A super easy and quick chili recipe for busy weeknights! You can put it together in 45 minutes, or make it in the slow cooker. This homemade chili is packed with flavor and a secret ingredient that I wasn’t prepared to like. But I’m a convert now! Minimal chopping required. Mostly it’s just opening cans and dumping spices. My family loves this!

easy homemade chili in a bowl with a spoon and garnishes

The other day Eric turned on the new trailer for Dune, volume full blast, and was totally disappointed. (If you don’t know what Dune is, you are safely in the “not a huge nerd” category. Congratulations. I used to live there, until I married Eric. Now I’m nerd by association. Kind of like a contact high, but for life. There are worse ways to live I suppose.)

quick chili recipe in a pot mixed with cheese and sour cream

Anyway, a few minutes later I heard his indignant outrage when he realized that Edison, who just learned how to crawl, had figured out how to turn off the subwoofer. He was so offended. “If you watch a new Dune trailer without the full sound effects, have you even watched it??”

close up shot of easy chili recipe

File this under things I do not understand. Sound quality is very low on my list of life priorities. When I want to listen to music, I use my phone and it’s tiny speaker. This drives Eric mad. Is this a guy thing??

quick and easy chili with cheddar cheese, shot from overhead

Speaking of movies, we had some friends over last night for a movie in our backyard. It was so fun! We were trying out our new projector (here’s the one we got). I think we will get a lot of use out of it! It’s such an easy way to have an outside party. We watched the Secret Window, that one creepy movie with Johnny Depp, and now I don’t think I’m going to be able to sleep this week. I am just not a scary movie person!! I get so freaked out!

quick and easy chili

A Quick Chili Recipe to Have Handy

Tis the season for a chili cook off! Even if your normal harvest festival is not happening this year doesn’t mean you can’t make yourself a cozy bowl of chili to enjoy.

meaty chili recipe on a spoon

The Secret Ingredient that makes a Basic Chili Recipe Better

This recipe is from my sister Laura. I wanted an easy chili recipe that could be made on a weeknight, and she’s been making this one for years. I looked at the ingredient list and saw that it called for an entire CUP of brown sugar! Generally I like my sweet food to be sweet and my savory food to be savory. I’m the girl who likes to have an entire separate plate for my bacon and eggs, just to make sure I don’t get syrup from my pancakes on them.

quick easy chili recipe with cheddar cheese in a pot

So I made two pots of chili: one with the brown sugar and one without. I was convinced I would like the one without sugar. I put a serving of each in two bowls and gave them to Eric. (He didn’t know anything about it). He liked the brown sugar one better. And even more shockingly, so did I!

This really was a huge surprise to me. If you are skeptical (I was!) just add a couple tablespoons of sugar to start. The chili is super delicious and has very classic flavors if you skip the brown sugar. It’s a pretty basic recipe. But I’m telling you: try it with the brown sugar at least once. It adds a richness and fulness to the chili that I wasn’t expecting. It pulls all the ingredients together in the most delicious way.

Let’s make it!

How to make this Quick, Easy Chili Recipe

First start off with some ground beef. Can we just get a round of applause for ground beef? You can treat it like garbage and it still tastes amazing. Look, here I am adding a hunk that is completely frozen to my pot. Thawing? What’s that? Ground beef doesn’t need such coddling!

ground beef in a pot, chopped onions

frozen ground beef does a body good

Please ignore my much-abused pot.

sauteeing ground beef and onions in a soup pot, draining grease

Add in some chopped onion. Cook until the onions are soft and the beef isn’t pink anymore. Then drain off the grease.

I always tilt the pot to the side and ladle the grease into a foil lined bowl. Then I put it in the fridge until it’s hardened and toss it in the garbage. This time I was using a pot holder to tilt the pot to one side, and didn’t notice that I was holding the pot holder directly over the gas flame. It almost lit on fire!! gah! Make sure to turn off the heat if you do it this way, sheesh Karen!

Add in some garlic after you drain it, and saute for about a minute until fragrant. You can use jarred garlic if you want.

What makes this a crazy easy chili recipe?

I love that the only thing you have to chop for this recipe is the onion and maybe the roasted red bell pepper (and garlic, if you don’t use the kind in the jar). The Mezzeta brand even has deli sliced roasted red peppers, if you want to just drain and dump!

chopping roasted red pepper on a cutting board

Other than the onions, the roasted red peppers are the only thing you have to chop!

Then add in ALL the rest of the ingredients! It could not be easier.

bowl of spices for chili, tomato paste in a tube

This is the kind of tomato paste I buy, so I don’t have to throw out the rest of a 6 oz can!

