Easy Chili

This easy chili recipe is quick and makes a big batch that you can stash in the freezer and thaw whenever you’ve got a mad crazy craving.

Eight resealable freezer bags filled with easy chili.

This easy chili isn’t just a recipe. It’s a self-help strategy. Ree Drummond portions the below chili recipe, found in her recently published The Pioneer Woman Cooks Dinnertime, into resealable plastic bags and freezes them for a future weeknight supper. As she says “Keeping a ready-to-use stash in my freezer at all times really does contribute to my all-around contentment and satisfaction in life. Chili is just one of those things that opens up a world of possibilities, from chili dogs to nachos. Fill your freezer with chili packets! It’ll make ya happy, I promise.” We couldn’t agree more. As for what to do with the chili once it’s thawed, well, there are no limits, but for starters, you can slather it on chili dogs, smother burgers with it, ladle it on baked sweet potatoes, treat it as a taco filling, dump it on tortilla chips, or simply scoop it from a bowl with a spoon the old-fashioned way.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Easy Chili

  • Quick Glance
  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 30 M
  • Makes a dozen freezer packets
Print RecipeBuy the The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime cookbook

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Place a large, heavy pot over medium heat and toss in the ground beef and the garlic. Stir, crumbling the meat with the spoon, until no trace of pink remains. Drain off most of the excess fat, leaving a little behind for moisture and flavor.

Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and cayenne to the pot. Stir everything together really well, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Gently simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Take an occasional peek and if the liquid level seems to be getting dangerously low, add up to a total of 1 cup water, a little at a time, to keep the chili from burning.

After an hour, stir in the beans. In a small bowl, use a fork to combine the masa harina with 1/2 cup water until it’s smooth. Pour some or all of the masa mixture into the chili, depending on how thick and gritty you prefer things. Stir together and then taste the chili and adjust the seasonings accordingly. Let the chili gently simmer until thickened and warmed through, about 10 minutes more. Turn off the heat and ladle into bowls.

To freeze the chili, let the chili cool to room temperature. Fill large or small resealable plastic freezer bags and freeze them flat for easy stacking. To reheat the chili, remove individual bags of chili and place them in the fridge to thaw for at least 24 hours, then reheat in a saucepan over medium-low heat, adding 1/4 cup water if necessary to achieve the desired consistency OR place a bag of frozen chili on a microwave-safe plate and defrost it in the microwave according to the manufacturer’s instructions and then transfer the nuked chili to a bowl and place it back in the microwave until warm.
Place a bag of frozen chili in a microwave-safe bowl and reheat according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Print RecipeBuy the The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime cookbook

Want it? Click it.

    Easy Chili Variations

    • Omit the beans for a meat-only chili.

    • Add diced bell pepper (any color) to the chili.

    • Substitute ground turkey for part of the ground beef.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    The author is correct, this is simple, perfect chili. Sometimes you just want a bowl of regular ole chili, no fancy chili powder or exotic chiles ground up and toasted. This is the chili you probably grew up with. I'm delighted to have this recipe in my repertoire and take pleasure in the knowledge that I have a stash of this stuff in my freezer.

    I thought it was interesting that the meat was not browned in oil, nor did it include onions. Because of this I opted to "brown" my meat Cincinnati chili-style—that is, to simmer the ground meat in water. This allows the meat to break up very finely, which is exactly what you want for chili dogs. I’d say I used about 1 cup water for this step. I halved the recipe, so if you make the full recipe you may need to do this in two steps, as 4 pounds of ground beef is a lot to brown at one time. I added the rest of the ingredients once the meat was done and proceeded according to the directions. I think I would have had to add water by the end of the cooking time though if I hadn’t added any at the beginning.

    After 1 hour, the chili was quite thick, and I didn’t see how it needed any thickening from masa harina. But I really wanted that flavor profile, so I diluted the chili with more water and added masa harina to thicken, using half the amount called for. I divided the chili into 2 batches, adding beans to one half and leaving the other half bean-free. In my humble opinion, beans just don’t belong in chili dog chili! I enjoyed the chili with beans Cincinnati-style, on top of spaghetti noodles and showered with lots of onion and finely grated cheddar cheese. For the chili dog, I adjusted mine to reflect the Coney-style I grew up with. I used the chili with no beans and diluted it even more before topping my hot dog. You want the chili to be a bit soupy, but not watery, which is where the masa harina comes in handy.

    What's not to like? If the chili can be made ahead, frozen, easily reheated, and used for a variety of other recipes, then you're sure to have a winner! I used 85/15 ground beef. I omitted the beans. I needed to add 1 cup water to the chili before I simmered it for an hour since there wasn't much liquid in the pot at that point. After adding the masa, the chili was already quite thick, so I didn't need to let it simmer an additional 10 minutes. I used 2 cups chili right away for the chili dogs, but I froze the rest in 2-cup quantities in freezer bags. I pressed the mixture in an even layer and laid the bags flat in the freezer, making them quick and easy to thaw later on. To thaw the frozen packets, I simply used the defrost feature for weight on my microwave. Once thawed, I transferred the chili to a microwave-safe bowl and continued to use the microwave to heat it through. I used my second batch of chili to make chili nachos, which were a huge hit.

    #leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. I’ve been making this recipe (halved) for a couple of years now. I get it started and mix up a batch of corn muffins and a salad while it is simmering. We usually top the chili with grated sharp Cheddar and some diced onion or scallions. Sometimes I add a spoon of sour cream on top of my own bowl. It’s a keeper recipe!

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