Chili Con Carne | Beef Chili

A bowl of Beef Chili aka Chili con carne is the classic comfort food of winter evenings or any time of the year. Serve it on a bowl of rice or with a dollop of labneh or sour cream for a low-carb version.
Beef Chili Con Carne served with dollop of labneh

The Internet is saturated with Chili con carne recipes but one more wouldn't hurt I hope. 😁. You guys got to make this! I don't know why it took me so long to try this! The aroma from a pot of Beef Chili simmering away on the stove is the warm comfort our tummy seeks on these cold winter nights. This Chili con carne recipe can be a great family meal or served for friends for a casual dinner. What to serve it with? there are a plethora of options but the best would be to serve Chili con carne on a bowl of rice to make the perfect comforting meal. Ditch the rice and serve with a dollop of labneh or sour cream for a low-carb version like we did. 

What is Beef Chili or Chili Con Carne?

Chili con carne which translates to "chilli with meat" is a spicy stew made with chilli peppers, meat or poultry, tomatoes and kidney beans, seasoned with dried herbs, garlic, onions, and ground cumin. The dish is claimed to be originated in northern Mexico or southern Texas, and that dispute is still on while the rest of the world is making it in many different ways. After I made this, it reminded me of Bolognese sauce but with amplified flavours. Most recipes will call for a "Chili Powder" which is not the chilli powder that we Indians are familiar with. The Chili powder is a spice mix sold to make Beef Chili Con Carne recipe. (like we have sambar powder for sambar?) The good news is, that we can still make a pot of warm Beef Chili with the spices and dried herbs we always have in our pantry. It is that easy! I have a funny story associated with Chili - the first time I was introduced to the dish. 

While I was working as a Learning Strategist in a multinational company in Bangalore back in the 2000s, I had an American colleague who had relocated to India to be with his Indian wife. He was my window to American food culture. I learnt from him that Bell peppers are capsicum and that they can be eaten raw! He was kind enough to get me some as a desk snack. One of the days the team planned for a pot-luck and I was making the list of who is bringing what... 
he said, "I will bring some chilli." 
"Oh, so you will just bring chilli?"
"Yes!" (giving me the bewildered look)
"OK!" (giving him the bewildered look)
I don't know why I was not into "googling" everything like I do now. On that pot-luck day, there was rajma, rice, sandwiches, and pakoras, and he walked in with a small bowl, came and showed me and said "this is chilli". I saw the red-coloured stew with ground meat (not sure if it was beef as it was banned in Bangalore) and was so embarrassed and felt how stupid I was! The Chili was so delicious even though I just had a few spoonfuls...I always remember him whenever I have anything related to beef chili. I hope he is not reading this! 😄

Recently, after I finished reading Becoming by Michelle Obama, I googled "Obama's favourite food" - no idea why I did that - not that I had any plans to cook a celebrity's fav food 😆 but not a bad idea though! So apparently the Obamas love Chili and their own recipe is already on the internet. I procured the ingredients the same day via the Carrefour app and made my first ever Beef Chili aka Chili con carne. 

What is the difference between chili and chili con carne?

Chili is the American spelling for Chilli and refers both to the peppers and the actual dish called "Beef Chili". They shorten it further and call it just Chili. On the other hand, Chili con carne is how the UK and the rest refer to the same dish which is usually made with chilli peppers, ground meat in spices and herbs and most often includes kidney beans.  

Chilli con Carne Ingredients

Let me tell you, I am not an expert and there is no one way to make this dish. You can play around with the spices and flavours of herbs as per your taste, but cumin and oregano are a must along with preferred chili flavour - smoked paprika, chipotle, cayenne, etc. You can experiment with any kind of chili flavour and meat of your choice - no one will police you! 😉 Imagine this, I made this beef chili for the first time and we loved it so much that we literally wiped clean every bowl. So, I am not even waiting to make it again to share here because I want all my readers to try this stuff! 

Beef Chili Con Carne Ingredients

  • olive oil 
  • onion: red or brown or white
  • garlic cloves
  • beef: I have used ground meat with less fat but you may use beef chunks. Apparently, Texas chili does not use ground meat while the rest of the world does. So you do you! 
  • spices: cumin powder, red chilli powder, hot or smoked paprika powder.
  • dried herbs: oregano, marjoram and or dried thyme
  • bell pepper: I used red and that is what most of the recipes call for but I am sure any chilli pepper should work as long as you love the flavour too. 
  • tomatoes and tomato paste: we need both. You may use canned chopped tomatoes or fresh ones. I have used fresh tomatoes.
  • sugar: I have used brown sugar but any kind will work. This is just to cut down the acidity of tomatoes and reduce the sourness. 
  • vinegar: I have used apple cider vinegar but you may use white vinegar or red grape vinegar
  • beef stock cube (bouillon cube): You may replace this with homemade stock or a store-bought carton. 
  • water 
  • boiled beans: I used canned but you may make your own boiled rajma or any other similar beans like white beans, pinto, black-eyed beans, etc. 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • labneh or sour cream to serve: I have served with labneh.

