Is there anything that says warm-you-up-on-the-inside more than a classic hearty and thick chili recipe? I don't think so. Everything about chili screams cold weather comfort dish in a bowl. And a stick to your ribs, super easy homemade thick chili recipe (also, no beans) does the trick every time.
I feel like everyone has their favorite chili, and there is a million recipes out there for sure, each the perfect comforting dish. And I have tried so many that I put together a giant list of the best damn chili recipes out there (according to me), and I think you should try all of them, just once. This thick chili recipe is fresh take on classic chili and a great option for those in no beans camp, using sweet potato instead of beans gives a subtle sweetness to the dish that is the perfect compliment to the complex spices and heat.
How do you thicken chili?
There is lots of ways to thicken chili, and if you would like to thicken a chili recipe of your own, here are a couple ways to get there...
- Tomato paste. This is probably the easiest and maybe most common addition to add thickness to a chili recipe. Tomato paste is super thick and not only adds texture but adds a richer and deeper flavor to chili.
- Beans. Using beans in your chili will add thickness, as the beans release starch when cooking. Adding sweet potatoes does the same thing as this is a no-bean chili recipe,
- Reduce, reduce, reduce. Cooking the chili, uncovered, not only will it thicken it, but it will concentrate the flavors making even more delicious.
Outside of the sweet potato, this is a pretty classic chili with common ingredients...
- Ground beef. Chili to me is always about beef, I only use beef in it, usually a ground chuck or sirloin
- Onions and garlic
- Sweet potato
- Serrano pepper. I really like serrano pepper as I think they give off just the right amount of heat without taking away from the other flavors
- Traditional chili powder blend. This is the kind I use, but use any kind you like or have on hand
- Additional chili powders. This is optional, but I also add extra of these two - ancho chile powder and chipotle chile powder. You totally don't have to, but I like the extra smokiness I get from both of them.
- Cocoa powder. Yep, that's right I said it. Add cocoa powder. Not a lot, just a bit, and unsweetened of course. This enhance the flavors of your chile powders and creates a dark, rich flavor that you really will never get anywhere else. And no, it absolutely does not make your chili recipe come out tasting like chocolate. This is my secret weapon in chili and why this recipe is so damn delicious.
- Cinnamon, the tiniest bit.
- Tomato paste. My favorite thick chili recipe weapon.
- Can of diced tomatoes
- Beef stock
Ingredient swaps and variations
SInce I am all about being adaptable and using what you have on hand, here are just a few ways you can make this chili your own using whatcha got.
- Use a different meat. Use ground turkey, ground chicken, ground pork or even a plant-based meat alternative (I actually don't hate impossible meat) if you like or have it readily available.
- Make it extra spicy. Add more serrano peppers or additional spicy peppers like fresh jalapenos.
- Add hot sauce. Another make it spicy ingredient variation/swap. Adding some Frank's Red Hot or Louisiana Hot Sauce is a great idea to add heat and a little extra flavor.
Can I freeze chili?
Oh hell yes you can. This hearty and thick chili recipe easily doubles or triples and is a great meal prep idea.
What to serve with chili
Classic chili recipes are always served with a few key condiments, and this hearty and thick chili recipe is no different. Serve it up with the following...
- Sour cream
- Oyster crackers
- Cilantro. Def not my cup of tea, but a lot of people love it
- Green onions
- Corn bread. The mother of all sides to accompany chili. And let me tell you, homemade is easy and so much better! Try this one!
MY best tip for making this hearty and thick chili recipe is to really let it simmer for a decent amount of time. You really want to develop and blend the flavors together. Chili has a lot going on and a lot of ingredients, so giving them all time to hang out together and simmer away really makes for a cold weather comfort dish.
- dutch oven or large stock pot
- 1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 garlic cloves whole
- 2 lbs ground beef
- 2 sweet potatoes peeled and diced
- 1 serrano pepper seeds and membrane removed and finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ⅓ cup chili powder
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
- 2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- pinch cinnamon
- black pepper
- 6 oz tomato paste can
- 14.5 oz diced tomatoes can
- 3 cups beef stock
- ½ cup of water
- Brown the ground beef in a dutch oven or stock pot until no longer pink, adding salt to season. Drain all the fat.
- Add the olive or vegetable oil and continue cooking, add onion and cook until softened. Add the sweet potato and the serrano chili and cook about five more minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, chili powders, cumin, a little more salt, black pepper and allspice and brown for another five minutes. Slowly add the beef stock, cocoa powder, chopped tomatoes and water. Mix all together and bring to a simmer.
- Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes, then remove the cover and simmer an additional 30 minutes (or longer) until thickened and slightly reduced. I simmer this most of the day very low, like maybe three hours. You could also throw it all in the slow cooker on low and simmer all day.