Slow-Simmered Beef Chili

Aya Brackett

Chili means different things to different people, so this version (with beef chuck and pinto beans) is but one of a hundred possibilities. (For a fast version using ground beef and canned beans, see the variation.) I’ve listed a couple of garnishes I like, but you might want to add grated cheese, pickled or fresh jalapeños, or sour cream. Serve with tortillas, crackers, chips, or rice, and hot sauce.

Makes: 8 servings
Time: 2 to 3 hours, largely unattended


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound boneless beef chuck, cut into bite-sized pieces

  • Salt and pepper

  • 1 large yellow or white onion, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic

  • 2 tablespoons ground ancho chile or

  • chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

  • 1 pound dried pinto beans, rinsed and picked over

  • 1 small red onion, minced, for garnish

  • Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish


1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the meat in a single layer (work in batches if the pan is crowded). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cook until the pieces brown and release easily from the pan, about 5 minutes, then stir, and cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is well browned, another 5 to 10 minutes.

2. Add the yellow onion and garlic, sprinkle with a little more salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the ground chile, cumin, and oregano and stir until fragrant, less than a minute. Add the tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the beans and enough water to cover by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the chili bubbles gently but steadily. Cover and cook, stirring once in a while and adding only enough water to keep the beans and meat covered by about an inch of liquid, until the beans and meat are very tender and the flavors have mellowed, at least an hour or up to 2.

4. If the chili is too soupy when the beans are tender, raise the heat, uncover the pot, and carefully let it bubble until thickened. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot, garnished with the red onion and cilantro. (Or refrigerate for several days or freeze for months; reheat gently.)

Fast Beef Chili
Use ground beef instead of chuck in Step 1. Replace the dried beans with 3 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed. When you add the beans in Step 3, cook only to heat them through; wait to add water until the chili thickens, as you might not need any.

Recipe from How to Cook Everything: Completely Revised 20th Anniversary Edition (Photo: Aya Brackett)