This Southern Homemade Chili is EASY + HEARTY + DELICIOUS! The perfect combination of lean ground beef, crushed tomatoes, hearty beans, and a tasty blend of spices.
Whether it’s spicy or mild, thick or thin, on a potato or over a pile of spaghetti, most everyone loves chili in some form or another. But when it comes to a bowl of chili that appeals to everyone, you can’t go wrong with this Southern Homemade Chili recipe. it only takes 15 MINUTES of hands-on time!
Make sure to download my chili menu, grocery list, and prep timeline for entertaining below!
These ingredients are really straightforward and simple:
- ground beef (I use lean ground beef and don’t drain it to give the chili an extra bit of flavor but it’s okay to use ground beef with a higher percentage of fat — just drain it afterwards)
- kidney beans & pinto beans (I’ve subbed black beans in for either of these in a pinch)
- crushed tomatoes
- diced tomatoes with green chiles
- spices (garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, salt and pepper)
Why This Recipe Works
- You don’t have to dice any onions. Instead, you sub in onion powder, and that saves a step!
- It’s easy and fast to make — only 15 minutes of hands-on time and all you have to do is brown some ground beef, open some cans, and shake in some spices!
- Chili, while it may feel a little casual, is the perfect meal to serve friends who come over for dinner. It’s my go-to recipe for last-minute entertaining or any time another family comes over to eat. It’s great for feeding a large group: just set out a stack of bowls, the pot of chili, and all of your favorite toppings, and let everyone walk through buffet-style to make their perfect bowl.
- Everyone loves this chili, from Aunt Sally who doesn’t like spicy food to kids who have an onion aversion. With just the right balance of flavors and textures, it’s truly a chili for picky eaters.
Step by Step Instructions
1. Brown your ground beef and drain it (or don’t!) Even with draining, this is the hardest step — unless you hate opening cans.
2. Add the tomatoes, beans, and water to the pot.
3. Add your spices to the pot.
4. Bring to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
That’s it — I told you it was easy!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do Southerners put beans in chili?
Most Southerners do! Some only use pinto beans and some only use kidney beans, but most do use beans — UNLESS they’re Texans. Texans are very particular about NOT using beans in their chili. (But do we reeeeaally count Texans as regular Southerners??)
Do I drain the fat when making chili?
I don’t! But I always use lean ground beef with only 5-10% fat. Just that little bit of fat gives it an amazing flavor. But if you’re using less than 90% lean ground beef, go ahead and drain it.
Should I cook chili covered or uncovered?
This recipe makes a thinner chili so you should cook it uncovered to give it a chance to thicken up a bit. In general, if you want your chili to be thick, you should cook it uncovered so the liquid can evaporate. And if you want it to be thinner or more liquid-y, cover it while cooking.
Can I make this chili in a slow cooker?
Yes! In fact, that’s an even easier way to make it because you can start it hours ahead of time and not worry about it again until time to eat. Just brown the ground beef in a skillet and then add it and all of the other ingredients to your slow cooker. Cook it on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
Can I make it in the Instant Pot?
Yes! This is actually how I make it the most often because I can start it just an hour before dinner. To make it in the Instant Pot, push the Sauté button, brown the ground beef right in the Instant Pot, (drain it if desired,) and then add all the other ingredients and stir. Set the Instant Pot to High Pressure for 15 minutes and then push the Quick Release button to release the steam.
Who wants to eat a bowl of chili without toppings? Here are some of my favorites:
- tortilla chips (these happen to be my favorite)
- rice (I had never heard of this until a friend volunteered to bring some to a chili night — apparently, it’s a thing!)
- grated cheddar cheese
- sour cream
- chopped onions
- sliced avocado
- chopped or pickled jalapeños
Like soups? Try
Make sure to rate this recipe below and let me know what you think!
Southern Homemade Chili
Filled with hearty ground beef, tomatoes, two kinds of beans, and the perfect blend of spices, this chili is easy but so tasty. You can make it on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, or in the Instant Pot.
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef
- 1 29-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 14-oz. cans kidney beans (with liquid)
- 2 14-oz. cans pinto beans (with liquid)
- 1 10-oz. can tomatoes with green chiles (with liquid)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1.5 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1.5 cups water
Brown ground beef in a Dutch oven or an 8-qt. stockpot. (Do not drain.)
Open cans of tomatoes, kidney beans, pinto beans, and tomatoes with green chiles and pour them into the pot. (Do not drain.)
Add cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, black pepper, and salt.
Add water and stir thoroughly.
Bring to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
Serve with cheese and your choice of toppings.
Slow Cooker Instructions
Brown ground beef in a skillet. (Do not drain if using lean ground beef.)
Add ground beef and all remaining ingredients to slow cooker.
Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours.
Instant Pot Instructions
Turn Instant Pot to "Sauté" and brown ground beef. (Do not drain if using lean ground beef.)
Add all other ingredients and stir well.
Set Instant Pot to "Manual" for 15 minutes.
Quick Release and serve.
Originally published August 16, 2018. Updated on February 9, 2023 with new photographs, an updated recipe, and answers to common questions.
I still have that recipe in my recipe box! And I think I remember your serving us chili when we passed through St. Louis and visited you when you were in grad school! 😀. The rice really does stretch it too!!
Lots of good memories there! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Jessie.
I love this recipe because I often don’t have onions as I do not like odour as it lingers in the house for days. The blend of spices in this recipe is excellent – so you don’t notice the lack of onions.
In Canada – our kidney beans are sold 540 ml or 19 oz cans – versus the 14 oz (soup can size) your recipe calls for so I only use 3 cans and that works out well. (57 oz versus the 56 oz your recipe calls for). I could easily put one more can of beans in though as I also add either 24 oz/660 ml of strained tomatoes, or a 2nd can of crushed tomatoes – and forget about the water. Chili is a very forgiving recipe unless you overdo the spices!
Thanks so much for this onion free recipe!
I’m so glad you like the recipe, Colleen! I find that kids like it better without the extra texture of the onions, and it just makes it that much faster to make, too. Thanks for your comment!
Love it! Second time making it. I like my chili thicker so I leave out the water and add black beans. Family is loving it!
I’m so glad you love the recipe, Kelly! It seriously is my go-to for easy, last-minute entertaining (AND for my family.)