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Real-Deal Chili

Bacon adds smoky flavor to this authentic Southwestern beef chili. Masa harina, or fine cornmeal, helps thicken it. Serve the lime wedges on the side.

  • Prep:
  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 4
Real-Deal Chili

Source: Everyday Food, January/February 2003


  • 2 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped (1 1/2 tablespoons)
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons fine cornmeal, or masa harina
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider, or other vinegar
  • Chopped jalapeno, chopped onion or scallion, grated cheddar cheese, lime wedges, and sour cream


  1. In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add onion and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, pepper, and ground beef. Cook, stirring occasionally, and breaking up the meat with the side of the spoon, until the beef is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

  2. Stir in water, cornmeal, and vinegar, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid thickens, about 20 minutes. It may be necessary to add a little water to thin the chili. Serve hot, garnished with desired toppings.

Reviews (20)

  • liz_alchemist 14 Apr, 2011

    While this isn't the best chili I've had, it is the best recipe for chili that I've made. The bacon is awesome, I even added a teaspoon of bacon fat I'd been saving in the fridge. And the spice mixture is very yummy; next time I might even use Hungarian paprika for more heat. I do think this chili needs some tomatoes, though.

  • iloveapaintquarter 27 Dec, 2010

    Very easy, fast, I used bacon grease only, and followed this recipe but I substituted the meat for some leftovers from a prime rib dinner, same weight in recipe, at the end cooking stage and after adding water to boil...I set up the crock pot with a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh garlic for added flavor. I let stew a while...Excellent over rice.. thanks enjoy

  • OurFoodChoices 3 Feb, 2010

    For added antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids use chopped dried cherries, cocoa powder, and grass-fed beef or venison. Here's a link to our recipe, Cheers!

  • pattipoopidoo 15 Oct, 2008

    Thanks LOVETHEFOOD -- I followed your version of this tonight -- mainly because I had leftover sausage -- and it was excellent!

  • maryreinacher 29 Sep, 2008

    WOW. I used to be a chili block lover, but Sara Lee stopped making the one we loved and I was devastated. Couldn't find a replacement recipe until this one. WE LOVE IT! Thanks, Martha.

  • emcneil 12 Sep, 2008

    Liz... I love my chili with tomoatoes so instead of adding water I add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes to this recipe.

  • virginiabound 12 Sep, 2008

    Many of the recipes in the books and in the magazines do not always come out right and have to be fiddled with. I learned a long time ago! Still like to look and see what is on offer and then that usually gets me thinking about how I might make something similar. So I still take a peak every now and then. I would never make chili without chili powder or ground chilis. Complete sicie chest or not!

  • pattecake 11 Sep, 2008

    Not every chili has beans or tomatoes. There are millions of chili recipes with endless variations.

  • misslucypetunia 11 Sep, 2008

    the chili I grew up with, made by our mexican cook, had no tomatoes. In fact, chili con carne has beans but beans are not an integral part of real chili. I prefer it with no tomatoes. You do not need chili powder as it is just a mixture of the spices listed here for those who do not have a complete spice chest.

  • Lizloveit 10 Sep, 2008

    I agree with Ellisse, beans are a normal addition, but I can see leaving them out for beanless chilli....however, WHERE IS the Chili Powder and the tomatoes?
    Will try a modified version of this tonight I think, and report back with what I did and how it came out. Thanks.

  • KabooCityZoo 10 Sep, 2008

    Have you ever tried putting a can of refried beans into your chili? It really works great and adds LOADS of flavor. This is also a good way to "Hide" the chili beans if you have anyone who does not like to eat the chili beans. If you want to kick up the flavor some more, add two tablespoons of unsweetened Hershey's coco and about a tablespoon of sugar, a can of chopped, peeled green chiles, minced garlic, onion, green pepper to your chili. This recipe seems too plain to be called CHILI.

  • Ellisse 10 Sep, 2008

    One of the ingredients of Chili is Kidney Beans. Where are they?

  • jaoakman 9 Sep, 2008

    Where's the chili powder?

  • jaoakman 9 Sep, 2008

    Where's the chili powder?

  • kariponce 9 Jan, 2008

    To get that great cornmeal flavor in chili, ladle your favorite chili over a slice of cornbread or corn chips, then top with shredded sharp cheddar and diced onion.

  • lovethefood 15 Dec, 2007

    ok, I added some ingredients to this chili and it is now our absolute favorite. Use only 1 lb. ground chuck, and add 2 more slices bacon and 1 lb. beef sausage, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces. Use only 1 cup water, and add a can of seasoned black beans, undrained, and a 28 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes. Double the cornmeal, and let the chili simmer about 45 min. to blend the flavors before serving. It is fabulous and hearty!

  • alexis0012 13 Dec, 2007

    Recipe states that after adding 3 cups of water, it would thicken in 20 minutes. For me it took 1 hr 20 min, although we were very hungry by the time it was done, the recipe itself was not that tasty but rather bland. Tomato paste and maybe more seasonings would have helped and sour cream, cheese, and lime were necessary.

  • blaukehlchen 10 Dec, 2007

    Real-Deal Chili is a bum steer. Although not in the recipe, In n n n n n d recommend draining the meats (cooking the ground chuck separately) of their fats. Dish is far too greasy, otherwise. Added fine cornmeal _and_ corn starch, and still needed extra cooking time to thickenn n n n n n finally just called it quits, and served with minced jalapeno and sour cream and grated cheese. If the chili cann n n n n n t be saved by that trio, then it isnn n n n n n t worth the making.

  • vsquared 14 Nov, 2007

    We didn't love this chili. It wasn't as spicy as we prefer. I ended up adding chili powder and tomato paste to punch up the flavor.

  • AmberNYC 7 Nov, 2007

    I would have to say that adding the cornmeal for thickness is what adds the kick for me.

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