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Chili Con Carne

(recipe, Caroline Cummins)

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Traditional chili con carne is exactly what the name implies: chiles and meat, cooked together. But this recipe is what I think of as a "standard" chili: ground beef, beans, and tomatoes, cooked in a thick, spicy broth. The steps below simply cook everything together (so long as you're using presoaked beans) in one pot. If you want to use canned or precooked beans, reduce the amount of stock and simmer the entire mixture just long enough to warm everything through and thicken the stew. Serve the chili with warm cornbread and honey on the side.


  1. 1 lb. dried beans, such as kidney or pinto, soaked for several hours or overnight (see Note)
  2. 4 Tbsp. lard, bacon fat, oil, or butter
  3. 1 lb. ground beef
  4. 1 large dried pasilla pepper, seeded and chopped, or a few smaller dried chiles, seeded and chopped, or 1 canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce, chopped
  5. 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  6. 4 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  7. 1 large carrot, chopped (optional)
  8. 3 stalks celery, chopped (optional)
  9. 1 bell pepper, any color, chopped (optional)
  10. 2 tsp. ground cumin
  11. 2 tsp. dried oregano or epazote
  12. 3 bay leaves
  13. 1 can (29 ounces) hominy, drained (optional)
  14. 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
  15. 1 can (28 ounces) tomato sauce
  16. 4 cups (1 quart) beef stock
  17. 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste, for thickening the chili (optional)
  18. Cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper to taste
  19. Minced cilantro leaves, chopped white onion, sour cream, and grated Cheddar or Jack cheese for garnish (optional)


  1. Drain and rinse the presoaked beans. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 2 Tbsp. of the fat or oil. Add the ground beef and sear it, breaking it up with the back of a spoon as it browns.
  3. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot over medium heat, melt the remaining fat or oil. Add the chiles, onion, and garlic, plus the carrot, celery, and pepper (if using). Sauté for a few minutes, until the ingredients have softened slightly. Add the cumin, oregano or epazote, and bay leaves. Add the presoaked beans and the browned beef, then add the hominy (if using), tomatoes, tomato sauce, and stock.
  4. Stir well to combine, then let simmer over medium to medium-low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. After an hour, check the beans to see if they're done. If the chili seems too thin, add the tomato paste and simmer for a few more minutes, to thicken up. If the chili doesn't seem spicy enough, add a bit of cayenne pepper or chili powder. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. When ready to serve, ladle the chili into bowls and pass the optional garnishes at the table.


If you don't have several hours to presoak the beans, put the beans in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and let the beans sit for an hour or so. Drain and rinse the beans, then add them to the chili when needed.