If you’re stuck living in Michigan in the winter, chili is a basic human requirement for survival. There is no amount of blankets, hot yoga, or fuzzy socks that will warm you up like a hot bowl of chili.
But what kind of chili?? There is no shortage of chili recipes, and they are all “award winning,” which makes it really difficult to pick just one. So I’ve combined all of the features of several recipes to make my favorite version, which is hearty, thick with flavor depth, not just spice. Although there’s some heat, too!
I like to use both ground beef and Italian sausage to start, and a load of vegetables. There’s lots of freedom here to add whatever vegetables you find on sale, or hiding in the back of your fridge. Cocoa powder (yes! for real) helps deepen the flavor and works well with the acidity of the tomatoes, as does the sugar – just a little of each. I also like a lot of beans for a variety of texture. Kidney beans are traditional, although they can get mushier, so I’ve added black beans as well for a variety of texture. Beans are also a great way to make MORE soup at a lower cost than more meat! Overall, the combination of ingredients builds a deep flavor that is rich and satisfying. My favorite ingredient to add is cream cheese, to make the chili smooth and lucious!
I make this chili in my cast iron dutch oven on the stovetop. You can brown the meat on the stove and then put all of the ingredients in the crockpot to let it cook on low for 6-8 hours. I’ve tried both ways and preferred stovetop – the flavor somehow seemed richer from my stovetop pot ‘o chili.
- 1 – 2 TBSP olive oil
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 diced onion
- 1 diced red pepper
- 1 diced green pepper
- 2 – 4 diced jalapenos
- 2 stalks diced celery
- 2 – 4 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 TBSP each: cocoa powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika
- salt & ground pepper, to taste (I like lots of salt)
- 8 oz tomato paste
- 3 15 oz cans fiery diced tomatoes
- 28 oz tomato sauce
- 2 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
- 1 15 oz can black beans, drained
- dark beer (I used Guiness) – 6 – 12 oz or water
- 4 oz cream cheese
- Tabasco sauce, to taste
- Heat olive oil in large cast iron dutch oven.
- Add beef & sausage to brown. Season the meat with salt & pepper.
- Once the meat is browned, add all veggies (onion thru garlic) and saute until softened.
- Add the seasonings and stir well to coat all the bits of meat & veggie with the seasoning.
- Do the same with the tomato paste, coating everything in the pan.
- Then add all of the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, and drained beans, along with the Tabasco sauce.
- Add a few ounces of the beer or water.
- Let the chili simmer, stirring often, and adding more beer if it becomes too thick. It can simmer on low 2-4 hours – the longer the better!
- Last, add the cream cheese and stir until melted and creamy.
- Taste and adjust seasoning as needed – more salt & Tabasco!
- Serve topped with a blanket of shredded cheddar and a massive heap of sour cream. Tortilla chips or corn bread are perfect on the side!
This makes at least 10 servings, and it freezes fantastically. My favorite way to eat the leftovers is to bake a russet potato (coated in olive oil & salt), slice it open and scoop some chili on top, followed by cheese and sour cream!
What do you like in your chili?