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Spicy and bulky chili con carne is bold and satisfying, loaded with beef and pork so that it has more than enough protein to go around! It’s seasoned with a puree of three chiles, spices, and herbs that simmer down to build smoky sweet Tex-Mex flavors.
The difference between regular chili and chili con carne is all in the name: “chili with meat.” No beans, no corn, no tomatoes — just meat. It’s a thick, filling, stick-to-your-ribs sort of dish that won’t leave any room for dessert.
Even so, let’s talk sides. There’s nothing like chili and cornbread! For this chili con carne recipe, I’d suggest Mexican cornbread — the two dishes really complement each other.
Table of Contents
The real star of this hearty chili con carne is a spiced chile sauce that makes up that dense, delicious sauce. So if you’d like to pair your spicy chili con carne with something a little more cooling, you could dollop some guacamole or avocado crema right on top of your bowl.
Beans or No Beans
In traditional Texas-style chili, for example, beans are typically not included. Some purists argue that authentic chili should consist of meat, chili peppers, spices, and perhaps tomatoes, but no beans! The inclusion of beans in chili is a matter of debate as well as culinary preference and can vary depending on regional traditions and personal tastes.
- Beef Chuck – Slice this fatty cut of beef into ¼” cubes.
- Ground Pork – I also include ground pork for a fattier, sweeter layer among the beef chuck — and for texture, too! However, feel free to use any ground protein you like.
- Onion – I use white onion, but yellow onion is an excellent substitute.
- Paprika – For even hotter chili, use cayenne or chili powder.
- Chiles – If you don’t end up using dried chiles, as I do, then substitute with ⅓ cup chili powder.
- Guajillo – A relatively mild dried Mirasol chile.
- Ancho Chiles – Sweet, smoky dried chiles that add a wonderful flavor without overdoing the heat.
- Garlic – This recipe makes a lot of servings, so you’ll need plenty of garlic to make the flavor go around.
- Mexican Oregano – This herb has a stronger aroma and flavor than traditional oregano — however, regular oregano is absolutely fine to use in a pinch.
- Vegetable Oil or Lard – Either of these are suitable choices for an authentic chili con carne recipe. To keep the cholesterol low, substitute with avocado or olive oil.
- Ground Cumin – The warm, earthy flavor is what makes this hearty chili con carne so wholesome and satisfying!
- Soak Chiles. Cover the dried chiles in boiling water, weigh them down with a plate, and let soften for 20 minutes. Once soft, remove the stems. For less heat, scrape out the seeds as well.
- Blend Sauce. Add the softened chiles, garlic, cumin, paprika, black pepper, Mexican oregano, and sugar to a blender along with 2 cups of the chile’s soaking liquid. Purée everything into a thick paste — this is our chili con carne sauce.
- Cook Meat & Onions. Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the beef and pork. Once cooked, season with salt and add the onion. Cook for another 3 minutes.
- Add Sauce. Add the chili sauce to the pan and stir into the browned meat. Cook for another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Simmer. Pour enough water into the pan to cover everything by an inch and bring everything to a boil. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Season & Serve. After it’s finished simmering, season to taste. Serve with your toppings of choice: shredded cheese, sour cream, more onions, cilantro, or even more jalapeños.
- Blender – You won’t get a smooth puree without a blender or food processor.
- Skillet or Dutch Oven – This chili con carne recipe requires a few hours of simmering, so I recommend using either a skillet or Dutch oven that can retain (and evenly distribute) heat for an extended period of time.
Storing and Reheating
Transfer any leftover chili and refrigerate for up to four days. It’s easy enough to reheat — throw it back on the stovetop on medium, stirring until warmed through, or microwave in short 30-second bursts.
It also freezes very well. Store in a Ziploc bag and freeze for up to 4 months. Let it thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Don’t just continue simmering the pot — you might overcook the meat into a tough, chewy mess.
Instead, whip up a quick roux by heating 2 tablespoons of lard or oil and 2 tablespoons of flour in a pan. Cook for several minutes, whisking together, before adding to the chili and cooking for 3 to 5 minutes more. It should be plenty thick!
This hearty chili con carne is a textbook Tex Mex dish. It contains plenty of Mexican influence — particularly when it comes to the spicy dried chiles — but took inspiration from Southern Texan tastes as well.
It contains far more meat than vegetables, and there are no beans in sight! All of the bulk, thickness, and body comes from meat.
While chili is almost exclusively made with beef, I like to use a combination of meats in my chili con carne recipe to add depth of both flavor and texture.
For the beef, I use well-marbled, fatty beef chuck that renders and flavors as it simmers. Texan-style chili often contains pork loin. I use ground pork, while other recipes might use country-style ground pork sausage.
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This post was originally published on Kevin is Cooking in June 2018. The content was last updated on January 30, 2024.
Tex Mex Chili Con Carne
- Place dried chiles in a container, cover with boiling water and weigh down to submerge (I use a plate). Set aside to soften for 20 minutes. Remove and discard seeds (for less heat, optional) and stems.
- In a blender, purée soaked chiles, 2 cups of the soaking liquid, garlic, cumin, paprika, black pepper, Mexican oregano and sugar (See Note 1).
- In a large skillet or Dutch oven heat vegetable oil over medium high heat and brown the diced beef chuck and ground pork. Season with salt. Add the onion and cook for 3 minutes.
- Pour chili con carne sauce over browned meat and cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add enough water to cover by an inch and bring to a boil. Close the lid, lower the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Stir occasionally (See Note 2).
- Season to taste. Serve with toppings of choice like shredded cheese, sour cream, onions, cilantro and sliced jalapeños.
- If you can’t find the dried chiles, substitute 1/3 cup chili powder and obviously skip the soaking and go straight to Step 2 above. Instead of the soaking liquid, you can use hot water.
- If consistency is too thick, add more water. To thicken, add 2 tablespoons of lard or vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of flour to a frying pan and cook for several minutes. Stir this roux mixture into the chili and cook for 3-5 minutes to thicken.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.