How to make Chili con carne?

The whole dish is made in one pot and simmered for at least 45 minutes to an hour or more, so make sure to use a thick-bottomed deep pot. Starts with the oil, onion and garlic that are cooked until just softened. Then the ground beef is added and browned on a high flame. Once all of the meat is browned, you have to reduce the flame to low before you add the spices. This is to ensure the spices don't get burnt soon before they can release the flavours. Chili is a spicy dish so don't skim on the red chili and paprika powder. Next, add the bell peppers and roast them until softened. Now, add the tomatoes and tomato paste, sugar, and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes break down further. Make the stock using the bouillon cube and add it to the pot. You may use homemade stock of any meat or vegetable, the stock adds flavour to the chili. Don't put on the lid. Keep open and bring to boil and then simmer while stirring every 10 minutes until cooked through. Adjust the seasonings and add water as required. Towards the last 10 minutes, add the drained and rinsed canned kidney beans or if you have cooked rajma add that. Switch off and put on the lid and let it rest for 10 minutes before you dish out. 
Beef Chili Con Carne with kidney beans simmering

What goes well with chili con carne?

Here are some great options to serve with beef chilli:
  • top with some sour cream or labneh or Greek yoghurt
  • pour over a bowl of rice
  • top with avocado salsa
  • stuff in a quesadilla
  • layer in a cheese sandwich
  • serve along with mashed potatoes
  • top with eggs (reminds me of Kimë me Vezë - Albanian meat with eggs)
  • top with cheese and fries 
  • pour over a hot dog
  • pour over a bowl of pasta or spaghetti
  • serve with pineapple! 
  • and more ideas here!
More beef recipes? Do check my recipe for Beef Goulash or try my Kerala Beef Fry for closer to a home dish! :-)

Beef Chili Con Carne served with dollop of labneh

Easy One Pot Chili Con Carne Recipe with ground beef and Kidney beans


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil 
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, diced finely
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 500gms ground beef (less fat)
  • a pinch of turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon hot or smoked paprika powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried marjoram or dried thyme
  • 1 large bell pepper aka capsicum (red or green), diced 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 400gms or 5 to 6 tomatoes, chopped roughly
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar (white or red or apple cider)
  • 1 beef stock cube (bouillon cube)
  • approx 2 cups of hot water 
  • 1 can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed (1 cup boiled rajma)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Labneh or sour cream to serve


  1. Heat oil in a deep saucepot on medium flame. Add the finely diced onions and minced garlic and saute until soft and translucent for about 5 to 6 minutes. 
  2. Turn the heat up to high and add the ground beef. Make sure to break it up with your spatula and cook until all of the meat is browned uniformly and no pink bits are visible. 
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add all the spices, herbs and chopped peppers - red chilli powder, hot or smoked paprika powder, cumin powder, dried oregano, dried marjoram or dried basil. Saute on medium heat until the bell peppers are softened. 
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, and vinegar and cook until the tomatoes break down.
  5. Crumble the beef stock cube in hot water and pour this into the pot. Bring this to boil on high heat and then reduce the flame to low and let it simmer for the next 45 minutes to 1 hour. Check occasionally and stir it to make sure the sauce doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pan or isn’t drying out. If the sauce is too thick, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Simmer gently until the saucy mince mixture is thick and juicy. 
  6. Stir in the kidney beans (drained and rinsed) into the pot of beef chilli, taste and adjust the seasonings, and bring to boil again. Cook this for about 10 minutes on medium flame. Switch off once you are pleased with the thickness and taste. Cover the pot and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before you serve. 
  7. Serve in serving bowls with a dollop of labneh or sour cream or along with some good old white rice! Make ahead, refrigerate or freeze for later! 
A spicy beef chili that you can eat even while on a diet by skipping the rice because there are already carbs in the added beans. Did you know that National Chili Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of February? I had made this around the same week even without knowing it! 

Beef Chili Con Carne served with dollop of labneh

I would love to hear from you. If you have made this recipe then please do leave a comment below. If you like this recipe then please do share the recipe with your friends and family on Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Please do follow me on Instagram and mention @butfirstchaai or tag #butfirstchaiblog so that I can see your creations!