Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (2024)

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Contest-Winning Chile Con Carne Recipe!
Stovetop, Slow Cooker, and Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Instructions

I have won two local chili contest with my chili con carne recipe, including one that had a Texan on the judging committee. If a Texan can give my chili a “thumbs up,” it must be great! Remember there are no beans in a true Texas chili, but I like to add some beans, but not too much.

Stove Top Instructions

Slow Cooker/Crock Pot Instructions

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Instructions

This is one of those recipes that I just do. I have estimated the amount of each ingredient I have used in making this recipe below. If you want to add more or less of an ingredient (or even leave one out), feel free to do so. It is very hard to “wreck” a chili con carne.

You can pick your favorite cooking method or whatever suits your mood for the day. Instructions have been provided to cook in a Dutch oven on the stovetop, slow cooker or Instant Pot electric pressure cooker. For the Instant Pot pressure cooker instructions, I have provided cooking options and times to use either canned or dried beans.

Learn about the history and legends of Chili, Chili Con Carne.


Linda's Chili Con Carne - The Best Chili Recipe:

Prep Time

30 mins

Cook Time

4 hrs

Total Time

4 hrs 30 mins

Slow Cooker Time: Low Heat - 8-10 hours High Heat 4-5 hours

Pressure Cooker Time: With dried beans: 1 hour 45 minutes With canned beans 30 minutes

* If you prefer your chili spicy, keep the seeds in, the chili peppers will mellow while cooking and still retain a nice spicy build up. Remove the seeds to keep your chili mild and more family friendly.

** Red wine can be omitted and replaced with beef stock or water.

*** Water may also be substituted for some of the liquid.

**** Molasses helps cut down the acidity of the tomatoes. Honey may also be substituted.

Course:Side Dish


Servings: 8 to 12 servings


  • 2 to 3pounds leanground beef
  • 1-2largeonionschopped
  • 6 clovesgarlicfinely chopped
  • 1tablespoondried ground cumin,or to taste
  • 1tablespoondried oregano,or to taste
  • 2tablespoonschili powderor to taste (fresh chile peppers may be substituted- jalapeño or serrano)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 to 4cupstomato sauce, tomato puree, or fresh tomatoes coarsely-chopped (or a combination of all three)
  • 2cupsred wine**
  • 2 to 3(14 1/2-ounce) cansbeef broth***
  • 1 to 2tablespoonsmolasses****
  • 2cansblack beans or kidney beansrinsed and drained


  • Sharp Cheddar cheese,grated
  • Sour cream
  • Green onions or red onionschopped


Stove Top Method:

  1. In a large soup pot orcast-iron Dutch ovenover medium-high heat, saute ground beef and onions until the meat becomes gray in color; drain off fat and discard. Add garlic, cumin, oregano, chili powder, chili peppers, salt, pepper, and stir together. Saute for about 30 seconds to allow flavors to become fragrant. Next add tomato sauce, red wine, and beef broth. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, approximately 3 to 4 hours, stirring often. Note: Additional beef broth, water, or wine may be added as needed.

  2. Add molasses to taste to cut down the acidity of the tomatoes. Add beans and continue to simmer another 30 minutes. NOTE: During the last 30 minutes of cooking, do a lot of tasting and adjust seasoning to taste.

  3. For maximum flavor, cool chili and refrigerate overnight so flavors will mellow as chili is best made 1 day ahead to allow the flavors time to marry.

  4. When ready to serve, remove top layer of solidified fat, reheat chili over low heat, and serve in large individual bowls.

  5. Set out garnishes for your chili (some chopped green or red onions, sour cream, and shredded sharp cheddar cheese make great topping).

  6. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

    Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (2)

Slow Cooker (Crock Pot) Method:

  1. Preheat slow cooker.

  2. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook ground beef until browned; drain off fat and discard. Add onion and garlic and saute until the onions become soft and translucent, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add cumin, oregano, chili powder, chili peppers, salt, and pepper. Stir into beef mixture and cook for a couple minutes longer.

