This hearty chili packs a fiery punch. We spice it up three different ways and top with cool Greek yogurt, gooey cheddar cheese, and crunchy tortilla chips for a flavorful way to heat things up!
It’s officially comfort food season! Let the countdown to Thanksgiving begin, and the counting of calories end. I’m kicking off the season with a hearty bowl of spicy chili that’s sure to warm your soul. Or set it on fire tbh.
When I say spicy chili, I mean s p i c y. Not only do we season the base with cayenne AND crushed red peppers, we also top the bowl with fresh jalapeños. The best part though—all those ingredients are completely optional. So if spicy is not for you, simply fugetaboutit. You do you. It will still be a fricken delicious bowl of chili.Jump to Recipe
To balance out the heat, I added some brown sugar. This may seem strange, but trust me. Sweet and spicy are lovers – they make quite an addictive combo. The sweetness also complements the smokiness of the chili powder and cumin, so it’s the perfect trifecta.
We use ground beef and two types of beans to ensure it’s nice and hearty. There’s a big chili debate between beans or no beans and I think we all know which side I land on. It’s a must, for me. Except on chili dogs. Never beans on chili dogs.
I like to go overboard with chili toppings. More is more, as the kids say. I’ve GOT to have either Greek yogurt or sour cream. The cool and creamy texture with the warm, spicy chili is *chef’s kiss* everything. Avocado is also a great option for that cooling factor.
Diced onion and crushed tortilla chips are perfect for a little crunchy contrast in texture. And I love Cilantro for freshness and a bright pop of color against the dark red chili.
Tips for Making the Best Spicy Chili
This spicy chili is probably one of the easiest recipes on DTR. Most of the ingredients come in a can and it’s one of those one-pot dishes you can set and forget. That being said, there are a few helpful tips that will ensure maximum balance and flavor.
You need some sugar. In addition to cutting through the heat, sugar helps to balance the acidity of the tomatoes. It also intensifies the tomato, creating a more complex depth of flavor. This is what keeps you going back for more.
Look for a brand of tomatoes that doesn’t include any added sugar. I’ve used stewed tomatoes before, and it turned out a bit too sweet for me. If you’re using tomatoes with any added sugar, I would use less sugar than the recipe calls for. You can also use a pinch of baking soda to lessen the acidity.
Which brings me to my next tip – SEASON TO TASTE. This means you will need to season little by little and taste as you go. I provide measurements in the recipe, but they are just a guideline. It’s up to you to determine if you want more heat, more sweet, more smokiness, more savory, more FLAVOR.
My final tip is to make sure your heat isn’t too high when you’re simmering the chili. Allowing the chili to simmer will develop those complex flavors, but you don’t want it to be boiling. This will increase the acidity levels and possibly upset your stomach.
And the VVVVV best part about this chili is it gets better as it sits. I like to make it a day ahead of when I plan to serve it for optimal flavor.
How to Ditch the Recipe: Spicy Chili Edition
The heart of this recipe is pretty basic, however there are still plenty of ways you could switch things up. Below are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Beans: We use a combo of red and white kidney beans, but you could use one or the other, pinto beans, black beans, navy beans, or if you’re from Texas—no beans. IYKYK.
Meat: You can use turkey, chicken, venison, pork or skip the meat. If you’re vegetarian, you can add another type of bean or use a plant-based meat alternative.
Add ins: Bell pepper, carrots, celery, corn, sweet potatoes, green chilis, garlic, bay leaves.
Toppings: When it comes to toppings I like to go for something cool—sour cream, greek yogurt, creme fraîche, Mexican crema, or avocado. Something cheesy and melty—shredded cheddar, pepper jack, smoked gouda or mozz, havarti. Something fresh—shallots, onions, green onion, cilantro, fresh oregano, hot peppers, pickled jalapeños or veggies. And something crunchy—tortilla chips, potato chips, Fritos, corn bread croutons, crispy fried onions.
If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below or send an email to email@example.com. If you make this spicy chili, let me know how you ditched the recipe. Share it on Instagram and tag @ditchtherecipe—I love to see what you’re making!
Check out our other comfort food favorites!
- Instant Pot Spicy Pasta e Fagioli
- Smoky Tomato Soup + Grilled Cheese
- Turkey Sausage + Kale Soup
- Polenta Trout Cake + Tangy Green Pepper Sauce
XXX Spicy Chili
For the Spicy Chili
- 1/2 white onion chopped
- 1 lb ground beef I like an 85/15 fat percentage
- 1 28 oz can peeled whole tomatoes
- 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
- 1 6 oz can tomato paste
- 2 15 oz cans kidney beans (don't drain) red, white, or both
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 4 tbsp chili seasoning (I used Trader Joe's) or chili powder, ground cumin, garlic powder, and dried oregano
- cayenne pepper to tase
- red pepper flakes to taste
- salt to taste
For the Toppings
- shredded cheddar cheese
- Greek yogurt
- fresh jalapeño sliced
- diced raw onion
- sliced avocado
- tortilla chips crushed
- Dice half an onion and sauté over medium heat in a heavy bottomed soup pot. When onions start to sweat, season with salt and a pinch of red pepper flakes (optional). Add ground beef and cook, stirring every once in a while until evenly browned. Season with a pinch more salt and cayenne pepper (optional).
- Open all cans, but don't drain any juices. When beef is cooked through, add peeled tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, kidney beans, brown sugar, chili seasoning, and additional chili flakes or cayenne pepper (if desired). Stir to combine and let chili come to a simmer.
- Break apart whole tomatoes with a wooden spoon.Let chili gently simmer for 30 mins. Stir and taste along the way. Adjust seasonings, spices, sugar, and salt, as desired. Go light on the salt since the tomatoes are naturally acidic.
- While chili simmers, prep toppings—diced onion, fresh jalapeño slices, avocado slices, cilantro, shredded cheddar, Greek yogurt, crushed tortilla chips. If chili looks too thick, add a few splashes of water or broth to the pot. When chili is done, serve divide into individual bowls and add toppings.
- To store, let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up 5 days. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Did you make this XXX Spicy Chili?
Tag @ditchtherecipe on Instagram and hashtag #ditchtherecipe