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Chili Cook-Off! 12 Chili Recipes, Including Classic and the Unexpected


Rose Mary's mother and all of her aunts are great Southern cooks. She likes to think she's not so bad herself.

Bowl of Chili with beans

Bowl of Chili with beans

Every year my clinic has a chili cook-off. We’re a relatively small company, and in our best years, there were probably somewhere between 12 and 18 entries. I began entering in 2016. There were only about six entries that year, and my submission with beef and pork cubes and butternut squash won second place and "most creative." In 2017, another year with few participants, I got "most creative" for my White Chicken Chili. It’s not included below because I’m planning a separate article with chicken chilis. For 2018 I’m thinking about going for most creative again, and planning to make the Fruit and Nut version below.

My own personal cook-off project was a lot of fun. I hope you will enjoy my recipes and photos below.

Chili Recipes in this Article

Variations on the Expected

  • Hamburger and Beef Cubes
  • Quick and Simple Classic
  • Chipotle Stout
  • Just Good

The Unexpected

  • Beef and Pork Cubes
  • Crazy Pineapple
  • Pork Pumpkin
  • Fruit and Nut
  • Kitchen Sink
  • Chipotle Cherry


  • 5 Bean
  • Veg Head

Chili # 1: Chili With Hamburger and Beef Cubes


  • 3 to 3 ½ lbs ground beef
  • 1 ½ to 2 lbs lean beef, cut into small cubes
  • 2 cups diced white onion
  • 1 ½ green bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium can mild green chilis
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (1 lb) bag dried kidney beans, soaked, cooked and drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin or carrots, pureed
  • 12 oz pale ale
  • 5 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp thyme leaves
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced (I used 5 cubes of frozen minced garlic)
  • Lawry’s seasoned salt for ground beef


  • Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • Chopped red onion
  • Diced avocado
  • Shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • Warm corn or flour tortillas


  1. Soak and cook kidney beans with 1 tsp of salt ahead of time. Drain and set aside, or refrigerate after cooled.
  2. Place ground beef in an extra-large skillet and sprinkle with Lawry’s seasoned salt. Add chopped onions, bell pepper, and poblano, and cook over medium-high until meat is done. (Cook in two batches if you do not have a large skillet.) Drain meat if necessary and place in a large pot or crockpot. A Dutch oven pot might not be quite large enough. Use an 8 to 12-qt -stockpot, or 8- to 10-qt crockpot.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except topping. Stir to combine.
  4. Bring to boil, then cover and simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. If using crockpot, cook on low approximately 8 hours.

Chili # 2: Quick and Simple Classic Chili


  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • Additional peppers per your taste, such as poblanos or jalapenos, or dried red pepper or cayenne
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes, or crushed tomatoes if you prefer
  • 2 (15 oz) cans tomato juice
  • 2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans, drained
  • 1 package chili seasoning, such as McCormick or Lawry’s
  • Additional seasonings to taste
  • 1 (10-16 oz) bag frozen corn (optional)


  1. Cook ground beef, onion and peppers in a skillet over medium-high heat. Drain if there is excess fat. Transfer to 4-qt crockpot.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to crockpot. Stir to combine.
  3. Cook on low 8 hours.


  • I prefer pinto beans because of the tough covering of the kidney bean. I also prefer to soak and cook dried beans.
  • I prefer crushed tomatoes over chunks of diced tomato.
  • You can use frozen chopped onion and peppers for quick prep.
  • You can prepare ground beef, onions and peppers ahead of time. Prepare enough for 2 batches and freeze additional portion for quick prep on another day.

Chili # 3: Chipotle Stout Chili

This recipe is from WhitneyBond.com. I didn’t change much, mainly increased the meat and beans. It will fit in a 4-qt crockpot.


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ lb ground beef
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans (15.5 oz) kidney beans, drained (or 1 ¼ c soaked and cooked dried beans, about 3 c cooked)
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, diced
  • 12 oz stout beer
  • 1 tsp adobo sauce from chipotle peppers
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mineral salt


  1. Add the olive oil to a large skillet. Add onion and sauté about 5 minutes on medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté another minute.
  2. Add the ground beef to the skillet and cook until done. Drain if needed and add to 4-qt crockpot.
  3. Stir in diced tomatoes, kidney beans, chipotle peppers, ground beef, and stout beer.
  4. Add adobo sauce, brown sugar, black pepper, paprika, cumin and salt.
  5. Stir to combine. Cook covered on low for 6-8 hours.

Chili # 4: Just Good Chili

I made a few tweaks to this recipe from FOOD52.com, where it was a Community Pick. It was my first time using beer, coffee or cocoa powder in chili. Now I frequently use different beers in different chilis. I also use cocoa powder fairly often. It doesn’t make the chili taste like chocolate. It gives the chili a darker, more rich color.