  3. Add the cooked beef mixture to the slow cooker along with tomato sauce, red wine, beef broth, molasses, and beans. Stir together to combine and cover with slow cooker lid. Cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours or high heat for 4 to 5 hours.

  4. Serve in bowls and garnish with your favorite toppings.

  5. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

    Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (3)

Instant Pot Pressure Cooker Method:

  1. Important Note: If using a 6 quartInstant Pot Pressure Cooker, I would recommend cutting the recipe ingredients in half to fit everything in the pot. For an 8 quart Instant Pot pressure cooker, the ingredient amounts will work just fine. Always make sure that the Instant Pot pressure cooker is no more than 1/2 filled with cooking with beans.

    Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (4)

  2. Dried Bean Preparation:

  3. 1/2 pound dried kidney beans (for 6 quart Instant Pot pressure cooker) adjust to 1 pound dried kidney beans for 8 quart Instant Pot pressure cooker.
    1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
    3 cups water (6-quart pressure cooker) - 6 cups water (8-quart pressure cooker)

    Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (5)

  4. Add dried beans, onion quarters and water to the inner pot. Cover with lid and close lid to seal. Make sure the pressure valve is also closed to the sealing position. Press the Manual button, then press the Adjust button to set the pressure setting to High-Pressure. Set the cooking time for 45 minutes. After the cooking time is completed, let the pressure naturally release (this could take up to 30 minutes). Note - It's essential when pressure cooking dried beans to allow the pressure to naturally release so the beans will soften properly and reduce gas build up in the beans. Once the pressure has all released and the pressure pin has dropped, press the Keep Warm/Cancel button and open the lid. Drain off all the liquid and discard the onion quarters.

    Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (6)

  5. Chili Preparation:

  6. I personally find it easier to brown a large quantity of meat and onions in a skillet on the stove, while waiting for the pressure to release on the cooked beans. Alternatively, you can placed the cooked beans in another large bowl and set aside. Rinse out the inner pot and wipe clean. Brown in your Instant Pot using the Saute mode, then press the Plus button "+" on the control panel to adjust the heat to the hottest setting. Once you are finished sauteeing in the Instant Pot, press the Keep Warm/Cancel button to turn off. Add the cooked beans to the pot with the meat mixture (see instructions below) and proceed with the remaining chili preparation instructions.. For this recipe, I will provide stovetop browning directions (shown below).

  7. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook ground beef until browned; drain off fat and discard. Add onion and saute until the onions become soft and translucent (approximately 3 to 4 minutes). Next add garlic, chili peppers, cumin, oregano, chili powder, chili peppers, salt, and pepper. Stir into beef mixture and cook for 30 more seconds for spices to become fragrant.

  8. Add the cooked beef mixture to the cooked kidney beans in the inner pot.

    Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (7)

  9. Next add tomato sauce, red wine, beef broth, molasses. Note- If you are using canned beans instead of dried beans, now is the time to add the drained beans.Stir everything together to combine and cover with lid. Close the lid to seal. Make sure the pressure valve is also closed to the sealing position. Press the Manual button, then press the Adjust button to set the pressure setting to High-Pressure. Set the cooking time for 10 minutes. After the cooking time is completed, open the pressure valve to Quick Release the pressure.

  10. Open the lid and adjust seasonings to taste.

    Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (8)

  11. Flavor Tip:For maximum flavor, cool chili and refrigerate overnight so flavors will mellow as chili is best made 1 day ahead to allow the flavors time to marry. When ready to serve, remove the top layer of solidified fat, reheat chili over low heat, and serve in large individual bowls.

  12. Set out garnishes for your chili (some chopped green onions, sliced jalapenos, sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar cheese make great toppings).

