Idaho Chili is not complicated, it's just hearty, thick and meaty. Make this your go-to, scratch-made family chili recipe! I think it's the perfect combination of meat, beans and a sauce that's seasoned with just the right amount of spice. I make this at least two or three times a month and serve it with either tortillas or cornbread. It's the best chili.
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Ingredients to have on hand
- ground beef
- canned diced tomatoes
- tomato paste
- canned Rotel diced tomatoes, with green chilies
- four varieties of canned beans (use your favorites!)
Spices for the best chili
- chili powder
- cayenne pepper, just a dash
- black pepper
Top Tips and FAQ
Whole, canned tomatoes work just fine. You'll need to break them apart in the pot to create that sauce though. That's why I like to use diced tomatoes, they break down quickly and pretty much every chunk of tomato is the same size.
I recommend using at least half the amount of canned tomatoes called for in this recipe, it helps to create that familiar "chili sauciness."
Honestly though, there's really no way to mess up chili when it comes to the type of tomatoes you choose. So feel free to be adventurous.
Ah yes, the age old debate! If your chili recipe includes beans, is it truly chili? The answer depends a little on where you live.
I'm told a lot of folks in Texas feel strongly that the answer is no. True chili does NOT include beans.
Those from other areas of the country lean more toward a "maybe" reply. I live in Idaho, and here - or at least in my family, beans are a yes. That's why I call this recipe Idaho Chili.
No matter what your preference is in the "bean debate," the truth is chili is easy to make and one of the heartiest and most crowd pleasing meals you can serve.
Season the Meat First
This is such an easy to chili to make, right on the stove. Don't let the list of spices discourage you. They are easy spices to keep on hand and you'll use them again and again.
Here's a little trick to bring out the most of the seasoning - add the spices after the meat is browned and before you add the tomatoes and beans.
Allow a few minutes for the spices to steam with the meat and onions before adding the beans and the rest of the ingredients.
Use a Variety of Beans
One of my favorite things about Idaho chili is you can use whatever combination of canned beans you have in the pantry. Beans are so versatile.
According to the Idaho Bean Commission, you can substitute one type of bean for most other beans in any recipe. The only exception is a variety like black beans which may add a slightly different taste and color. I've used many varieties of beans when I make my chili, but I think kidney beans, chili beans, great northern and pinto beans create the best balance of flavor.
I am a big fan of always serving chili in big bowls. Presentation does matter, even with something as simple as chili. A big bowl allows for plenty of space for a generous helping, plus lots of room for toppings.
I've looked and looked but can't find the exact chili bowls that I use, probably since I've had them for so many years. But I found these online and they are very similar to mine. The bowls come in handy for lots of things besides chili. I use them for soup, stew, or any one-dish dinner entree.
What are good chili toppings?
There are so many choices! Here are toppings popular in my family:
- shredded cheese
- diced onion
- saltine crackers
- diced jalapeno peppers
- fresh salsa
- diced fresh tomato
- sour cream
- non-fat greek yogurt
Hearty Meal Ideas
Idaho Chili a hearty chili recipe and making it might get you in the mood for other main meals that have a way of inspiring a cozy feeling at dinner time.
I just love Baked Beef Burritos and like chili, there are always plenty of leftovers.
My kids and husband often request Quick Cheeseburger Pie. It has a pat-in-the-pan crust that is fun to make and the pie really does taste like a cheeseburger.
If you are in the mood for pasta, my Tomato-Cream Sauce is the perfect topping. It's a made from scratch red sauce that's easy enough to make even on a work night.
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In my family, it wouldn't be chili without beans!
Melinda O'Malley Keckler says
Same here Melissa!! 🙂
Definitely team beans! I love a good crockpot recipe and this one didn't disappoint...easy, flavorful and everyone loved it.
I love the backstory on the bean debate! I had no clue beans were a contentious ingredient, but I'm definitely pro beans in chili! Thanks for the great recipe - seems perfect for a cold February in the midwest!
Just by looking at the picture and I'm hungry already. YUM! Can't wait to eat this Idaho Chili with my family. Perfect also with my rice.:) Thanks!
I've got three growing boys to feed so dishes like this thick and hearty chili are perfect for our family. The boys were asking for seconds before I could even sit down so I'm pretty sure they liked it just as much as I did.
I can never resist a great chili recipe. We are getting snow for the next 3 days. Time to put on a pot of chili....lots of shovelling in the forecast.