Basic chili recipe for beginners: Use this recipe if you're making chili for the first time!

If you’ve never made chili before – but want to – you’re in the right place.

There is a time and a place for fancy, special-ingredient chili recipes.

Your first time making chili is neither of them.

This chili recipe is a basic chili recipe. The kind of chili you’d expect to find at a diner or family restaurant.

It’s got great flavor – but it’s not spicy or heavy on one certain flavor/ingredient.

I encourage you to avoid jumping straight to the recipe. This post contains a lot of useful information to help first time chili makers make a perfect batch of basic chili!

Chili 101: Ingredients

Ingredients to make a basic pot of chili: Click through for this easy beginners chili recipe!

Don’t let chili’s long list of ingredients scare you off. Most of these ingredients are affordable, and you may have most of them in your fridge or pantry.

Ingredients (pictured): Red onion, ground beef, bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, Roma tomatoes, chili beans, apple cider vinegar, chicken bouillon, Mexican fajita spice blend, garlic powder, cayenne pepper

Other ingredients (not pictured): Canned tomatoes, ketchup (or tomato paste) brown sugar, olive oil

Basic chili recipe: The step-by-step guide for chili novices.

Are Any Of The Ingredients Optional?

Yes. While I encourage you to try this recipe with all of the ingredients, it is possible to make it without using every single ingredient.

For example: If you don’t like spicy food at all, you can omit the jalapeño peppers and cayenne pepper.

Conversely, if you really like spicy food, you can add MORE hot peppers and spices.

But remember: Once you start omitting ingredients, the flavor will naturally change.

Browning The Meat

Brown ground beef to make homemade chili: Click through for detailed recipe instructions!

The first step in making this chili is to brown the onions and meat. Here’s the process:

  • Chop the onion: Cut off the ends of the onion, cut in half, and remove the outer papery layers. Finely chop.
  • Cook the onion: Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot, over medium-high heat. Add onions, cook and stir for about 2 minutes, until they begin to soften.
  • Add the ground beef to the pot. Continue stirring the meat and onions to break up the meat. Cook until meat is browned, as shown in photo above.

Beginners chili: This is a chili 101 recipe, the one you'll use over and over!

Rookie Chili Mistakes

Avoid these common chili-making mistakes:

  • Adding too much of anything right away – You can ALWAYS add more ingredients, but you can’t take them out. Avoid dumping in 3 tablespoons of cayenne pepper because you like spice. This recipe is intentionally conservative – but can be customized to your liking at the end when you taste it.
  • Skipping browning the meat: The first step in making chili is to brown the meat and onions. This is the flavorful start to the chili making process. Follow the recipe instructions, below.
  • Not tasting as you go: I highly encourage you to taste the chili as you go, adding more ingredients to your liking. The recipe below details how to do this.
  • Skipping the acid: This recipe calls for apple cider vinegar. It’s my favorite secret ingredient to add to chili. Do not skip this! If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, you can substitute red wine vinegar or fresh squeezed lime juice.
  • Skipping chili toppings: Toppings make the chili, in my opinion. Choose budget-friendly toppings like sour cream, onion (save a spoonful from your batch), hot sauce, and tortilla chips.

Chili 101: First time making chili? You're in the right place! Learn how to make classic chili.

More Chili Inspiration

Once you’ve mastered traditional chili, it’s time to try a delicious variation:

The best bowl of chili is one with lots of toppings! Get chili toppings ideas

Enjoy any leftovers you may have! Chili tastes great one or two days after it’s made.

Finally – let me know how your first batch of chili went! What did you like? Where do you need more guidance? I’m happy to help!

Basic Chili Recipe

Basic Chili Recipe

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes
Total Time: 37 minutes

See notes below to learn how to customize this chili recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 1lb ground beef (85 or 90 percent lean) 
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste (whichever you have on hand)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 15.5 ounce can chili beans (do not drain)
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder (or Mexican seasoning blend)
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. In a large heavy-bottomed pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, stirring for about 2 minutes until they begin to soften.
  2. Add ground beef and stir to break up the meat. Cook for about 4 minutes until meat is browned.
  3. Add chopped vegetables (bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, and tomato), and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring several times.
  4. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Turn down heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring every minute or so.
  5. Customize: Taste the chili and customize, if desired. Add more ketchup or tomato paste for a stronger tomato flavor; add more cayenne pepper or hot sauce for a spicier chili; add more brown sugar for a sweeter chili; add a teaspoon or so more of apple cider vinegar if you want a more flavorful chili.