  13. Makes 8 to 12 servings.

Watch a video to learn to make Linda’s Contest Winning Chili Con Carne

Chili Making Hints and Tips:

Too salty: Chili that is too salty may be saved by boiling a peeled potato in the pot of chili (the potato will absorb a lot of the salt).

If your chili comes out too thin, either:

  • Continue to simmer the chili longer until more liquid is reduced.
  • Add some instant mashed potatoes.
  • Add some yellow corn flour. This will also help absorb salt. Simply make a corn flour and water slurry, and add it in until the chili reaches the consistency is you want.
  • Masa Harina is another thickener that works very well in chili. It will add a slightly sweet hint to the chili, but it makes the consistency very nice.
  • Toss a grating of bitter chocolate into chili to give it body and mellow the flavors.

Famous and Not-So Famous Chili Recipes:

Arnold’s “Old Leatherthroat” Chili Con Carne
Jack Arnold says, “I have been a chili lover ever since boyhood. I didn’t know then why I loved chili – I just did – Now that I know more about chili, I realize how lucky I was to get hooked on it early in life.”

Bowl Of Red – Classic Chili
The influence behind this chilirecipe came from my maternal grandfather, who when working with the Santa Fe Railroad learned how to prepare it from the “cookies,” or trail cooks. It has won numerous chili cook-offs and is one of the really true original chili recipes.

Chasen’s Famous Chili
Writing to Dave Chasen, owner of Chasen’s Restaurant: “The chili is so good. All gone now. Please send me ten quarts of your wonderful chili in dry ice to 448 Via Appia pignatelli. – Love and kisses, Elizabeth Taylor.” – Elizabeth Taylor, on location in Rome, 1962

Chili H. Allen Smith
The first chili cook-off known to modern man took place in 1967 in uninhabited Terlingua, Texas (once a thriving mercury-mining town of 5,000 people). It was a two-man cook-off between Texas chili champ Wick Fowler (a Dallas and Denton newspaper reporter) and H. Allen Smith (humorist and author), which ended in a tie – but I like to add some beans, but not too much.

Pedernales River Chili
This recipe is President Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th President of the United States, chili recipe. Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson had cards printed with the LBJ’s “Pedernales River Chili” recipe. She is quoted as saying, “It has been almost as popular as the government pamphlet on the care and feeding of children.”

Spicy Chili with PeppersThis delicious Spicy Chile with Peppers recipe and photo were shared with my by Karen Calanchini, Food Stylist and Photographer, of Redding, CA. This version contains bisonand beef.

Tolbert’s Original Bowl of Red
Recipe by Frank X. Tolbert, from his book, A Bowl of Red.Frank Tolbert founded the Terlingua International Chili Championship in Terlingua, Texas and owned a chain of chili parlors in Dallas, Texas.

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Comments and Reviews

14 Responses to “Linda’s Chili Con Carne – Best Chili Con Carne Recipe”

  1. Kathy Beattie

    That really was the best chili I have ever tasted!


  2. Leon

    When you say “a lot of” wine – is that like replacing a cup of the broth or two cups or ?


    • Linda Stradley

      I basically add wine to taste as it simmers. Depending on the taste of the chili, I can add just a little to a lot of wine. I add the wine as it is cooking by tasting the chili and then adding additional wine! Cooking the chili at a simmer (all day), as I sometimes do, I taste and add all day. I sometimes add upto a whole bottle of wine when cooking a large batch. Remember, the alcohol basically cooks out. – Linda Stradley


  3. Joe Andros

    I have been making chili for almost 50 years and this recipe is by far the most universally enjoyed. Whenever I make a batch, those who taste it immediately ask for the recipe. For those who enjoy more heat, I would recommend 2 soprano peppers, a jalapeño and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper. The wine and molasses are must. I used 3 cans of Bushe’s beans (drained and rinsed) one dark kidney, one light kidney and one chili bean. This is the only leftover than gets eaten daily until gone.

    Be sure to refrigerate one to three days before serving. It gets better every day it remains in the frigerator. Once you dig into it, it will be gone.

