The best chili recipe ever to come from my kitchen, guys! I know, I know, it’s a huge claim. I think I’m picky about chili. This recipe has 2 things that make it unique: tender, fall-apart shredded beef instead of ground beef, and Mexican Masa Harina. The smell of this chili simmering may actually knock you out. Try it with my favorite Cornbread recipe! Originally published on October 24, 2018.

bowl of chili shot from overhead topped with cheddar, sour cream, onions, and cilantro.
Table of Contents
  1. Best Chili Recipe Ingredients
  2. How to make the Best Chili Recipe Ever
  3. How to make the Best Chili Recipe in a slow cooker
  4. Best Chili Variations & Substitutions
  5. How to serve Chili
  6. How to store Chili
  7. World’s Best Chili FAQ
  8. Best Chili Recipe Recipe

One of my food blog friends Denise from Sweet Peas and Saffron mentioned on Instagram the other day that she’s been practicing intermittent fasting, and has seen great results. She lost all her baby weight! She eats ice cream every day!

I still haven’t lost all my baby weight, and the baby is now two. Is this the part where you tell me that my baby is not a baby anymore, and also my baby weight is now just weight? Like, the regular kind?? 

So intermittent fasting sounds like a great idea, right?? I mean it’s all down to calorie intake. Just don’t eat past 8pm, and don’t eat before noon. Easy peasy! I’m not a huge breakfast person anyway, and usually end up eating a very late brunch-ish meal once the kids are off to school anyway.

Well let me tell you, guys. There is NOTHING that will make you hungrier in the morning for some bacon and eggs and maybe some pancakes too, than telling yourself that you can’t eat until noon every day.

a spoonful of chili topped with cheddar, sour cream, and cilantro being lifted from a bowl.

The inevitable and unfortunate result of denying myself breakfast is that by 10am the first thing of the day I am craving is not bacon and eggs. It’s the leftover cookies from my photo shoot yesterday. (What? No, you’re addicted to sugar.) They are killing me, guys. (It’s a new recipe; well, a riff on an old recipe. I added white chocolate and cranberries to these Texas Cowboy Cookies. I am SUPER excited to share them with you! (UPDATE: here is the recipe for White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies!)

Maybe if I had this chili waiting for me every day, I could wait until noon? YES. See this chili is solving all of my life’s problems.

Best Chili Recipe Ingredients

See the recipe card below for the full ingredients and instructions!

  • Stew beef (you’ll need 3-4 pounds of roughly chopped chuck roast or another stew beef of your choice)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Oil
  • Onion, celery, and garlic
  • Jalapeños
  • Seasonings (chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin seed, oregano, garlic powder, and brown sugar)
  • Beef broth
  • Masa harina
  • Tomato paste
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Kidney beans
  • Bay leaves
  • Garnishes (sour cream, shredded cheddar, finely chopped onions, cilantro, tortilla chips)

How to make the Best Chili Recipe Ever

There are two things that make the best chili recipe especially unique: we are using super tender, fall apart, melt-in-your-mouth beef. This chili is too good for ground beef. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a girl who loves her ground beef. I’m low brow like that. (How about this Chili Mac and Cheese Recipe made with ground beef?  Or these Cheeseburger Egg Rolls?? YUM.) But I’m telling you, shredded tender beef makes for some AMAZING chili. It lends the perfect beefy flavor and after simmering in the slow cooker all day it is super tender and completely irresistible:

browning beef in pot for chili.
chili with shredded beef and kidney beans in crock pot with ladle.

Just look at all that beefy beefiness.

The second thing that makes this the best chili recipe is that we are stirring in some Masa Harina. Masa Harina is very finely ground corn flour, infused with lime. It’s what they use to make corn tortillas. I LOVE adding it to Mexican soups and chilis. (Like this Chicken Enchilada Soup. I need to reshoot that recipe and share it again! The world needs to know! Seriously, if you buy Masa Harina to make this chili, add this soup to your menu, you will not regret it.)

Maseca corn flour.

Technically you can skip the Masa Harina. It will still be great chili. But that corny flavor lends itself so well to beefy chili (why do you think we all love cornbread with our chili?) that I highly recommend adding it. (How many more times do you think I can work in the words beefy and corny?

How to make the Best Chili Recipe in a slow cooker

chili with a metal ladle in a crockpot shot from overhead.

One way to turn a regular chili recipe into the best chili recipe is to SIMMER. Long hours over low heat brings out all that flavor and gives the ingredients time to marry. That means it is perfect for the slow cooker, and perfect even for making ahead of time. If you make it a few days before you need it and let it sit in the fridge, the flavor is only going to intensify and be even more delicious. Obviously it’s also amazing straight out of the crock pot after 8 hours on low. This is also a great meal to freeze for later, just toss it in a ziplock.

chili in a bowl with two metal spoons topped with onions, cilantro, and sour cream.

