As cookbook author Lucinda Scala Quinn explains, different chilis present a wide variety of regional personalities and variations. With or without beans. Ground meat or chopped into chunks. Whole chiles or chile powder. This recipe will appeal to just about everyone. Whether you make it for game night or just a Tuesday night, it can be dressed up and down for the occasion. It’s both easy and inexpensive—and to streeeeeeetch the chili even more, serve it with some hearty carbs, whether tortilla chips, corn bread, rice, baked potatoes, even a plate of pasta. Folks will be distracted by the novelty and you’ll have leftovers to help see you through to your next paycheck.–David Leite

White bowl of beef chili with grated cheese, tortilla chips, and lime wedges on wood

Beef Chili

5 / 2 votes
This beef chili appeals to everyone. Easy and inexpensive to make with ground beef, beans, and chiles, it’s homemade awesomeness that’s perfect for game night or just plain old Tuesday night.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories460 kcal
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time50 minutes
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes


  • 5 dried red chiles (Mexican ancho, New Mexican Hatch, or Anaheim)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (1 tablespoon)
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup pickled or fresh jalapeños, finely chopped (optional)
  • One (28-ounce) can tomatoes, broken up, with their juice
  • 12 ounces beer
  • One (15-ounce) can beans (pinto, kidney, black or a combination), drained


  • Toss the chiles in a large skillet over high heat and lightly toast on both sides for a few minutes. After toasting, remove the chiles from the skillet. When they’re cool enough to handle, slice them open and remove and discard the stem and seeds. Place the chiles in a bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Let soften for 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the chiles to a blender or food processor and purée, adding just enough of the soaking liquid to form a thick paste.
  • Heat the skillet again over medium-high heat and then add the oil. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent, about 3 minutes. Increase the heat and add the beef and 2 teaspoons salt. Brown the beef, stirring occasionally to scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about 15 minutes. If the meat seems excessively fatty (your judgment call), spoon off some of the fat but leave some for flavor.
  • Stir in the cumin and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chile paste, red pepper flakes, oregano, bay leaf, jalapeños, and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine.
  • Add the tomatoes and beer and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the beans and cook for an additional 20 minutes. Add water, if needed, for desired consistency. Serve with preferred condiments (see headnote).
Mad Hungry by Lucinda Scala Quinn

Adapted From

Mad Hungry: Feeding Men and Boys

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 460 kcalCarbohydrates: 9 gProtein: 27 gFat: 33 gSaturated Fat: 12 gMonounsaturated Fat: 15 gTrans Fat: 2 gCholesterol: 107 mgSodium: 1272 mgFiber: 1 gSugar: 3 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Lucinda Scala Quinn. Photo © 2009 Mikkel Vang. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

I liked that this chili had all the makings of a great, hearty meal: beef, beans, beer, and dried chiles. For the beer, I used a domestic IPA (India Pale Ale), so I’m not sure if changing the style of beer really matters. I bought coarse-grind beef chuck and really liked the texture once it cooked. I also used canned white beans for this test and I toasted Ancho and New Mexico chiles. Next time, though, I’d try using black beans, and I think I’d cook the chile paste made in step 1 to deepen the flavors, as this technique is quite popular and common in Mexican cooking. My toppings included shredded white Cheddar cheese, chunks of avocado, and a dollop of non-fat Greek yogurt.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Hey, this is a delicious dish and a no-brainer. The only time consumed was that of letting it simmer in the pot for about an hour. It was delicious with the yummy condiments! This was super good with your cheddar jalapeño corn bread.


      1. Coral, yes, you can sauté the paste made in step 1 in a small skillet. I’d use some lard olive oil and cook it over a low heat to give depth to the flavor. But it’s certainly not required.