming of any chicken bits and fat.
Return the shredded chicken and reserved cooking liquid to the pot. Add the beans and salsa and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. Add the cheese to the pot, stir, and continue to cook until melted. Season with salt and pepper if desired, then ladle into bowls and serve.
4. Vegetarian Bean Chili
Vegetarian chili doesn’t have to be a bland, flavorless mush. This recipe from Serious Eats calls for a variety of dried chilies to bump up the flavor, as well as a mix of chickpeas and kidney beans to provide a hearty texture.
3 whole sweet dried chilies like Costeño, New Mexico, or Choricero, stems and seeds removed
2 small hot dried chilies like Arbol or Cascabel, stems and seeds removed (optional)
3 whole rich fruity dried chilies like Ancho, Mulatto, Negro, or Pasilla, stems and seeds removed
1 quart water
2 whole chipotle chilies in adobo sauce with 2 tablespoons sauce from can
2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained with liquid reserved
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes packed in juice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, grated on a microplane grater
1½ tablespoons cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon marmite or vegemite
2 (14-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained, liquid reserved separately
2 tablespoons vodka or bourbon
2 to 3 tablespoons masa
Directions: Add dried chilies to large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or stock pot and cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until slightly darkened with intense, roasted aroma, 2 to 5 minutes. Do not allow to smoke. Remove chiles to small bowl and set aside. Alternatively, place dried chilies on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high power in 15-second increments until pliable and toasted-smelling, about 30 seconds total. Transfer to a 2-quart microwave-safe liquid measuring cup or bowl. Add water and chipotle chilies, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until gently simmering, about 5 minutes. Remove from microwave and set aside. Transfer chilies and liquid to blender and blend, starting on the lowest possible setting and gradually increasing speed to high. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute.
Drain chickpeas, reserving liquid from can. Transfer chickpeas to a food processor and pulse until just roughly chopped, about three 1-second pulses. Set aside.
Roughly squeeze tomatoes through your fingers into approximate ¼-inch pieces. Add to chickpea water along with any juices.
Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 4 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and dried oregano and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add pureed chilies, soy sauce, and marmite and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved chickpea/tomato water mixture and stir to combine. Add chopped chickpeas and kidney beans. Stir to combine.
If beans are sticking out of the top, add reserved kidney bean liquid until just barely submerged. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and rich, about 1½ hours, adding more reserved kidney bean liquid as necessary if chili becomes too thick or sticks to the bottom of the pan.
When cooked, add vodka or bourbon and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and whisk in masa in a slow steady stream until desired thickness is reached. For best results, allow chili to cool and refrigerate for at least one night and up to a week. Reheat to serve.
Serve, garnished with cilantro, chopped onions, scallions, avocado, lime wedges, and warm tortillas as desired.
5. Chili Con Carne
You won’t find beans in a Texas-style chili con carne, but you will find plenty of meat. This recipe from Texas food historian Robb Walsh (via the New York Times) calls for a hefty three pounds of beef, buffalo, or venison, as well as bacon. Served with a side of cornbread, it’s the perfect stick-to-your-ribs, cold weather meal.
For the chili powder:
3 medium dried ancho chilies, stems and seeds removed, spread flat
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
For the chili:
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
8 ounces bacon
3 pounds boneless beef chuck, buffalo or venison, cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 pound (2 medium) white onions, chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
½ teaspoon salt
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1¾ cups beef broth
1 (28-ounce) can puréed tomatoes
2 ancho chilies, stems and seeds removed
Directions: To make the chili powder, place the chilies flat in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and cook, turning as needed, until lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate to cool. Put the cumin seeds in the hot pan and stir until fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
Using scissors, cut the chilies into small strips. Using a spice grinder or a clean coffee grinder, grind in batches into a powder. Pour into a bowl. Grind the cumin seeds into a powder and add to the bowl. Add the oregano and garlic powder. If the mixture is still coarse, grind again until fine. Reserve 3½ tablespoons for the chili; save the rest in a jar.
To prepare the chili, add the cumin seeds to a Dutch oven and turn heat to medium. Stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour onto a work surface and using a small, heavy skillet, crush them coarsely. Set aside.
Return the pot to medium-high heat, add the bacon and fry until crisp, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
Increase the heat to high. Working in small batches, add the beef cubes to the pot and cook, stirring, until well browned on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beef to a bowl.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions to the remaining bacon drippings and sauté until lightly browned, about 8 minutes.
Add the crushed cumin, reserved chili powder, paprika, oregano, black pepper, thyme, salt, and garlic and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Crumble in the bacon and add the broth, tomatoes, 1 cup water, anchos, and the browned beef. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to low, cover partly and simmer for 2 hours, until the meat is very tender. Add water as needed to maintain a good chili consistency.
Remove the anchos, purée them in a food processor or blender and return the purée to the pot. Stir well, simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavors and serve.
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