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Best Classic Beef Chili

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The Best Classic Beef Chili is my forever favorite go to chili recipe when I’m wanting the classic beef, bean, and tomato based dish! It really is the best beef chili! So easy to prep, best flavor, and it’s a total family favorite. We love to make a big ol’ batch and make a “chili bar” so we can add a collection of toppings to make it extra delicious.

classic beef chili topped with oyster crackers, cheez its, shredded cheese, and cilantro

The Best Classic Beef Chili recipe is the best chili recipe. When I think of “classic” chili I think of what most restaurants serve on their menus, what my dad loved when I was growing up, and the only thing Eric actually considers real chili (he’s stubborn, haha). Simple ground beef, tomato-y base, beans, and lots of scrumptious seasonings are all what a classic chili recipe requires!

Now a days I feel like there are soooo many different types of chili. Hello White Chicken Chili and Bacon Cheeseburger Chili! While those are both super delicious and each of them are family and fan favorites here on The Skinnyish Dish! We also really, really love classic beef chili on a chilly day and we truly think this recipe is one of the best ones around.

I’ve been playing with this “classic” chili recipe for almost 5 years y’all and I really think I’ve finally figured out the best chili recipe. I’ve always loved it, but I kept thinking it was missing something. Last year I was finally told by a restaurant owner, who’s chili Eric and I adore, that one (he wouldn’t give me all of them) of their “secrets” to good ol’ classic beef chili was a spoonful of sugar and I immediately put my palm to my forehead. Duh!!!! I personally use just bit of whole earth sweetener or swerve, but same difference. I even once put cinnamon in my chili because I thought that was the “secret ingredient”. GROSS. Eric still won’t let me live that one down.

How to make the best beef chili:

skillet with green peppers, red peppers, beans, and ground beef

In a large hot skillet, dutch oven, or pot over medium heat add 1 lb lean ground beef and break apart with a spatula while it’s cooking. Once the ground beef is broken up add 1 cup of beans, diced green pepper and red bell pepper, diced onion, 4-5 garlic cloves, and season with salt and pepper. While it’s all cooking together smash up the beans a bit with the ground beef with a spatula.

I typically use lean ground beef, but if I’m using something with higher fat content I drain the ground beef before adding the beans and vegetables.

Can I use ground turkey?

Yes, it won’t taste exactly the same, but I’ve switched out the beef for turkey before and we all still really enjoyed it!

spice mixture being dumped into the skillet with meat, beans, and peppers in a skillet

When the onions and peppers are soft and ground beef is browned add in the spices, let the spice mixture cook with the meat for about a minute while stirring. I like to make up my own chili seasoning mix because that means I can make it just the way that I like it.

My chili seasoning mixture:

Note: I would start with 1 tsp sugar replacement and then adjust after you add everything else and it cooks for a bit. I usually stick with just 1 tsp, but sometimes I add a couple extra pinches depending on my mood. Chili can be a very mood forward recipe.

And y’all I know some people have got some “beef” with Lawry’s, but I do not and never will. It’s a classic seasoning that you’ll always find in my spice cabinet because I grew up on it. If you’re not a big fan of it or don’t have it on hand you can replace it with kosher salt and pepper to taste or another all purpose spice blend that you think would be good in its place, BUT I’d tread lightly with a different spice blend.

cooked beef, beans, tomatoes, and peppers in a skillet

Alright so now we get to addin’ everything else and we’re pretty much done here. You’re going to add the rest of the beans, 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce, a 8 oz can tomato sauce, 1 can Ro*tel (diced tomatoes and green chiles.. I would stick to MILD or ORIGINAL RO*TEL and not the “hot” version unless you like spicy chili!), and 1-1/2 cups beef broth. Bring to a boil then return it to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 20-30 minutes stirring occasionally and letting the liquid reduce a bit.

What kind of beans to use?

  • Pinto Beans
  • Black Beans (not the first choice of beans in chili for most, but I think they make chili even better)
  • Red Kidney Beans
  • mix of all three
  • a mix of Pinto and Black beans (my preference because I despise Kidney Beans)
  • mix of Pinto and Red Kidney (a more “classic” combination)
chili in big white bowls

So… Do you like your chili plain jane? No frills? No fuss?

toppings for chili oyster crackers, jalapeño slices, diced red onion, cheese, cheez its, cilantro

When it comes to chili- I want the fuss! I love making a “chili bar” just set out toppings, bowls, spoons, and maybe a pan of cornbread and let your friends and family go to town. So easy!

The Best Chili Toppings:

What is the secret to great chili? Well, for me. it’s the toppings! Adding all sorts of textures and extra flavors MAKES it for me.

  • Oyster crackers
  • Diced Red/White Onion
  • Cheez its (this is my new chili topping addiction that was suggested by a reader.oh myLord! it’s good!)
  • Cilantro
  • Fresh or pickled jalapeño slices (I actually prefer pickled)
  • Fritos or tortilla chips (not pictured because somebody :cough Eric: ate the entire bag)
  • Shredded Cheddar cheese, Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, or Monterey Jack (or a combo of all of the above if you really wanna party)
  • Low Fat Greek Yogurt or Sour cream
  • diced Avocado

How do I make chili taste better?

If you want to make chili taste better. The best way to go about it is to make it a day ahead and let it set in the fridge then heat it back up on the stove. Letting all those flavors meld together is such a good way to make the best chili recipe ever! I often meal prep chili for this reason. It’s only gets better!

best classic beef chili topped with cheese, oyster crackers, and red onion

Hello gorgeous. Come to mama. All we need is some cornbread, y’all. This really is the best beef chili!

Best Classic Beef Chili

Can I make this in the crockpot?