Best Chili Variations & Substitutions

  • Make it vegetarian. Just leave out the meat and use veggie broth instead of beef broth. Add more beans or veggies if you like! 
  • Switch up the beans. Black beans, pinto beans, or a blend of different beans will work just as well. 
  • Add more veggies. Bulk your chili up by sautéing more veggies with the onion and celery. Add diced bell pepper, diced carrot, you name it. 
  • Swap the meat. Feel free to swap the chuck roast out for ground beef or another meat. Chicken or turkey are also great options. In my opinion, these don’t make the BEST chili, but your best chili and my best chili can be different ;-)
  • Make it creamy. Make your chili into a creamy soup by adding a splash of half-and-half or heavy cream right before serving. You can also melt cheese directly into the soup to thicken it up and make it creamier.

How to serve Chili

You really can’t go wrong with a bowlful of chili and some Sweet and Moist Honey Cornbread! << (my favorite cornbread recipe ever.) It’s a match made in heaven!

If you are not into cornbread, here are some other ideas to serve with your chili:

chili in a crock pot shot from above with cilantro.

Also, my husband told me recently that on Fridays in the cafeteria at his elementary school, they always served chili and cinnamon rolls. Like, apparently that’s a thing?? Have you heard of this?? Here’s a One Hour Cinnamon Rolls recipe you could try, if you’re into Montana school lunches.

Do you guys make chili around Halloween every year? My church always has a harvest festival with a chili and cornbread cook off. It’s just classic! It is the perfect meal for Halloween night. A valiant attempt to fill yourself up with some stick-to-your-ribs food before you make yourself sick eating your kids candy. (What? Only me??)

P.S. Update! This will forever and always be my favorite chili, but I recently made a Quick and Easy Chili Recipe that you will also love! It’s got a secret ingredient that surprised me. And it’s way faster than this recipe. Sometimes you just gotta git ‘er done!

How to store Chili

Leftover chili will last in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for 3-4 months. 

To reheat, thaw overnight in the fridge if frozen, then warm on low on the stove until heated through. Add a splash of broth to thin if needed.

spoon being dipped into a bowl of chili topped with cheddar, onions, and cilantro.

World’s Best Chili FAQ

What makes a chili?

A soup can be classified as a chili if it’s made with tomatoes, meat, and beans seasoned with chili powder and other seasonings.

How do I make my chili stand out?

There are a couple of special ingredients I like to add to this chili to make it the best chili recipe ever. First, brown sugar. The sweetness of the sugar helps combat the acidity of the tomatoes and creates such great flavor. I also like to add a finely ground corn flour called masa harina. It’s optional, but adds a delicious corn flavor that you won’t find with other recipes! 

What gives chili the best flavor?

The key to that classic chili flavor is the chili powder. But it doesn’t stop there. We’re flavoring our chili with a combination of chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin seed, oregano, garlic powder, and a little bit of brown sugar which helps to offset the acidity of the tomatoes. 

Is Chili still chili without beans?

Yes! There are definitely authentic chili recipes that don’t contain beans (I’m lookin’ at you Texans). However, I love to add the beans to bulk it up and add more flavor and texture.

What is the secret to great chili?

Let it simmer! Seriously. The longer the chili sits, the more the flavors from the seasonings release into the soup and the more all the delicious chili flavors meld together. The longer simmer time also allows the beef to get so tender. 

Other easy dinner ideas you’ll enjoy

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Best Chili Recipe

4.75 from 104 votes
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 8 hours
Total: 8 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 12
The best chili recipe ever to come from my kitchen, guys! I know, I know, it’s a huge claim. I think I’m picky about chili. This recipe has 2 things that make it unique: tender, fall-apart shredded beef instead of ground beef, and Mexican Masa Harina. The smell of this chili simmering may actually knock you out. 