    This is a crowd pleaser that can be made several days in advance. A guaranteed winner of a recipe,

    Thanks for sharing.


  4. Gina

    the recipe author keeps adding substitution ideas for ingredients, such water in place of the beef broth or wine, which totally changes the taste of the recipe that won the contest….????


    • Whats Cooking America

      Each time my Mom make’s her chili she always slightly tweaks the recipe depending on what she is in the mood to try or what she has on hand. Still tastes amazing. Also, some people don’t drink alcohol and need a substitution option.


  5. Bob Trlin

    We love this recipe. It’s the only way we make chili now. We live in Australia so have converted your measurements to metric. There are a couple of minor translation issues:
    – Molasses in this part of the world is the first pressing of sugar cane. It contains dirt and the odd snake or two 🙂 It’s hard to buy. I’m guessing you mean what we call “treacle”. It works great, much nicer than just white sugar.
    – Where you garnish with “chopped green onions”, I’m guessing you mean “scallions”. We call them “spring onions”.
    Minor changes:
    –Instead of chili powder, we use a hand full of bird’s eye chilis (the little red very hot ones) finely sliced with seeds. It’s quite spicy but as you know it mellows beautifully the next day.
    –We don’t drain the beans. It seems a waste to drain off those flavours and the starch helps thicken the mix. However one needs to have the chili on the dry side before adding the beans or it will be too runny.


    • Kait

      Technically treacle is considered any syrup made by refining sugar. Not just molasses 🙂 And I think you mean thai chilis. Yes scallions and green onions are the same thing.


  6. Kelly Palazzolo

    This is fabulous! the heat and humidity finally broke in our area and the cool temps made this a perfect day for making chili. I was batch cooking for the week today and this just got taken off the heat after simmering for 4 hours – its delicious now. Can’t wait to see how much better it gets tomorrow.


  7. Debra McGill

    Some of my family can’t have wine for personal reasons. Don’t laugh, but I use two cups of grape juice 🤷‍♀️ The chili stil tastes wonderful. I also use one can of black beans and one can of kidney beans. This recipe is the best chili I’ve ever made. It’s on a regular rotation at our house. My husband jealously watches when I give leftovers to family members 😂


  8. Janet Mazzola

    The recipe is now missing the amount of onion and garlic from the ingredient list. I’ve been making this chili for a couple of years and have always received compliments. It is a mainstay in my winter dish list.


    • Whats Cooking America

      Thanks for the important catch! This has been fixed on the ingredients list.


  9. Kelly

    Growing up I was never a fan of chili. As an adult I would make it occasionally, but still wasn’t a favorite meal. Until I tried this recipe. This recipe is now a staple in my home in the cooler months, and usually have some in the freezer at all times, lol. It’s that good!


  10. Raymond

    It is not TRU Chili con Carne when you add beans!!!!!


Leave a Reply

Contest Winning Chili Con Carne - Best Chili Con Carne Recipe (2024)


What is the secret to really good chili? ›

Only Add Flavorful Liquids

Instead of adding water to your chili, add some more flavor with chicken or beef broth, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, or even beet or wine. Each one of these options brings out different notes and levels of sweetness that will enhance your culinary creation.

How to make your chilli con carne better? ›

10 ways to take chilli con carne to the next level
  1. Cook it in one pot only.
  2. Make it ahead by up to three days.
  3. Use fresh spices.
  4. Source traditional Mexican dried chillies.
  5. Use a marbled cut of beef (not mince!)
  6. Add coffee for extra flavour.
  7. Choose your beans.
  8. Use chocolate.
May 2, 2023

What makes chili taste better? ›

If you want more of a smoky flavor, add cumin, Spanish paprika, ancho chili powder, or a combination. If you are looking for more heat, add cayenne, crushed red pepper, or Hungarian paprika. If it's too spicy add a little brown sugar and some sweet paprika.

