Chili con Carne

This chili con carne is loaded with beef, bacon, onions, spices, chiles, broth, tomatoes, plenty of heat, and no beans. It’s the real deal.

Four mugs filled with chili con carne with one spoon resting inside a mug and four others laying beside the mugs.

This is the way we make chili con carne at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe in Texas. Be sure and use the homemade chili powder for a full-flavored chili. Don’t skip the step of dry toasting the cumin seeds—it really improves the flavor. Serve the chili con carne in a bowl with chopped onions and shredded cheese, with saltines, over tamales, rice or potatoes, in a Frito Pie, or combined with beans.–Robb Walsh

Chili con Carne

  • Quick Glance
  • (2)
  • 1 H
  • 4 H
  • Serves 6
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Special Equipment: 5-quart or larger slow cooker (if following the slow cooker method)



Toast the cumin seeds in a large skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to your work surface and, using the bottom of another skillet or a metal or wooden tool with a flat surface, coarsely crush the cumin seeds.

Cook the bacon in a large pot over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove the bacon and reserve. With the pot still over medium-high heat, cook the beef in the bacon drippings until browned on all sides. It may be necessary to brown the beef in batches. Transfer the meat to the plate with the bacon.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions, and sauté in the remaining drippings until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the crushed and toasted cumin seeds, chili powder, paprika, oregano, black pepper, thyme, salt, and garlic to the onions and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Crumble the bacon and add it to the pot along with the beef, beef broth, 1 cup water, the tomatoes, and the ancho chiles.

If making the chili on the stovetop, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover partially, and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 2 hours, adding water as needed to maintain the desired consistency.

If making the chili in a slow cooker, transfer the contents of the skillet to a slow cooker set on low and cook for at least 6 hours and up to 8 hours, until the meat is very tender.

When the meat is tender, use tongs or a fork to find and remove the anchos. Purée them in a blender, return them to the pot, and stir well.

Ladle the chili con carne into bowls and dive in. Originally published October 17, 2015.

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Recipe Testers' Reviews

This chili was amazing. Absolutely simple—you just need some patience. This recipe is the bomb. I will make it again.

I made the chili powder at home, and it was really simple. The recipe took all of 10 minutes. The chili itself was very straightforward. I bought chuck steaks, trimmed them and cut them into 1/4-inch-cubes (and I used the trimming to cook the beans with—nothing went to waste). I cooked the chili on the stovetop in a cast-iron pot for about 2 1/2 hours, mostly covered, stirring once in a while. Hands-on time, including making the chili powder, was about 25 minutes, total time was close to 3 hours, mostly unattended.

Gorgeous flavor and color. We had it once plain with just some cheese, sour cream, scallions, and tortillas, and then the leftovers we had Cincinnati 5-way style with beans over spaghetti squash. Outstanding!

I gotta say, this is one helluva good chili. It's by far better than using ground beef. It's chili the way it was meant to be (chunky). It does require a time commitment but it's well worth it.

Since I was unable to obtIain ancho chiles, I substituted New Mexican chiles. The rest of the recipe was followed as written. It's a bit time-consuming with the prep but it's worth it. I served it with some grated Cheddar on top. I added some red kidney beans and cooked elbow macaroni to some leftovers. They were both great.

On the heat side, this should appeal to everyone. If you like more heat, just add a dash of cayenne. This is a great weekend meal that can be made ahead for a weeknight dinner. Be sure to make the chili powder because it does make a difference. My Texas transplant friends approved.


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  1. If one looks at the photo the meat is not cut into 1/4″ cubes, have you tried cutting 3 Lbs. of chuck into 1/4″ cubes? Have fun with that, I’m going to have the butcher use the chili grind that turns out be about 3/8″.

    1. That works, low and slow, and is a very fair point about having to chop a ton of meat into that size chunks. (I do that sorta thing while listening to podcasts, but that’s just me.) Thanks so much for raising it! I did modify the ingredients list to convey 1/4 to 1/2 inch on the size. And of course you would cook it until tender, whatever that timing takes, depending a little on the size of the chunks and more on that particular cut of meat. Hope you enjoy…

  2. This has become our favorite chili. It’s a beautifully complex chili full of flavor. My only tweak is that I dry roast the anchos prior to adding them. It’s a rainy day here in the High Sierra’s & this chili is what’s for dinner!

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