This is a classic chili recipe with ground beef and beans is perfect for a crowd. The large batch lets you throw a dinner party or make a family meal in no time! I even give you a vegetarian version.
A Simple, Perfect Chili Recipe
Throwing a chili bash, making game day food, or just a delicious weeknight dinner, has never been easier. A warm bowl of soup with a ton of fun toppings, is one of the most comforting meals.
One soup I have on repeat come wintertime is this beef and bean chili. The secret to a delicious, classic chili is a mix of flavorful ground beef, tomatoes, tons of spices, and beans.
No need to stray too far from the real deal. I didn't try to spruce this up with cubes of steak, or spicy salsa or make it Japanese or anything.
Simple ingredients in the right amounts are all you need for a good bowl of chili.
You can even make this perfect chili recipe vegetarian. I give you all the deets in the recipe.
Chili for a Crowd Recipe Ingredients
My friend Melissa and I developed this traditional chili recipe for a magazine years ago. We had a great pot of chili going, but for one of the versions she added brewed coffee (to add a little depth of flavor).
I thought it would add an off-taste, but to my surprise you don't taste coffee at all, just a pleasant savory, robust layer of flavor. Genius!
Besides the coffee, this is a traditional chili recipe. Think: ground beef, onions and garlic, kidney beans, and lots of spices.
What Type of Coffee Should Be Added?
I don't actually drink coffee, so I rarely have it in the house. However, I keep it on hand for this chili. My recipe calls for regular brewed coffee, but I use instant decaf coffee. It still adds the amazing flavor.
How to Make Classic Chili
Making chili for a crowd is incredibly simple and takes about an hour to prepare.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an 8-quart pot over medium-high heat.
- Add beef and cook until browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer the browned meat to a bowl and discard any juices left in the pot.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot with the onion, garlic and jalapeño. Cook until softened.
- Stir in tomato paste, all the spices and salt, and continue to cook until the vegetables are well coated and mixture darkens a bit and becomes fragrant.
- Stir in the coffee, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pot, and then add tomatoes with their juices, beans, browned meat and 1½ cups water.
- Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until the chili has thickened.
- Remove from heat, stir in a splash of vinegar and season to taste with salt.
Can Chili Be Frozen?
Can the Coffee Be Omitted?
You don't need to use coffee to make the best classic chili. Without it, this chili will be just that, delicious, classic tomato-y chili. It's just a fun option to add a layer of flavor.
What's the Best Ground Beef for Chili?
I prefer using a lean ground beef, such as ground sirloin. Look for a ground beef that contains around 10% fat. Anything fattier, and the chili will be greasy.
Chili Toppings to Try
Now, this is a good chili, but what would classic chili be without the toppings? With a variety of tasty toppings like cornbread croutons, avocados, corn salsa, pickled jalapeños, and more, each person at the table can customize their bowl just the way they like it.
I have an entire post sharing my favorite chili toppings, but a few standouts include:
- Cornbread Croutons
- Crispy Cheese Bits
- Cilantro Cream
- Corn Relish
- Spiced Roasted Pepitas
Serve these chili toppers alongside your basic, tried and true toppings like onion, shredded cheese, avocado and sliced radishes and cilantro.
Throw a chili bash, and don't forget to include some new, fun and gourmet toppers. Your plain old bowl will never be the same!
Recipe Variations to Try
You won't want to stop with classic chili and toppings. Why not mix it up with one of these cool ideas?
- With leftover chili, make a South-of-the-Border Cobbler. Spread chili in a baking dish, top with biscuit dough and bake at 375ºF until biscuits are cooked and chili is bubbling.
- Try black beans in place of kidney beans
- Use ground turkey for a low-fat option.
- Sautè diced bell pepper with the onion
- Top with pickled jalapeños, salsa verde, tortilla chips or crisp diced jicama.
Vegetarian Chili Option
- Prepare classic chili as the recipe says, omitting the meat, and sauté 3 diced carrots with the onion, garlic, and jalapeño.
- Cover and cook until carrots are soft, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.
- Add 2 15-ounce cans of rinsed and drained lentils along with the kidney beans.
- Add 2 cups thawed frozen corn during the last 5 minutes.
This vegetarian version makes 17 cups.
Tips for the Best Classic Chili
- Swap tomato juice for coffee — this change will blow your mind. Yes! You need the liquid, and this simple swap adds such a fun layer to the flavor.
- Don't drain the tomatoes — Add them to the pot with their juices.
- Seed the jalapeños — For a milder chili, seed the jalapeños. For a spicier version, leave the seeds in.
More Game Day Recipes
Chili for a crowd is perfect game day food. Try more recipes to serve at your party.
- Posh Piggies Pigs In A Blanket
- Green Chile Beef Tacos with Black Beans
- Nachos For a Party Crowd
- Chipotle Pomegranate Taco Bites
- Spicy Maple Bacon Chicken Drumsticks
Classic Chili Recipe
- 2 tablespoons canola or avocado oil
- 3 pounds lean ground beef
- 3 medium onions finely chopped
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 3 jalapenos seeded if desired, finely diced
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 cup brewed coffee (or tomato juice)
- 3 cans (15-ounce cans) diced tomatoes with juices
- 3 cans (15-ounce cans) kidney beans drained
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in an 8-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook, breaking up with a spoon, until browned, about 7 minutes. With a slotted spoon transfer browned meat to a bowls and discard any juices left in the pot.
- Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pot with the onion, garlic and jalapeño. Cook, stirring, until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, all the spices, and salt, and continue to cook until the vegetables are well coated and mixture darkens a bit and becomes fragrant. Stir in tomato juice or coffee, scraping any bits from the bottom of the pot, and then add tomatoes with their juices, beans, browned meat and 1½ cups water.
- Bring to a simmer and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the chili has thickened, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the vinegar and season to taste with extra salt.
Make a delicious soup recipe today
Recipes by Tara Teaspoon & Melissa Gamen. Photography Ty Mecham. Food Styling Tara Teaspoon. Prop Styling Veronica Olson. Recipe originally published LHJ 03/12. Post updated 2/7/22