Our chili con carne recipe makes a good old bowl of chilli for those who like their chilli hot and smoky. This recipe is not one of those quick weeknight one pot recipes. It’s a hearty chilli that takes a few hours – but not a lot of work – to make.
I’ve been making chili con carne since I first started cooking as a teenager. It’s probably the only dish that I’ve made consistently since I was in my teens. My chilli con carne recipe has taken many twists and turns along the way.
I make this chilli con carne recipe whenever we need a change from whatever local food we’re eating on our travels or we need some comfort food.
While we’ll eat this first with just some garnish, perhaps some Mexican cotija and maybe a salad, the next day we’ll make nachos (with a side of guacamole) and then usually finish off the batch of chilli con carne by making quesadillas.
Chilli Con Carne Recipe – For Those Who Like Their Chilli Hot and Smoky
Now firmly settled here in Southeast Asia, it’s either a batch of chilli con carne or ragù alla Bolognese (recipe coming soon) that we’ll make after returning from a travel assignment.
Both are warming, comforting, make the best leftovers, and can be repurposed for two or three dishes. In the case of this chilli con carne, it can also be used for nachos and quesadillas.
Notes on the Use of Chilli Con Carne over Chili Con Carne
A note for our American readers: for Grantourismo, our style guide calls for Oxford English and Australian Oxford English for spelling. In English, the hot-tasting pod of a variety of capsicum is spelt ‘chilli’, while in American-English it’s ‘chili’. For the dish, in English it’s ‘chilli con carne’.
Tips to Making This Chilli Con Carne Recipe
Over the years I have had to adapt this chilli con carne recipe to the local ingredients that I can get, depending on what part of the world we were living and travelling in at the time.
Here in Siem Reap, there are mainly two types of dried chillies that you’ll find in the markets and supermarkets. They are dried bird’s eye chillies and a larger chilli similar to Mexican guajillo. In the supermarkets these are quite often labelled ‘sweet chillies’. Using these and a handy tin of chipotles in adobo I can get a satisfactorily complex flavour.
To beans or not to beans, that is the question and here’s a confession: we have nearly always added red kidney beans one hour before the end of the cooking process. We are not looking to win a Texas chilli cook-off. And yes, we’ve tried pinto beans, but we simply prefer the texture and taste of red kidney beans.
Just with a ragù alla Bolognese, tomatoes are a contentious subject with any chilli con carne recipe. I don’t like tomatoes in a chilli con carne, however, I don’t mind a little tomato paste, just as I do with ragù. If I’m making my easy red tomato salsa recipe while making the chilli, I will take the liquid from the tinned tomatoes after they drain and add it to the pot of chilli.
Now depending how far I have to stretch a batch of ragù, I might add a 400 g tin of tomatoes – minus the sauce in the tin – to the ragù to bulk it up for a lasagne. The same goes for the chilli con carne if I’m going to stretch it and use it for nachos or quesadillas the next day.
Over the years I’ve made this chilli con carne recipe with beef chunks, beef mince, a mix of pork and beef mince, and just pork mince. Our beef mince here in Siem Reap has virtually no fat whatsoever (we can source Australian beef, but it’s usually premium cuts), so we use a mix of 2/3 pork mince to 1/3 beef mince. To make the chilli with beef chunks, you will need to add an extra two hours to the three hour cooking time.
If you’re making a full Mexican food feast, do see our recipes for a tortilla soup from San Miguel de Allende, tacos al pastor inspired by the tacos at Salón Corona in Mexico City, and char-grilled corn on the cob street food snack called elotes and a grilled corn salad. We also have recipes for classic margaritas and micheladas. Of course, a couple of those are Tex-Mex rather than Mexican recipes, but they’re all muy deliciosa.
Chili Con Carne Recipe
- 2 guajillo chillis
- 4 dried bird’s eye chillis or de arbol chillis
- 2 chipotles in adobo in tin
- 4 rashers of bacon
- 500 g pork mince around 20% fat
- 250 g beef mince
- 1 large yellow onion diced
- 6 cloves of garlic crushed
- 1 33 ml bottle of dark beer
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 1 tbsp cumin powder
- ½ tsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tsp clove powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cayenne powder
- Fresh tomatoes can into small cubes
- Sour cream
- Iceberg lettuce finely sliced
- Red salsa
- Red onions finely sliced
- Sharp cheddar cheese shredded
- Spring onions finely sliced
- Snip the dried chillis (guajillos and bird’s eye) into small pieces with scissors over a small bowl. For a hotter final result, keep the seeds in the bowl, otherwise discard the seeds.
- In a pan over medium heat, toast the dried chilli pieces for a couple of minutes. Place back into the bowl and cover with hot water. Let the chillis soak for 20 minutes.
- Fry up the bacon in a heavy pot until crispy. Remove the bacon and reserve the fat from the bacon in the pot.
- Cook the minced meats over medium heat until browned, if you have a smallish pot you may have to do this in batches. Remove the meat from the pot.
- Cook the onions in the pot over medium heat until slightly browned, then add the garlic. After one minute add the meat back in and pour over 3/4 of the beer. Add the bacon back into the pot as well.
- Reduce until almost all the beer is evaporated and add the stock.
- In a small skillet, roast the dried spices (cumin, cinnamon, cloves, coriander and cayenne) over medium heat for a minute until almost smoky. Add the remaining beer and combine. Add this to the pot. Turn the heat up to medium high.
- Remove the soaking chilli pieces from the bowl and add to a food processor. Add the chipotles in adobo and a tablespoon of the adobo sauce. Add half a cup of water and blend to a liquid paste. This may take a couple of minutes.
- Add this paste to the chili and combine well. Reduce the heat to low and cover. Check, occasionally stirring as necessary for one and a half hours.
- Remove the lid and again cook for one and a half hours, checking and stirring occasionally. If the chili is getting too dry add stock or water to the mix. Taste for seasoning.
- Prepare your garnish and serve.
Do let us know if you make our chili con carne recipe in the comments below as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.