For the chili

  • 3-4 pounds stew beef, roughly chopped chuck roast
  • generous salt
  • generous pepper
  • oil, for browning meat
  • 2 large onions, chopped*
  • 2 cups celery, about 4 stalks, chopped well
  • 6 cloves of garlic, smashed and minced
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
  • 2 tablespoons cumin seed**
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4 cups beef broth***
  • 1/4 cup masa harina****
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 (28-oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 (15-oz) cans kidney beans
  • 3 bay leaves

To garnish

  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • finely chopped onions
  • cilantro, chopped
  • tortilla chips


  • Begin by browning the meat. Dry off the beef with paper towels if it is very wet. Sprinkle all over with a generous amount of salt and pepper.
  • Heat a large, high sided skillet over medium high heat. Add about 1 tablespoon oil and swirl to coat. 
  • Brown the meat in batches. Place each piece in the skillet with about an inch of space around it. Do not crowd the meat or they will steam each other, which will not give you that sear you are going for. Sear=flavor! After 1-2 minutes, when it is nice and brown on the bottom, use tongs to flip each piece of beef. Sear the other side for another 1 minute or so, until brown.
  • Remove the beef to a large crock pot. Continue searing the rest of the beef, adding more oil to the pan as necessary. Adjust the heat lower if the pan starts to get black on the bottom, but keep it above medium. 
  • Once all the beef is seared, add more oil to the pan if there is not enough, you need about a tablespoon. Add the chopped onion and celery. (Turn the heat off and remove the pan from the heat if your veggies are not chopped yet.) 
  • Saute the onions and celery over medium high heat for about 5 minutes, until they start to soften. They should be all brown and delicious looking, picking up all that beef flavor. 
  • Add 6 cloves of minced garlic and 2 chopped jalapenos. 
  • Add chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin seed (or powder), oregano, garlic powder, and brown sugar.
  • Stir it all together and let the spices toast into the veggies for a couple minutes.
  • Add the beef broth and scrape up the bottom of the pan. 
  • Slowly pour in 1/4 cup of masa harina, stirring constantly. Break up any lumps right away. 
  • Pour the mixture into the crock pot.
  • Add 2 tablespoons tomato paste, the can of crushed tomatoes, 2 cans of drained kidney beans, and 3 bay leaves to the crock pot. Stir it all together.
  • Put the lid on the crock pot and cook on high for 6 hours, or low for 8-10 hours. The longer you leave it in, the better, because the beef will just get more tender and delicious. 
  • When it’s time to eat, use a wooden spoon to break up the chunks of beef. Or you could remove it to a plate and shred with a fork, then return to the pot. 
  • Serve with sour cream, cheddar cheese, finely chopped onions, and cilantro.


*Use 3 medium onions if you’re not sure you can find ones that are very big. Don’t skimp on onions, they are everything in chili!!
**This was my first time using cumin seed. It’s really good! But ground cumin will also work great, use the same amount. I found cumin seeds in the produce section of my grocery store, where they have a Latin spices section (much cheaper!)
***As usual, I used 4 cups water and 4 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon Beef Base.
****Masa Harina is a finely ground corn flour, used to make corn tortillas. It adds the best corny flavor! It is optional, but I highly recommend it. 
I adapted this recipe from my girl Natalie at Perry’s Plate, who adapted it from Emeril LaGasse.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 535kcal | Carbohydrates: 83g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 1795mg | Potassium: 3598mg | Fiber: 22g | Sugar: 47g | Vitamin A: 3800IU | Vitamin C: 98mg | Calcium: 418mg | Iron: 18mg
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Calories: 535
Keyword: best, Chili, recipe
Did you make this? I’d love to see it!Mention @thefoodcharlatan or tag #thefoodcharlatan!

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  1. Mine came out too runny, I removed lid to cook a little longer and added some corn starch but this is too much like a beef soup. What do you recommend?

    1. Hi Mel! Sorry to hear the consistency of your chili wasn’t to your liking. If you like, you can use less beef broth: instead of 4 cups, you could use 3 1/2 or even 3. Usually when the toppings are added at the end (sour cream, shredded cheddar, onions, and cilantro) the consistency is just right :-) Hope you love your next batch!

  2. 5 stars
    I made this with some tough pot roast I thought I ruined. This recipe saved the meat and was the best chili ever with the perfect amount of spice. Will be my go to from now on!

    1. Ahh I love a good failure-to-success story Sarah! that’s awesome, so happy you were able to save the pot roast. Thank you so much for taking the time to review!

  3. Hi. I’m can’t wait to try it out! One question, is a 5 quart Cooker big enough or should I use a 7 quart?

    Also, I have corn meal in my fridge, could I just process it be be finer and use it instead of buying Marissa… Whatever that was called? Thanks!

    1. Great questions! I definitely recommend a 7 quart slow cooker. You can see from the pictures how the chili almost completely fills the slow cooker, and it’s a 7 quart size. If you don’t have masa harina, I don’t recommend substituting cornmeal–masa harina is soaked in an alkaline solution that creates a lime flavor, and it’s quite distinct. Just leave it out and the chili will still be great. Plus, you always can (and totally should!) serve it with cornbread on the side!

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