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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

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 kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 pounds ground beef chuck
  • 2 tablespoons fine cornmeal, or masa harina
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • Chopped jalapeno, chopped onion or scallion, grated cheddar cheese, lime wedges, and sour cream, for serving


  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 3 cups 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 Add a comment

  • 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!
  • CiaNahac
    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.