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

4.79 from 119 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. Just curious but have you ever made this without the beans? Not that I have a thing with beans in chili (as the other comments did lol) it is just simply a diet restriction but this chili looks really good! Is there something I can put in besides the beans or just omit them all together? I feel like if I omit it it might taste like there is something missing or too watery. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hey Rina! Great question, I think you can just leave them out. Be prepared to add a little more beef broth to make up for the lost liquid, maybe add an extra cup when you are making it, and be ready to add more at the end if it seems too thick. Otherwise I think it will be totally fine! Chili originally had no beans, so you’re just going back to the roots 😂 enjoy!!

    1. Hi Gaby! This recipe hasn’t been tested in a Dutch oven on the stovetop or in the oven. If you end up trying it, let us know how it turns out and all the details :-) Enjoy!

  2. 5 stars
    This was fantastic. Best slow cooker chili recipe I’ve made and I’ve made a bunch. The chuck steak really makes it. So much better than ground beef. Excellent spice blend too. I omitted the masa harina and didn’t notice any difference :)

  3. 4 stars
    Have this for family dinner the flavor is delicious but it seems to be very watery , how can I get it to be thicker and not so watery? 

    1. Hi Kristen! This is a thick and meaty chili, and the Masa Harina definitely helps with thickening the broth. If you didn’t use it this time, I definitely recommend trying it next time! The long simmering time also cooks down the broth for a richly textured chili. I’m glad you loved the flavor! If you still want a thicker and less watery broth, you can mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with 1/4 cup of broth, removed from the crockpot, then stir it in to the chili and let it cook for another 10 minutes or so. Enjoy!

  4. 5 stars
    I made your Chili recipe, with a single substitution; ground beef, and I gotta tell you it was fabulous. Growing up “fiscally challenged”, I think I prefer that ground beef because that’s what I usually have on hand lol. Thanks for my new Chili go-to. Everyone loved it. Also, you’re right about the Masa, delicious.

  5. 5 stars
    Made this for hubby’s work halloween chili cook off. And WOWZERS! He almost had to take a can of chili instead. This was AMAZING! And yep….he won! It was such a great, easy to follow recipe. I thought it would be a lot of hard steps. But was oh so easy. The shredded beef was the biggest game changer. This will be a keeper! And yes, any kind of carb with chili is awesome, but cinnamon rolls bring back so many happy Halloween memories! Thank you for sharing!

  6. I’m making this for a chili cook off, it sounds perfect! I lost my recipe that I usually use for chili.. but it had cocoa and coffee that really made it stand out to me. I was thinking of adding them to this wonderful recipe. I can’t think of any reason it would ruin it?? Do you think they would be good in this? 

    1. Hi Katie! Great question. We haven’t tested this recipe with coffee or cocoa in it, but if you experiment, let us know how it turns out :-)

  7. My older sister and her husband cooked competition chili in California and Arizona in the 1980s and 90s. It was delicious but exorbitantly expensive (meat only and no beans) and labor-intensive. Most chili made at home is nothing like it but using roast makes chili that tastes similar to it. I make chili similar to your recipe with the following differences:
    Black beans and pinto beans
    Chipotle powder for heat, no jalapeños (children)
    No chunky tomatoes (the children and I don’t like them)
    Entire small can of tomato paste
    Equal amounts of chili powder and ground cumin
    No garlic powder, fresh minced only
    No celery or brown sugar
    I start with less fluid…can always add but harder to take away
    Because the cost of beef has skyrocketed, I use half ground chuck (left chunky) and half chuck roast cut into chunks less than 1 inch.
    My family loves this chili and I always serve it with homemade cornbread. My son texted me saying that “life would be a lot cooler place if there was some chili in it” (oblique hint). He’s right!!
    I don’t know about other Nebraska towns but Lincoln Public Schools had chili and cinnamon rolls every week. Still served at Runza restaurants Fall through Spring.
    I really enjoy your website.

  8. I am sorry, but this chili recipe is not a Texas Chili. True Texas chili does not have beans in it. I know there are several differences of opinion on this, but if I were served this, I would not eat it.

    1. Hi Edward! I didn’t call it Texas chili! If anyone ever serves you this, you don’t have to eat it. Give me a call, I’ll happily eat your serving 😂

  9. This looks and sounds fabulous! The best chili I’ve personally made was with chile pepper beer and chipotle.

    1. Hi Rose! There is a print button on the recipe card, if you click on that a print page should come up. I just printed out a recipe now to make sure it’s working. Hope this helps!

  10. I went to school in Idaho and chili and cinnamon rolls on Friday WAS a thing. A companion cinnamon roll recipe would be great! I’ll be making this- on Friday of course!

    1. Hey Victoria! Here’s the One Hour Cinnamon Rolls! I love that this was a tradition for you too! Montana, Idaho, Nebraska…anyone else?? It was NOT happening where I grew up in California! So funny. Enjoy Victoria! On friday!! 🤪

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