Pretty Good Chili

There is nothing like a bowl of chili on a chilly fall evening.

This recipe started as a vegetarian chili, so it has lots of beans and is more than hearty enough to stand alone without meat. If you prefer to make it vegetarian, just leave out the meat and make sure to use vegetarian baked beans.

However, I am definitely a meat lover, and I wanted to bump up the flavor of my mom’s recipe.

Y’all, seriously. I loved my mom, but she was anti-salt (not even a pinch!).

Ina Garten’s recipes are always delicious, so I looked no further than her chili recipe for inspiration. Here is the result!

I doubled this recipe for the Fall Festival held recently by our Classical Conversations community, and there was more than enough to serve as a side for the whole crowd!

I hope you enjoy it! Maybe one day I’ll even add a picture 🙂

Pretty Good Chili

Total Time: 60–90 minutes
Serves 8–12


2 Tbsp olive oil
1–2 lb chicken breast, large-diced OR ground beef (I prefer beef these days)
big pinch of coarse salt
freshly ground pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and large-diced
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes (1/4 tsp if you have littles)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (1/4 tsp if you have littles)
2 tsp coarse salt
1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained (if you don’t like big chunks of tomato, chop these up in a mini food processor before adding them to the chili)
1 15.5-oz can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5-oz can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 15.5-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-oz can baked beans, undrained
1/4 c fresh basil leaves, minced OR 2 Tbsp dried basil

Grated cheddar or Mexican cheese, sour cream, corn chips for serving


Warm the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Season the chicken/beef with salt and pepper and brown in the pot. Set aside.

In the same pot, warm the rest of the olive oil. Cook the onions over medium-low heat until translucent, stirring occasionally, about 10–15 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bell peppers, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, and salt, and stir. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, beans, and basil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10–30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken/beef to the chili and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (The longer you can simmer, the better the flavor!)

Serve with grated cheese, sour cream, and corn chips. Yum!

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