Chili for Beginners

Are you a novice cook? This easy chili for beginners recipe is a very basic chili recipe for you. It is part of my learn to cook series where I am cooking through my old home economics cookbook.

a bowl of homemade chili with beans

There are about a zillion chili recipes out there. Some of them are complex with multiple types of meats and an ingredients list about a mile, and others, like this beginner chili recipe, are straightforward and foolproof. You no longer have any excuse to spend extra money buying premade chili from the deli department or those awful cans when you can whip up this fresh and tasty homemade chili recipe for pennies on the dollar. Even if you are a chili-making expert, this inexpensive version is the perfect recipe for camping, taking to a potluck, or really, any time when you can’t be bothered with preparing something a little fancier.

How Do You Make Chili?

There isn’t much more to making this chili than browning the ground beef, dumping in a couple of cans, and adding some seasoning, but learning a few chili basics can help your chili turn out better than you can imagine.

It is always essential to start with quality ground beef. For this basic chili, you want to buy a ground beef mixture that isn’t too lean. Remember that fat equals flavor, but too much fat is not only unhealthy but can turn your chili into an unpleasant oil slick. An 85/15 ground beef mix is pretty much ideal, but you can feel free to play around with the fat content a little. Anything within the range of 80 to 90 percent lean is going to be good. If you choose to use a mixture with a bit more fat, you may want to wait to season your meat until after cooking it and draining off most of the fat.

Make sure to drain the beans and tomatoes before adding them to the ground beef. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes before adding half of the tomato juice to the saucepan. You don’t want all the liquid in the pot to evaporate, but at the same time, you are not making soup, and too much liquid will dilute the chili’s flavor. Continue to simmer the chili, stirring occasionally, and add a few splashes of tomato juice if you notice the chili drying out.

Be patient! Avoid the urge to rush the simmering process. Ground beef needs at least an hour to break down and help to thicken up the chili.

Tips on How to Make Chili for Beginners

  • Bring out the complex flavors of your chili powder. Thirty seconds is all it takes to lightly toast the chili powder in a dry sauté pan over high heat. Just cook until you can smell the spices and immediately remove the chili powder from the pan to avoid burning.
  • Chili is always better the day after making it. You can make chili a few days in advance to save time preparing dinner on weekdays. Chili will last up to three days in the fridge or three months in the freezer!
  • Provide plenty of your favorite toppings. Sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped hot chili peppers, and corn chips are just some of the most popular options.

Check out our other chili recipes on YouTube!

Chili Ingredients

Chili ingredients are very basic, and you can always change your chili to your personal preferences. You don’t need to buy special packets of seasoning. You just need a few simple ingredients for making this chili for beginners.

  • Ground beef
  • Onion
  • Salt
  • Ground black pepper
  • Chili powder
  • Canned diced tomatoes
  • Canned beans (red kidney, pinto, or black beans)
  • Tomato juice or V8
chili for beginners ingredients on a table

Ingredient Notes

Ground beef is one of the most important ingredients for chili. I personally like to use ground chuck. I think it has a better flavor than most other types of ground beef.

Onions are popular in chili. When it comes to onions, I have a small preference for white onions over yellow. I think white onions are a little sweeter. Honestly, I just look at what is less expensive.

How to Make Homemade Chili

  1. Brown the ground beef and chopped onions in a skillet over medium heat.
    cooked ground beef and onions in a skillet
  2. Season ground beef with salt and black pepper as it is browning.
  3. Drain the beef after it has browned.
  4. In a pot, add chili powder, tomatoes, beans, tomato juice, and cooked ground beef. Stir to combine.
    chili for beginners ingredients in a pot
  5. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
    homemade chili in a pot

Chili Variations

I think the biggest question people have is to add beans or not? While if you are living in Texas, you may feel that chili does not contain beans. It is up to you if you want to add the beans. I like to add either red kidney beans, pinto beans, or even Ranch Style Beans.

You may also want to add other spices. The spices I like to use are cumin, chipotle powder, cayenne pepper, or extra chili powder.

