Friday Recipe: Beef Chili

I recently started eating beef again, after 18 years of abstaining. Last weekend, I made a big batch of Chili using beef, and it was fantastic. So I thought that was a good excuse to give you my chili recipe.

This is real chili. Up here in NY, usually when you see chili, it’s ghastly stuff. Usually made from ground meat, insane amounts of cumin, and tomatoes, and very, very little actual chili pepper at all. In this recipe, the chili pepper is the main flavor: the entire recipe is based on my favorite chili pepper, the ancho chili. Anchos aren’t
particularly spicy as chilis go; they’re pretty mild, but they have a lovely
flavour. If you want to make it spicier, you can add some minced jalapenos (or if you want it really spicy, a habanero) at the same time that the meat is added back in to cooked vegetables. Don’t overdo it: chili should be spicy, but not so spicy that you can’t taste anything but the heat.

I used hanger steak for it. I’d recommend a similar cut of beef – that is, a cut that’s
sort of tough and a bit fatty. In a dish like this, where it’s going to cook for a long time,
you don’t need to use a tender cut of meat, and in general, the tougher pieces of meat actually
have more flavor. So if it’s going to be cooked for a long time, which will make the meat turn
tender from cooking, you’re much better off with one of the tough cuts.

There are a couple of unusual ingredients. Avacado leaves are used as a spice in some mexican dishes. They’ve got a lovely aroma and flavor, quite unlike anything else that I’ve discovered. Epazote is
a central american herb, vaguely remniscient of oregano, but really quite unique. Achiote is
a spice with a very mild nutty flavor, and an intense red color. And finally, cinnamon – not an unusual
spice, but unusual to use in a dish like chili. Just a pinch of it is used, but it has an amazing
influence on the flavor of the dish.


  • 1 lb hanger steak, cut into cubes.
  • 2 large dried ancho chilis.
  • 2 cups stock.
  • 1/2 cup tequila.
  • One onion, diced.
  • One carrot, diced.
  • One tablespoon coriander seed.
  • One tablespoon black peppercorn.
  • One tablespoon cumin seed.
  • 1/2 teaspoon avocado leaves.
  • 1/2 teaspoon epazote.
  • 1/2 teaspoon achiote.
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
  • Salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon flour.
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste.
  • 1 can beans, drained.


  1. Break open the dried chilis, and remove the stems and seeds.
  2. Put the chilis into a small saucepot, and add enough stock to cover them. Turn on
    the heat, and simmer until the chilis are soft.
  3. Put the chilis and stock into a blender, puree, and then put through a sieve.
  4. Heat a pot on medium-high heat. Put in all of the spices, and let them toast until they
    turn fragrant. Then remove them from the heat, and grind them in a mortar and pestle until
    they’re a fine powder. (You can also use a mini food processor, but I find that that leaves things
    a bit gritty.)
  5. Season the beef with some salt. Add oil to the hot pot, and put in the meat, and stir-fry
    on medium-high heat until well-browned. Remove from the pot, and drain off any excess fat.
  6. Lower the heat to medium, put the onions and carrots into the pot, and cook them until they’re
  7. Re-add the beef, and salt to taste. Then add the ground spices, stir, and cook for a few minutes.
  8. Sprinkle the flour over the meat and vegetables, and add the tomato paste. Stir in, and let it
    start to brown. You should get a bit of stuff starting to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  9. Add the tequila, stir around, using it to loosen the stuff stuck to the bottom. When it’s mostly
    evaporated, add the pureed chilis, and the rest of the stock. Once again, use the liquid to stir up
    anything stuck to the bottom of the pot.
  10. Lower the heat to a simmer. Add the beans. Add salt to taste.
  11. Taste for spices; depending on your chilis and your tequila, you might need a bit of sugar
    if it’s sour. You also might want to add some group chili powder if the chili flavor isn’t
    stron enough; some cayenne if it’s not spicy enough, etc.
  12. Simmer for at least 1 hour. Add stock as necessary if it gets too dry. You want to simmer until the meat is almost falling apart.

Serve it with some fresh chopped cilantro, grated cheddar cheese, and bread.

0 thoughts on “Friday Recipe: Beef Chili

  1. Chris' Wills

    Well, apart from:
    I normally cooked my minced beef the day before (at least) then leave it to sit in the fridge. This way I can take off the fat (normally a nice layer at the top of the bowl).
    Then another 24h with the cooked mince beef in the bowl with liquidised chilis (preferably for me).
    Your recipe seems OKish
    The part I really like about chillis is the kidney beans.
    They go so well in chilli but seem useless elsewhere.

  2. Blake Stacey

    I’ve been successively modifying a family chili recipe, now that I have my own crock pot. The current version uses chopped chicken (or ground turkey), red kidney beans, great northern beans, navy beans, copious amounts of green chili, onions, garlic, a mixture of Italian-esque spices, and sriracha sauce, which we all learned to love while eating at MIT’s food trucks.
    I like a dose of cumin, too, but it definitely shouldn’t be the primary flavor.
    I’m going to have to try that tequila idea. I mean, I do live a block away from a giant liquor store. . . .

