Close to Classic Beef Chili

One of my go-to cold weather comfort food is chili, and I’ve made lots of different versions already in the past few years, including a creamy white chicken chili and a turkey and chicken chili. I find chili recipes to be like chocolate chip cookie recipes – they’re all similar in a way (starting with a base protein then simmering with the sauce and spices), but each has its own little nuances that makes it different from the others (white sauce or tomato sauce, with or without beans, additional meats or veggies, etc).

This recipe I have for you today is as close to a classic beef chili that I can get. It’s meaty and hearty, but it also has a few special ingredients that add a little zsa zsa zsu*. In addition to the ground beef, I added small chunks of beef chuck and spicy Italian sausage. I threw in some red wine to further add a depth of flavor. And I added one habanero pepper.

You’d think that one little habanero pepper won’t make too much of a difference in a big ole batch of chili, but it does.

*Yes, I am still making Sex and The City references. I know I’m not the only one.

But back to the this close-to-classic beef chili. There’s nothing SATC about it. It’s very… manly. Meaty. Muscly. In fact, you can make it even manlier by replacing the wine with beer.

(And if you argue that wine is very SATC, then clearly you forgot about the cosmos.)

I put out several options for toppings, all classic, too: jalapenos, sour cream, scallions, and shredded jack and cheddar cheese.

I simmered the chili for two and a half hours, until the beef chuck took on a tender, melty quality, and the chili had a thick get-in-my-belly consistency.

Beef Chili


3 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 large yellow onion
2 cans beans (I used black beans but you can other kinds like dark red kidney or cannellini)
3 14 oz cans tomatoes (I used 2 cans crushed tomatoes and 1 can peeled whole tomatoes)
1 lb ground beef
3/4 lb beef chuck, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 links spicy Italian sausage, casings removed and crumbled
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 habanero pepper, seeds removed and chopped
1/2 cup of red wine
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a large heavy pot (I used a Dutch oven), heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the beef chuck, season with salt and pepper, and brown the meat on both sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a plate and brown the remaining beef chuck. Set beef aside.
  2. Add 1 more tablespoon olive oil to the pot, and add the crumbled sausage. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the plate with the beef chuck and set aside.
  3. Lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining olive oil and the chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, basil, oregano, chili powder, chopped habanero, and mustard. Pour in the wine and the tomatoes and stir thoroughly.  Turn up heat to high to bring everything to a boil, then lower heat again to medium and simmer chili until thickened, about 2 hours. Add the beans and lemon juice, and season to taste. Continue cooking for 20-30 more minutes, until the chili thickens to your preferred consistency.
  5. Serve with jalapenos, sour cream, scallions, and shredded cheese.

What’s your favorite ingredient to put in chili?


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