  • 1 to 2 Tbsp coconut or olive oil
  • 1 lb sirloin, cut into cubes
  • 1 lb ground meat (I used organic hamburger)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 beer (I used a 10 oz Fat Tire, which was recommended)
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup strong coffee
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp chili sauce (I did not have this, and left it out)
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 poblano pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp cumin
  • 1 ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp mineral salt
  • 2 (15 oz) cans kidney beans
  • 1 (15 oz) cans white beans
  • 5 large carrots, thinly sliced into discs (optional)


  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven pot over medium heat, and brown sirloin cubes.
  2. While sirloin is cooking, cook ground meat and onions a skillet over medium-high. When meat is done, drain if needed, and pour into Dutch oven.
  3. Add beer, tomato products, coffee, brown sugar, spices and kidney beans. Stir to combine, and bring to a low boil. Cover and simmer about 90 minutes.
  4. Add white beans (and carrots if using) and simmer for another 90 minutes.


  • I used 1 ¼ cups of dried pinto beans and 1 ¼ cup of dried cannellini beans. I soaked and cooked the pintos ahead of time, and added as per the recipe for canned beans. The cannellini beans don’t take as long to cook. I had soaked the cannellini beans, but not cooked them. I put them in the pot, also as per the recipe for canned beans. They should be done in 90 minutes, but cook a little longer if needed.

Chili # 5: Chili With Beef and Pork Cubes

This is the recipe for the chili I made for the office cook-off in 2016. It won second place and most creative. I based this recipe very loosely on the Texas Beef Brisket Chili recipe on BonAppetit.com with the use of butternut squash, and primarily cubed meat instead of ground. I selected other ingredients from a variety of the recipes I had tested in the months leading up to the event.


  • 2 lb eye of round, cut into small cubes, about ½” to ¾”
  • 1.5 lb pork loin, cut into small cubes, about ½” to ¾”
  • 1 lb mild Italian sausage, loose
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced fire roasted tomatoes w medium hot chilis
  • 1 large (28 oz) can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 pt double chocolate stout beer
  • 1 small (4 oz) can mild chilis
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced
  • 1 large sweet onion, diced
  • 1 large squirt chunky garlic from refrigerated tube (~2 Tbsp)
  • 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • ¾ Tbsp Himalayan salt
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 2 Tbsp coriander
  • 2 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 lb butternut squash, cut into ¾” to 1” cubes
  • 4 cups cooked pinto beans (dried beans soaked and cooked, or about 3 15-oz cans)
  • 1 large squirt red chili paste from refrigerated tube (~3 Tbsp)


  1. Cook the sausage in a Dutch oven pot with onions and poblano pepper.
  2. While the sausage is cooking in the Dutch oven, cook meat cubes in a large skillet over medium-high heat. I cooked the beef and pork separately, just so as not to crowd the pan. Use oil if needed if you don’t have a non-stick skillet. Pour cooked meat cubes into Dutch oven when done.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except squash to pot. Bring to a low boil. Cover and simmer 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add squash. Cover and cook another 30 minutes, until squash is soft and pierces easily with a fork.

Chili # 6: Crazy Pineapple Chili

This one can be made in a 4-quart crockpot. When I was looking for chilis with interesting and unusual ingredients, pineapple certainly caught my attention! The original recipe from TwoHealthyKitchens.com called for turkey Italian sausage. I don’t particularly care for the texture of ground turkey, so I used regular pork Italian sausage. It was also too much sauce, not enough meat and beans, so I adjusted for that and bumped up the spice a little. Next time, I’ll try fresh pineapple. I think some bell peppers would work well in this one too.


  • 1 lb sweet Italian sausage, loose
  • ½ lb hot Italian sausage, loose
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 (20 oz) can pineapple tidbits in juice (divided)
  • 3 (15 oz) cans seasoned diced tomatoes
  • 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained (I used 1 ¼ c dried beans, soaked and cooked to yield 3 cups beans)
  • 1 (6 0z) can tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 4 tsp ground cumin (1 Tbsp + 1 tsp)
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced


  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Hot sauce


  1. Cook sausage in a skillet over medium-high heat, breaking into small pieces. Add in chopped onions and cook until sausage is done. Drain and pour into crockpot.
  2. Use a strainer and catch bowl to drain pineapple. Add juice to crockpot and refrigerate pineapple.
  3. Add remaining ingredients except pineapple to crockpot and stir to combine.
  4. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  5. Add pineapple and cook on low for 2 hours. If you can’t add in the pineapple later, just go ahead and put it in at the beginning and cook for 8 hours. The pineapple will be softer and less distinct.
  6. Alternatively, cook in a Dutch oven pot on the stove, simmering for 90 minutes before adding pineapple, then cook another 30 minutes.
  7. Serve with topping of your choice.