After the garlic is sauteed, you can transfer the meat mixture to a slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients and cook there. It’s so easy.

Another way to add flavor to your chili with zero effort is to use fire roasted everything. Fire roasted tomatoes, fire roasted green chilies, fire roasted peppers! It’s so good. But the regular kind will work great too.

ingredients for chili arranged in a pot

You can see my half cup of sugar there in the pot that I started out with. I ended up adding the full cup of brown sugar after tasting it and simmering a while. Try it!

quick and easy chili

What to serve with chili

Cornbread, of course! Here is my favorite cornbread recipe: Sweet and Moist Honey Cornbread. It’s a top recipe on my blog! If you are not in the mood for cornbread, here are some other ideas:

easy chili recipe in a black bowl with cheese and sour cream

More chili and soup recipes you are going to love!

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easy homemade chili in a bowl with a spoon and garnishes
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Easy Chili Recipe (45 Minutes!)

A super easy and quick chili recipe for busy weeknights! You can put it together in 45 minutes, or make it in the slow cooker. This homemade chili is packed with flavor and a secret ingredient that I wasn't prepared to like. But I'm a convert now! Minimal chopping required. Mostly it's just opening cans and dumping spices. My family loves this!


For the chili

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 (12-oz) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1 (15-oz) can (fire roasted) diced tomatoes, not drained
  • 2 (15-oz) cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (7-oz) can diced green chiles (fire roasted), not drained
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups beef broth*
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste, optional

Garnish ideas

  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • chopped green onions
  • chopped white onions
  • cilantro, for Tex-Mex flavor
  • lime wedges, for Tex-Mex flavor
  • tortilla chips, for Tex-Mex flavor


  • In a large soup pot, add 1 pound ground beef and 1 chopped onion. Heat over medium high heat for 7-10 minutes, crumbling and breaking up the ground beef. Turn off the heat when the ground beef is all browned and the onion is translucent.
  • Drain the grease from the pot. I usually just tilt the pan to the side and spoon the grease into a foil-lined bowl. (Then I refrigerate the grease until hardened and toss in the trash.)
  • Add 1 tablespoon minced garlic to the pot and heat over medium high heat for about 1 minute until it is fragrant.
  • Drain the jar of roasted red peppers and chop if necessary. Add the chopped red pepper, fire roasted diced tomatoes, two cans kidney beans, and fire roasted diced green chiles. (None of these ingredients have to be fire roasted, by the way! I just love the flavor it adds!)
  • Add in all the spices: 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 2 teaspoons chili powder, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir it all together.
  • Add 1/2 to 1 cup brown sugar. I did not think I would like this much sugar, but I was totally wrong. Try it.
  • Add 2 cups beef broth, or more or less if you want a soupier or chunkier chili.
  • Add in 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, if you like a thicker texture. I like to use this tomato paste that comes in a tube, so that I don't have extra waste from opening a can. You can usually find the tubes at the grocery store.
  • Once all the ingredients are added, bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, with some slow bubbles coming up from the center. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, or longer if you have time, it's only going to get better. Stir every few minutes so it's doesn't stick on the bottom.
  • Turn off the heat. At this point I like to cheat and add a big ol dollop of sour cream to the whole pot, and stir it in. Who can say no to a little creamy goodness? But you can also just serve the sour cream at the table (or do both. Live a little.) I usually add in a handful of shredded cheddar too. Totally optional.
  • Top with sour cream, cheese, chopped green onions, chopped white onion. Serve with Sweet Cornbread!
  • If you would like to take it in a Tex-Mex direction, top with all of the above plus cilantro, lime wedges, and crushed tortilla chips. HEAVEN. I don't serve this with cornbread if I do Mexican toppings usually, but you do you.

Slow Cooker Instructions

  • Follow instructions through step 3 (sautéing the garlic). Add the ground beef mixture and all other ingredients (not garnishes) to a slow cooker. Cook on low heat for 6-8 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours.


*I used 2 cups of water and 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Beef Base.


Serving: 1 g, Calories: 544 kcal, Carbohydrates: 68 g, Protein: 29 g, Fat: 19 g, Saturated Fat: 6 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 8 g, Trans Fat: 1 g, Cholesterol: 53 mg, Sodium: 2143 mg, Potassium: 1244 mg, Fiber: 14 g, Sugar: 22 g, Vitamin A: 768 IU, Vitamin C: 50 mg, Calcium: 167 mg, Iron: 9 mg