Dutch Oven Chili Recipe

Beefy, hearty, and a little bit spicy - this is a surprisingly easy recipe for your cast iron dutch oven, and perfect for cold days. This one-pot meal recipe can be easily doubled, and freezes very well to save some for later. The leftovers are even better the next day. Use it for hot dogs, chili nachos, chili mac, Frito pie, hamburgers, or sloppy joes. This is a perfect dutch oven recipe for cooler months.

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bowl of chili topped with avocado, cheddar, limes on a plate with corn bread

Equipment

  • Dutch oven - A heavy pot with a heavy well fitting lid, usually made out of cast iron. I adore my Staub Dutch oven, and use it for soups, stews, sauces, and more. Martha Stewart has a more affordable version that works well. Either way a Dutch oven is a necessity in your kitchen supplies. I recommend getting one with at least a 6 quart capacity. Invest in a heavy good quality piece and it will last you years. If you don't have a Dutch oven, you can use any large heavy bottomed pot.
  • Silicone tongs - This are helpful for turning the ground chuck "meatballs".
ingredients for dutch oven chili on a wooden table

Ingredient notes

  • Olive oil - One of my favorite good quality olive oils is California Olive Ranch Extra virgin Olive Oil.
  • Ground chuck - I make this recipe with ground chuck. If you have a Fresh Market near you, they sell ground chuck for $2.99 every Tuesday, which is an awesome deal! You can also make this recipe with lean ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, ground pork, or a combination.
  • Bell pepper - I use green bell pepper in this recipe, but you can also use red, yellow, or a combination. It will change the flavor slightly, but I think they will all taste great.
  • Jalapeno - This recipe calls for 1 jalapeno, but feel free to use an extra if you want an extra spicy chili. Jalapenos have varying degrees of spiciness, so its a good idea to taste them before you add a whole one to your recipe.
  • Tomato paste - In this recipe I use tomato paste instead of tomato sauce. I like to buy the kind in a tube since recipes usually only ever call for a tablespoon or 2 at a time.
  • Garlic - I always recommend using fresh garlic.
  • Beef base - I love using Better Than Bouillon bases in my cooking. The concentrated beef base has much more flavor than using beef broth.
  • Beef broth - if you are using beef base, you can skip the beef broth and use water instead.
  • Diced tomatoes - You can swap our regular canned tomatoes for the fire roasted kind for a little extra flavor.
  • Kidney beans - Beans are optional in this chili, but I like to include them. You can use use other kinds of canned beans too, like pinto beans or black beans.
  • Toppings: I like topping my chili with cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, red onions, green onions, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. You can also serve with fritos, tortilla chips, or corn bread.

Recipe tips

First up is my secret to getting the most flavor possible out of your ground chuck - making "meat balls" out of them (literally just balls of meat) to maximize the surface area. More surface area means more room for browning, and browning of meat means more flavor! This method also works better than just dumping the meat into the pot because it leaves room around the balls of meat so they have a chance to sear rather than steam.

Heat up your dutch oven on medium-high heat, and add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Break up your ground chuck into 6 chunks and roughly roll into balls. Add the "meat balls" to the pot and don't touch them for a few minutes, allowing them to sear and develop a browned crust. Rotate the meatballs to sear all sides.

Turn down the heat to medium low and add in diced onions, bell peppers, and jalapeno peppers. Break up the ground chuck and saute vegetables for about 10 minutes, until onions are turning translucent. Add in minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes while stirring.

Stir in tomato paste, beef base if using, chili powder, cumin, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and sugar. Mix well and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes before adding the liquids. This will help caramelize the tomato paste and toast the seasonings, adding extra depth of flavor for the most flavorful chili!

Next, add in beef broth or water, diced tomatoes, and beans if using. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and allow chili to reduce to desired consistency. Add salt and black pepper to taste after reducing.

Serve this hearty chili hot. Some chili topping ideas include: sour cream, cheddar, red onions, green onions, jalapeño slices, diced avocado, a squeeze of lime, and/or a dash of hot sauce. You can also serve with corn bread, fritos, or tortilla chips.