Keep in mind you can add a lot of different items to your chili. Be sure to practice adding one thing at a time and in small amounts. This way you can feel confident that the variations you choose to make if you make small changes at a time.

homemade chili topped with cheese, avocado, and sour cream

What to Serve with Chili

Here are some great toppings and sides to serve with chili:

a bowl of homemade chili topped with shredded cheese, chopped avocado, and sour cream

More Chili Recipes

Hearty Soup and Stew Recipes

Check out more of the best soup recipes and easy recipes for beginners here on CopyKat!

a bowl of homemade chili with beans

Chili for Beginners

Even if you have never cooked you can make a tasty bowl of chili. 
5 from 7 votes
Print Pin Rate Add to Collection
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chili for Beginners, Chili Recipes, Homemade Chili
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 307kcal


  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (you can add additional up to 1 tablespoon)
  • 14.5 ounces canned diced tomatoes
  • 29 ounces canned beans (red kidney, pinto, or black beans) 2 cans
  • 1 cup tomato juice (V8 is a great substitute)


  • Brown the ground beef and chopped onions in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat.
  • Season ground beef with salt and black pepper as it is browning.
  • Drain beef after it is browned.
  • In a medium-sized pot, add tomatoes, beans, tomato juice, and chili powder.
  • Add cooked ground beef and onion. Stir to combine.
  • Simmer for approximately 1 hour before serving.



Calories: 307kcal | Carbohydrates: 30g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 40mg | Sodium: 730mg | Potassium: 752mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 790IU | Vitamin C: 11.8mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 4.3mg

About Stephanie Manley

I recreate your favorite restaurant recipes, so you can prepare these dishes at home. I help you cook dinner, and serve up dishes you know your family will love. You can find most of the ingredients for all of the recipes in your local grocery store.

Stephanie is the author of's Dining Out in the Home, and's Dining Out in the Home 2.

REVEALED: Copycat Secrets for 2023

free email bonus

Yes, you CAN make it at home! I'll show you how.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Reader Interactions


  1. Carly Mckeen

    5 stars
    Thank you for stating that chili ingredients are very basic, and you can always change your chili to your personal preferences. My husband’s favorite food is chili, and his birthday is coming up, so I really want to make it for him, but have never made it before. I will definitely utilize all of your great tips and information when trying to make my husband some yummy chili.

  2. Tara

    Just wondering if u don’t use tomatoes can u use a can of tomato paste instead to substitute dieced tomatoes?

    • Stephanie

      5 stars
      So a can of tomato paste is smaller than a can of tomatoes. You would need to add additional water to make up for the missing tomatoes. I would add an additional 10 ounces of water to make up for the missing liquid from the tomatoes.

  3. Shandra

    5 stars
    Thanks for doing this! I am going to make this for my husband tonight. Just FYI, those of us that are truly novice (myself) don’t know exactly what “simmer” means or if that means to simmer with the lid on or off.

      • bastisraul

        Every great chili recipe I have ever tasted either dinning out or made at home has chili powder, except one. Skyline (Cincinnati Chili) has no chili powder but it does include one square of semi-sweet chocolate. It is our # 2 go to recipe at home.

      • craig

        Or you can be like a real chef and make your own: ⅛ cup sweet paprika
        ▢½ teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
        ▢1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
        ▢½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
        ▢1 ½ teaspoons onion powder
        ▢1 teaspoon dried oregano
        ▢1 teaspoon ground cumin

  4. Keith

    Hi Stephanie, I enjoy the recipes you post. After someone gets past their first attempt they can try adding “chili” that will make it a bit more authentic. Just buy about 6 dried peppers at the market. Make up about two cups of Chicken or Beef bullion and place the peppers in the bullion and bring to a boil. Let tem set for about three hours and then remover the seeds and stems and blend them into a paste. This will not add a lot of spice to the recipe but it will give it some authentic flavor

5 from 7 votes (4 ratings without comment)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

homemade Olive Garden Asiago Torgelloni Alfredo with chicken on a plate

Copycat Recipe Secrets for 2024


Yes, you CAN make it at home! 
I'll show you how.