  3. chezjake

    Your taste seems very similar to mine. I concur on the choice of cubed tougher beef (although I sometimes use a 60% beef/40% pork shoulder mix). I agree with the idea of minimal (if any) tomato and with the equal quantities of coriander and cumin. I like to add a dried chipotle with the anchos. I usually use canned pinto beans, which I only add at the very end — just long enough to heat through — so that they can still be tasted as a separate flavor from the chili.
    For garnish, I also like the option of some chopped sweet onion or chopped fresh scallions and some chopped mild green chiles. Our family avoids fresh cilantro, since we seem to be among those who have a genetic predisposition to taste it as a pronounced soapy flavor.

  4. bwv

    Why add beans? Everyone knows that real chile does not have them :). A side of rice is all you need
    Other than that, it is a solid Texas chile. I use corn masa as thickener rather than flour and my own idiosyncrasy is to add a couple of tablespoons of mole

  5. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    When I was in grad school, I became a vegetarian. I did it for a combination of health and moral reasons. I was a fairly strict veg for about two years. Then I met my wife, and
    we moved in together. She can’t cook at all, so I was doing all the cooking. I felt bad about making her be a vegetarian, so I decided to start eating some things again – my compromise was to stick with organic/free range stuff.
    The thing was, after being a vegetarian for a while, it affected my taste. Some things that I ate before I went veg just didn’t appeal to me. I honestly never had any desire to eat beef, so I didn’t. There was no moral reason to not eat it; and as far as health goes, just eating it sparingly would have been good enough. But I just didn’t want to, because it never sounded good to me.
    Then a few weeks ago, I went to a cooking demo by Marcus Samuelsson. Samuelsson is an amazing chef, and a fascinating guy. He’s a black swedish guy, who runs a swedish restaurant in NYC. He was the youngest chef ever to get 3 stars in a NYT restaurant review. He’s lately gotten interested in African cuisines. At the demo, he cooked an Ethiopian beef stew, which was made from hanger steak, stewed in a spice blend called Berber. It smelled wonderful, and so I tried it. It tested as good as it smelled :-).
    I’m still not eating much beef. I still have absolutely no interest in eating a rare steak, or anything like that. But he reminded me how good beef is when it’s stewed. Nothing stews as well as beef.

  6. Chris' Wills

    I totally agree about the rare steaks (rare anything tends to put me off) and unless it is from a good farm most steaks are very bland so I tend to go for the cheap cuts as they have a decent flavour and slow cook them.
    I have been experimenting with some of the spices, herbs and dried lemons (yellow & black) from the souk here.
    Lots of failures so far, but the dried lemon stew was interesting.
    I wonder if the Berber spice blend is available here? Something to look for.

  7. Mark C. Chu-Carroll

    There’s a recipe for berber in Samuelsson’s newest book. It’s an interesting blend – a lot of medium-hot chili powder, plus a ton of different spices – fenugreek, coriander, cardamom, and some other stuff. (I’m not sure where my copy of the book is right now, so I can’t look it up. But I highly recommend getting a copy – it’s got some fantastic recipes, and it’s also got a lot of interesting stories about his experiences travelling around Africa as an Ethiopian-born african adopted and raised in Sweden.)

  8. bwv

    Aside from the beans, it looks like a good recipe (its not quite real chile if it has beans :)). I use corn masa (from dried masa harina not from scratch) as a thickener rather than flour. My own idiosyncratic ingredient is a couple of tablespoons of mole. Serve with sides of rice and sour cream

  9. Leo

    Maybe you can help me out with something…? I want to order all of my food online from now on because of various reasons, but I don’t know where to go for quality food. I have tried 2 companies so far, Fresh Dining, and and Celebrity Foods, but I wanna get others I can try out. Do you know of any? The main thing I’ve ordered so far is steak. I guess you can say, I’m a steak junkie. LOL!!! From what I have found out (from what I have ordered so far) I think I am able to regulate the quality of beef I buy. I hate going to a store and getting that crappy slab of beef that I have to cut down until there is like nothing left. Hahaha!!!! (its so true though) Anyhow, sorry that I made this comment so long. If you can help me out or point me in a direction where I might find more quality foods online, I would greatly appreciate it. Have a good day or night! (depending on when you read this) LOL!!!!

  10. Doc Bill

    Texas Chili defined: no beans.
    In fact, a proper Texas Chili has no “bits” floating around. Just beef and sauce.
    Simmer at least 2 hours. And, it’s always best the next day.
    Finally, I layer my spices in 2 or 3 doses spaced about an hour apart: garlic (powder or crushed), cumin, jalapeno (powder or crushed)

  11. Andrew

    This sounds absolutely delicious and I will be trying it shortly. However, it is /not/ chili. I mean, CARROTS?!

  12. Sam Penrose

    You might want to try something from the shoulder, which has connective tissue that will dissolve nicely. Brisket or short ribs would also work well, though sub-boiling temps for 2-4 hours are generally required.


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