Chili # 7: Pork Pumpkin Chili

This recipe from BobbisKozyKitchen.com called for ground beef or turkey. I think turkey would go better than beef with pumpkin, but I don’t like the smell of ground turkey while it is cooking. I thought pork would go well with pumpkin, so I used ground pork. I also increased the beans.


  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (12 oz) pumpkin ale
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 (15 oz) can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 (15 oz) can of white beans, drained and rinsed (I measured about 1 ¼ cups dried cannellini beans and soaked about 8 hours)
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp mineral salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup water


  • Yogurt or sour cream
  • Green onions, sliced


  1. Cook ground pork in a Dutch oven pot on medium-high heat, breaking into pieces. Add a little oil if needed.
  2. Add onions, garlic, and poblano pepper to the pork. Stir and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  3. Pour in the beer, and stir well, scraping the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add pumpkin, tomatoes, beans, and seasonings. Stir to combine.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer covered about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water if needed.
  6. Serve topped with yogurt and green onions.

Chili # 8: Fruit and Nut Chili

I found this recipe on the Better Homes & Gardens website. I made a few tweaks when I prepared it, such as increasing the meat and beans, and have further modified below, based on my results. This one should be called Vegetable, Fruit, and Nut Chili. It has three peppers and two cups of onions, and it’s topped with raisins and slivered almonds.


  • 2 ½ pounds lean ground beef
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 (14 1/2 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (I soaked and cooked dried beans and used 4 cups cooked beans)
  • 3 sweet peppers, chopped (I used red, orange, and yellow)
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 poblanos, chopped (or 2 small cans diced green chile peppers)
  • 4 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 tsp Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • 1 tsp mineral salt


  • slivered almonds
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Raisins


  1. Cook ground beef and onion in a 6-quart Dutch oven pan on medium-high heat. I like to sprinkle Lawry’s seasoned salt on ground meat when I cook it. Break meat apart as it cooks.
  2. Add remaining ingredients to pot: garlic, tomato products, broth, beans, peppers, apple, spices, and beer.
  3. Once it starts to boil, cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Or cook in crockpot on low for 6-8 hours.
  4. Top with almonds, raisins, cheese and sour cream per your preferences.


  • I think this one would be good as a vegetarian dish. Add 2 cups or more of each of 2 additional kinds of beans, such as cannellini, pintos, or black beans.
  • The cocoa does not give a chocolate taste; rather, it makes the chili a deep rich color.

Chili # 9: Kitchen Sink Chili

This one is inspired by a spaghetti experience I had when I was a student in the radiologic technology program in community college in the late 1970s. One of the radiologists threw a spaghetti supper every year in a community center. The sauce had ground beef, Italian sausage, and pork loin. I thought the pork was a surprising ingredient. Anyway, in this version, I threw in a little of everything I had on hand in the freezer. If you're not familiar, the name is a nod to the expression "I threw in everything but the kitchen sink."


  • 1 ½ lbs ground beef
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 lb ground mild Italian sausage
  • 1 sirloin steak, about 6-8 oz, cut into small cubes
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut in small cubes
  • 1 large poblano pepper, diced
  • 1 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 1 pint double chocolate stout beer
  • 1/3 cup chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp coarse-ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 (1 lb) bag frozen black-eyed peas
  • 2 ½ cups dried cannellini beans
  • Himalayan salt to taste
  • Lawry’s seasoned salt for cooking meat


  1. Soak cannellini beans 6-8 hours. Rinse and drain.
  2. Pour tomato products, pumpkin, and beer into a stockpot. I used a 12 qt pot, which was more than big enough, but my 6 qt Dutch oven was too small.
  3. Add spices except Lawry’s salt. Cover and start heating on medium high while you prepare the meats.
  4. Cook ground meats in a skillet. I did this in batches. For example, you could cook the ground beef, then cook the ground pork and Italian sausage together. Sprinkle meat with Lawry’s seasoned salt. Cook the peppers and onions with the ground meat.
  5. Drain ground meats if there is a lot of fat, then add to the stockpot.
  6. Cook steak cubes, then chicken cubes in a skillet. Add oil as needed or use a non-stick skillet. Transfer to stockpot when done.
  7. Add beans and peas to stockpot. Stir to combine all ingredients.
  8. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer 90 minutes to 2 hours. Stir occasionally.
  9. Serve with your favorite toppings, such as shredded cheese, sour cream, diced onions, corn chips.

Chili # 10: Chipotle Cherry Chili

I reviewed four cherry chili recipes. They used either ground turkey or ground beef, but pork seemed most right to me. The recipe below is the chili I made, which is closest to the Cherry Chili from ChooseCherries.com, with the adobo chilis from Epicurious.com Cherry Chipotle Chili recipe.