How do you make chili taste more meaty? ›

Ground Beef: Provides the hearty meaty base for the chili. Opt for 85% lean; the fat enriches the meat, enhancing the dish's overall flavor and texture. And don't stress about the fat—post-cooking, it's easy to skim off any excess. Baking Soda: Helps tenderize the beef by locking in moisture, making it more succulent.

What not to put in chili? ›

Beans and non-vegetable fillers such as rice and pasta are not allowed." If that sounds a bit uptight, the ICS's Homestyle Chili competition defines chili as: "any kind of meat, or combination of meats, and/or vegetables cooked with beans, chili peppers, various spices, and other ingredients.

What is the most important spice in chili? ›

Most Common Chili Spices. Cumin, Chile Powders, and Paprika are the most common spices in chili followed by garlic, onion, coriander, Mexican oregano, and bay leaves. These ingredients can be combined to create a savory and well-balanced pot of top notch comfort food.

What is the original chili con carne? ›

The original chili was made with dried beef pounded together with suet and dried chiles into a sort of pemmican-like dry mix intended to last a long time and be quick and nutritious for cowboys to rehydrate and stew up out on the range.

How do you make chili taste deeper? ›

Coffee. A cup of strong, brewed coffee will work wonders for your pot of chili, imparting a deep, roasted flavor that will make the chili taste like it simmered away all day long.

Why is my chilli con carne bland? ›

It might need salt. If there's not enough salt it will taste flat. Or maybe more chili powder. I little Cayenne is always good unless you are feeding children or very sensitive people.

Does chili need tomato paste? ›

Tomato sauce is not a strong a taste as tomato paste. Also, sauce will increase the liquid content of your chili ever so slightly. Tomato paste has a more full, rich, tomato taste and smell. Using either one is appropriate, but you will need to tweak your seasonings to suit your personal tastes, anyway.

Do you cook onions or meat first for chili? ›

Making homemade chili is quite simple. You'll first need to cook the onions and garlic. Then you'll add your beef and cook it through. You'll finally add the peppers and seasonings, stirring it together to get that beautiful flavor together.

What is the most flavorful meat for chili? ›

The best chili meat is a combination of meats, often a mix of ground chuck, ground sirloin, brisket, diced tri-tip, and/or some bacon or sausage. Do your best to mix smaller pieces with larger pieces to stack textures and make it your own! Happy cooking!

Should chili be thick or soupy? ›

Traditionally, we expect a robust, spicy base, meat and/or beans, perhaps some bonus veggies, and a thick, rich consistency. Unlike soups, which are brothy, or even bisques, which are creamy yet thinner, chili is meant to be more stew-like; it's a definite stick-to-your-ribs creation.

Do you drain the ground beef for chili? ›

Brown the beef in a large saucepan or stock pot over medium-high heat, breaking up the meat as it cooks. Don't drain the fat.

What brings out the flavor in chili? ›

Cocoa powder, bacon, cinnamon, ground coffee and tomato paste will all add a rich sweet & salty flavors that are sure to surprise and delight. Warming spice blends, like Garam Masala, Ras el Hanout or Baharat are another simple and delicious way to add layered flavors to this simple one-pot meal.

Why would you put vinegar in chili? ›

With only about 1 tablespoon per pot added toward the end of the cooking process, the vinegar will make the flavors more vibrant without overwhelming the dish with its biting tang. Through just a splash, everything becomes a little brighter, and the chili's flavors are more balanced.

How important is oregano in chili? ›

Oregano is an important herb in chilli con carne. The oregano that you'll most commonly find is the Mediterranean kind, commonly found in Greek and Italian cooking.

Is chili better the longer it cooks? ›

A low and slow cook time—at least an hour total—is key for drawing out the most flavor in a pot of chili. Yes, a quick chili is most welcome on weeknights, but it won't have quite the same results. A slow cooker works wonders, but if you're short on time, try a pressure cooker.

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