Can I make this ahead of time?

Yes! This dutch oven chili recipe is perfect for making ahead of time, as the flavors get better with time. Make a day or two ahead of time and keep in the refrigerator, or make farther in advance and freeze it.

How to store leftovers?

Store leftover chili in an airtight container for up to 3 days. This dutch oven chili recipe also freezes really well! Double the recipe to make a big batch for the entire family or to freeze some for later. My favorite method of freezing is adding the chili to a quart size freezer bag, then laying the bag flat in the freezer to freeze. Once frozen you can store it "file folder" style. This way takes up less room in the freezer and also defrosts faster since there is more surface area. Don't forget to label and date!

If you have leftovers you don't know what to do with, mix leftover chili with mac and cheese - trust me.

Variations/substitutions

  • Swap green bell peppers for poblano peppers for a spicier chili.
  • Add extra jalapenos to make it spicy.
  • Add in red, yellow, or orange bell pepper instead of green pepper
  • You can swap out ground chuck for ground turkey or chicken for a slightly healthier version.
table setting with 2 bowls of chili with toppings, and cornbread

FAQs

Can you make this chili in the slow cooker?

Chili can certainly be made in the slow cooker, but I don't recommend it. When you put all the ingredients into the slow cooker, you are skipping the browning of the meat, toasting of spices, and caramelization of the tomato paste that happens in the dutch oven. Making the chili in the crock pot may result in a less flavorful chili.

Is it better to cook chili covered or uncovered?

I like to cook my chili covered for 30 minutes, then uncover and cook until the pot of chili is reduced to the desired consistency.

Looking for some other Dutch oven recipes?

Any questions? I'd love to help! Drop a comment below or send me an email!

bowl of chili topped with avocado, cheddar, limes on a plate with corn bread

Dutch Oven Chili

Beefy, hearty, and a little bit spicy - this is a surprisingly easy recipe for your cast iron dutch oven, and perfect for cold days.
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American, Southern
Keyword: family dinner, homemade, sunday dinner
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 351kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 cup yellow onion (about 1 medium onion); diced
  • ½ cup bell pepper (½ bell pepper); diced
  • 1-2 jalapeno seeded and minced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon beef base
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1 cup water or beef broth
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can kidney beans (optional)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • topping ideas: sour cream, cheddar, red onions, green onions, avocado, tortilla chips, corn bread, lime juice

Instructions

  • SEAR: Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a dutch oven (I use a 6 quart size) on medium high heat. Break up the ground chuck into about 6 chunks like meatballs, and lightly salt them. Add the chunks to the pot, and don’t touch for a few minutes, and let the meat develop a browned crust. Rotate the balls and sear for a few minutes on each side until all browned. The browning of the meat will help add a depth of flavor.
    balls of meat being seared in a pot
  • SAUTE: Turn down heat to medium low and add in the onions, bell peppers, and jalapeno. Break up the ground chuck. Cook for about 10 minutes, until onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 more minutes, stirring. Stir in tomato paste, beef base (if using), chili powder, cumin, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper, and sugar. Mix well and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes before adding liquids.
    browned ground chuck, spices, sautéed vegetables, and tomato paste in a dutch oven
  • SIMMER: Add in beef broth or water, diced tomatoes with juices, and beans if using, and stir. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove cover and allow chili to reduce some liquid. Once it is the desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste.
    ground beef, vegetables, spices, and canned tomatoes in a dutch oven
  • SERVE: Serve with sour cream, shredded cheddar, red onions,  green onions, avocado and/or a squeeze of lime juice.
    dutch oven filled with chili

Notes

  • If you want your chili less spicy, scrape the seeds and membranes out of the jalapeño. If you want it spicier leave them in. 
  • This recipe freezes very well! You can double it and make some for later. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 351kcal | Carbohydrates: 13g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 511mg | Potassium: 645mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1960IU | Vitamin C: 34mg | Calcium: 83mg | Iron: 5mg
 

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