  • 4-6 ounces dried tart cherries, cut into 2-4 pieces
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 poblano, de-seeded and chopped
  • 2-3 chipotle chilis in adobo sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh garlic, chopped
  • 2 lbs ground pork
  • 1 lb pork loin, cut into ½”-¾” cubes
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp dried mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 (15 oz) cans diced tomatoes, rinse cans w ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups cooked pinto beans (about 3/4 cup dried beans, soaked and cooked, or approx 2 cans)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped


  1. If using dried beans like I do, soak overnight, and cook ahead of time. Measure 2 cups of drained, cooked beans.
  2. Snip cherries into quarters with kitchen scissors, and place in small stainless or glass bowl. Heat broth and pour over cherries. Set aside.
  3. Heat oil in skillet and sauté onions and poblano. Add ground pork and garlic, and cook until pork is done. Add to crockpot.
  4. Add more oil if needed, and sauté pork cubes. Add to crockpot.
  5. Chop chipotle chilis and add to crockpot along with a tablespoon or so of the adobo sauce.
  6. Add spices and cilantro.
  7. Add tomatoes, pinto beans, and cherries.
  8. Stir to combine, then cover crockpot. Cook on low overnight or for 6-8 hours.

Chili # 11: 5-Bean Chili

This recipe from VegWeb.com is called Really Good Vegan Chili on the site. It called for 4 veggie burgers, which I never used. At the time I discovered the recipe, most commercially available veggie burgers were texturized vegetable protein (TVP), so I opted not to use them, and after that didn’t really think the recipe needed them. The first time I made it, I followed everything else in the recipe, but thereafter omitted the sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and broccoli. The instructions basically said use whatever spices you like, so I included what I use. And as you might have guessed by now if you have read other recipes I covered here, I prefer dried beans to canned. The original called for 1 can each of 5 different beans.


  • ½ cup dried red kidney beans
  • ½ cup dried pinto beans
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • ½ cup dried pink beans
  • ½ cup dried black-eyed peas
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • 1 large (28 oz) can tomatoes with puree
  • 1 Tbsp molasses
  • 1 med yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp coconut or olive oil

My Spice Mix

  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp garlic with parsley
  • ½ Tbsp cumin
  • ½ Tbsp ground coriander
  • ½ Tbsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp smoky sweet red pepper flakes


  1. Measure beans and soak 6 or more hours. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in Dutch oven pot, and sauté onions on medium high.
  3. Add other ingredients to pot and stir to combine.
  4. Simmer for 2 hours, or until all beans are done. Stir occasionally. Alternatively, cook in 4-qt crockpot on low 8 hours.

Chili # 12: Rachael Ray's Veg Head Chili

This is a Rachael Ray 30 minute vegetarian recipe. I prefer to use dried beans, but often soak and cook a one-pound bag, then drain and bag one-cup portions for the freezer. If you use canned beans, or cook dried beans ahead of time, then you should be able to prepare this in 30 minutes.


  • 2 Tbsp coconut or olive oil
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 1 med red or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped (I prefer the milder poblano pepper)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup beer or vegetable broth
  • 1 (32 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can black beans (or ½ cup dried)
  • 1 can red kidney beans (or ½ cup dried)
  • 1 cup spicy refried beans (I couldn’t find spicy)
  • 2 cups corn (my addition)
  • 1 ½ Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 ½ Tbsp chili powder
  • 6 dashes Tabasco
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp mineral salt


  • Shredded cheddar
  • Chopped green onions
  • Black bean or blue corn tortilla chips for dipping


  1. If using dried beans, soak and cook ahead of time.
  2. Heat oil in Dutch oven pot on medium-high heat, and sauté onions and peppers 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and cook another minute.
  4. Add beer or broth, and scrape pan. Cook to reduce liquid by half.
  5. Add tomatoes, beans, and seasonings. Refried beans will thicken your chili.
  6. Simmer until thoroughly heated. Not interested in the 30-minute timeframe, I simmered an hour to develop the flavors.
  7. Serve with favorite toppings.

© 2018 rmcrayne


Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on October 24, 2018:

It was interesting to read about the different ingredients in those chili recipes. I would never have thought to put pineapple or other types of fruit into a chili. I'll have to give it a try. Thanks for writing this and sharing your recipes.

Larry Slawson from North Carolina on October 22, 2018:

I've been on the lookout for a good chili recipe. I may have to try one of these in the near future. Thank you for sharing!

Rachel Alba on October 22, 2018:

Hello Rose Mary, I love chili! Chili of all kinds and I always enjoy seeing new ways and recipes for it. So, thank you so much for these new and exciting recipes. They will go in my pintress and I will be trying some if not all of them.

Blessings to you.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 22, 2018:

What a fantastic array of chili recipes. This is sure the time of year I think of chile, and I am studying these recipes carefully to choose one to cook soon. Thanks for sharing these.

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