Yes you can totally turn this into crockpot chili recipe! Brown the ground beef and cook the onions and peppers in a separate pan then add everything into the crockpot. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours.

Can I meal prep this chili recipe?

Absolutely! I actually recommend it. Chili tastes better and better each day that passes. It makes the BEST leftovers. Just be sure to store it in an airtight container for up 5 days.

Is chili freezer friendly?

Definitely! I always make a double batch and freeze half for a rainy day when I need a break from cooking.

best classic beef chili with toppings and sliced bright green jalapeños

If you make this recipe for the Best Classic Beef Chili be sure to let me know how it went in the comments below!

From my kitchen to yours, Star
Best Classic Beef Chili
4.98 from 69 votes

Best Classic Beef Chili

A traditional and easy chili recipe that uses lean ground beef, beans, peppers, onions, tomatoes, and a homemade blend of delicious spices.
Prep Time5 minutes
Active Time25 minutes
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chili, comfort food, easy, ground beef
Yield: 6
Author: Star @ the skinny-ish dish


  • 1 lb lean ground beef (i use 93% lean 7% fat)
  • 1 large yellow onion diced
  • 2 medium peppers (red or green) diced
  • 3 cups canned beans (drained, but not rinsed) (i use a mix of pinto and black but you can use whatever type of canned beans you love in chili)
  • 2 tbsp Chili Powder (i use McCormick. Be sure to use a chili powder that you know and love because some chili powders can be extra spicy and throw everything off!)
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/4 tsp Oregano
  • tsp Lawry's Seasoned Salt
  • 1-2 tsp sugar replacement (start off with just one tsp. add some if you think it needs it! I use whole earth sweetener or swerve)
  • 1 can Ro*tel Mild or Original (diced tomatoes and green chiles)
  • 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • cups beef broth
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Optional (delicious) toppings:

  • sliced fresh or pickled jalapenos
  • fritos/oyster crackers/cheez its
  • diced red onion or green onion
  • low fat sour cream or greek yogurt
  • shredded cheese
  • Frank's Hot Sauce


  • In a large hot skillet or pot over medium high heat add ground beef and break apart with spatula. When the ground beef is mostly broken apart add onion, peppers, and one cup beans and season a bit with salt and pepper. Continue to cook and use spatula to smash the beans a bit.
  • When the ground beef is browned and the onions and peppers are softened. Add chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, smoked paprika, oregano, lawry's seasoned salt, and sugar. Stir to coat well and cook for about a minute.
  • Add the rest of the beans, beef broth, ro*tel (with any juices from the can), tomato sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer and continue to cook for 25-30 minutes uncovered. Top with any desired toppings and enjoy!
  • **While this recipe is made to be eaten the day of it tastes even better when you let it sit in the fridge overnight and then heat it up again the next day.


Serving size: 1 and 1/4 cups
272 Calories, 6g fat, 2g saturated fat, 31g carbohydrates, 7g dietary fiber, 7g sugar (0g added sugar, 0g sugar alcohols) 24g protein 
WeightWatchers Points: 3 Points

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  1. I have made your awesome Beef and Tator Tot Chili and can’t wait to try this one! My family loves your recipes! A couple dumb questions: If using sugar instead of sugar substitute, would you keep to the 1 – 2 tsp? Also, with all the spices, is black pepper needed? If so, I was looking for a ballpark amount of black papper — and salt. Thank you very much!!

    1. Hi Dean!! I’m so happy you enjoyed the Beef and Tater Chili!! I do stevia and usually do about 1 tsp, but do this to taste! Start with 1 tsp and if you think it needs a little more add another. Also for the black pepper do about 1/4-1/2 tsp depending on your preference. Hope you love this!

  2. I made this last night and it was delicious! We love all kinds of chili in our house. I saw another poster say that they added in some canned refried beans. I happen to have some in the refrigerator that needed to used. I added 1 cup with the two cans of kidney beans. We will definitely be making this again!

  3. 5 stars
    I made this for the first time over the weekend for a party. I’ve never made chili before and this recipe received rave reviews!! I used turkey instead of beef and cooked it in the crockpot. Someone said it tasted like it had been cooked over a fire all day. I will definitely be making this again. Your receipes always rock- thank you!!

  4. Made this for the first time tonight
    …my hubby said it was the best chili he has ever had! I have to say it was very delicious! I will definitely be making this a lot through the fall and winter!

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve made this a few times and absolutely love it! Decided to try it in the crockpot for dinner tonight because we have soccer practice tonight. Can’t wait to eat it.

  6. 5 stars
    This Chili is absolutely amazing! I love that you don’t have too cook it for a million hours and it tastes like you did. My family loves it and it freezes and reheats perfectly. You won’t regret making this!!

  7. 5 stars
    This chili is amazing! I always just eyeball my own chili and make whatever I have on hand. I followed your recipe to a “T” and it was a huge hit with the hubs!! It is my new go to recipe from now on. Your recipes are our kind of cooking! Downhome food made healthy! Loved it!!!

  8. Question- To avoid another grocery shop, and use what we have, do you think I can sub the Bush’s baked beans? I imagine it makes it less healthy but will it completely alter the flavors?

    1. I really think it would be just fine, the nutritional info will change a bit and I think baked beans have sugar in them, right? If that’s not a concern for you I don’t think it would matter. If anything it’ll have more of a a sweet and savory taste that actually sounds VERY good

  9. 5 stars
    I have made a lot of chili recipes over the years, but this is truly the best. Love all the vegggies and beans. I added a jalapeño (minus seeds), but it wasn’t spicy enough for me so will include seeds next time to see if that makes a difference. A keeper.

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