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Game Day chili is perfect for college football Saturday, Super Bowl Sunday get-togethers, or just any cold winter day. Made with ground beef, tomatoes, spices, our own special chili paste, and a couple of secret ingredients this chili is a sure crowd-pleaser. And yes, we do live in Texas and do put beans in this version of chili.
What’s the Difference Between Texas Chili and other Chilis?
Ask a dozen people about their favorite chili and you will get a dozen different answers. The conversation will be on if chili should or shouldn’t have beans, what kind of beef to use (ground or cubed), and what spices should be included. Chili is one of our favorite winter dishes and we have made it a dozen different ways. We have found that the best chili is always cooked low and slow and tastes better the next day. We love traditional Texas chili which is made with a chile paste (roasted dried chiles toasted and then blend with spices and broth until smooth) and does not contain beans but we also love this version that has beans, tomatoes, green chiles, and a few other spices.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
While there is a long list of ingredients for our chili but also has loads of flavor. With a few secret ingredients that are sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
The full ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Ground Beef – Coarse ground beef is the best for making chili; our Texas grocery store labels it as ‘Ground Angus Chuck Chili Meat’. Since it is a coarser grind it will not break down as much as a fine grind beef which will give the chili more texture. You can substitute regular ground beef or even turkey or chicken based on your preference.
- Beans – There is a heated debate on whether real chili has beans. Personally, we think if you like beans in your chili then add them – if you don’t then skip them. We prefer a combo of red kidney beans and pinto beans but you can add or substitute any kind of bean. You can soak and cook your own or use canned.
- Onion and Garlic – While we prefer to use fresh and not powdered if all you have on hand is onion powder and garlic powder it will do. Approximately 1/2 tablespoon of onion powder is equivalent to 1/4 cup of raw onion and about 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder is equivalent to 2 cloves of pressed garlic. Be careful not to use onion salt or garlic salt by mistake since this could make your chili taste too salty.
- Tomatoes – You can use either whole peeled tomatoes or diced tomatoes (along with their juices) which tend to hold their shape better. We used whole peeled tomatoes that we lightly hand-crushed for a richer-tasting chili.
- Beef Broth – Beef broth adds additional beef flavor to the chili but you can substitute chicken or vegetable broth if that is all you have just note that the final flavor will be different.
- Spices – Our chili recipe only uses a little cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper since there is so much flavor coming from ground beef and our secret ingredients.
Secret Ingredients for Game Day Chili
Our three secret chili ingredients are dark beer, Worcestershire sauce, and our homemade chili paste made from dried ancho and guajillo chiles.
- Dark Beer – Why add beer to your chili instead of more stock? Beer gives the chili a malty flavor and adds complexity; it also helps with the “reduction” process just like adding red wine does to your favorite beef dishes. We used Shiner Bock which is a darker lager style beer since it is local to San Antonio and is lightly hopped. The type of beer does matter – you will want to use a lager, porter, or stout as these beers are lower on the hop scale (IBUs) and the flavor won’t mask the subtleties of the roasted chiles.
- Worcestershire Sauce – Worcestershire sauce is a great umami amplifier, which is why it’s commonly added to Bloody Marys. Adding it to the chili helps to create a rich, savory base.
- Homemade Chile Paste – Typical chili recipes will call for chili powder which is a combination of chile peppers, spices (as in cumin and paprika), salt, and garlic. The actual ingredients will vary depending on the brand which is why we prefer to skip the powder and make our own chile paste. Our chile paste (or base) uses dried ancho and guajillo chilies, beef broth, and tomato paste. Ancho chiles are sweet mild chiles that add a lot of flavor to the chili with just a little heat. Guajillo chiles add a complex fruity flavor to the chili with slightly more heat. Both chiles have become more readily available in grocery stores or online.
Chili Topping and Serving Suggestions
There are so many toppings that you can put on your chili. These are a few of our favorites.
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Avocado or Guacamole
- Green Onions
- Slices of radish
- Diced White Onions
- Cornbread or Cornbread Croutons
- Tortilla or Pita Chips
- Saltine Crackers
Chili freezes well and will keep in the refrigerator for several days which makes it great for leftovers. There are so many ways to serve chili you could have it in a different dish every night for a week. These are a couple of our go-to ways for serving chili.
- Traditional Bowl of Chili – Grab a bowl, spoon, and your favorite toppings for a hearty bowl of chili.
- Frito Pie – Serve chili on top of your favorite corn chips and cheese for a game-day get-together.
- Baked Potato – Stuff a traditional russet or sweet potato with chili for a great gluten-free dinner.
- Cornbread Casserole – Top your chili with your favorite cornbread batter and then bake in the oven.
- Chili Queso or Cheese Dip – Combine your favorite queso or cheese dip with equal parts chili and serve with tortilla chips for a great appetizer.
- Chili Cheese Burgers – Skip the mayo, lettuce, and tomato and instead top your burger with some chili and a slice of cheddar cheese.
How to Make Game Day Chili
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: Gameday chili freezes well so make a little extra to have on a cold day when you need a bowl to warm you up.
1. Toast the Chiles: In a medium saucepan warm the beef broth. Split and deseed dried chiles. Toast the chiles in a cast iron pan for approximately 20-30 seconds per side. Chiles will begin to have a fruity smell and darken. Be careful not to over-toast.
2. Blend Chiles and Broth: Tear or cut chiles into 1-2 inch pieces and add them to the beef broth. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat. Let chiles and beef broth sit for 5-10 minutes. In a blender, blend the chiles and beef broth for approximately 2-3 minutes or until the chiles have been broken down. Add tomato paste and blend until smooth.
3 Strain Chile Paste: Use a spatula to work the chile mixture through a wire strainer to remove residual chile stems or seeds.
4. Cook Ground Beef, Onions, and Garlic: Cook ground beef, onion, and garlic in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Stir until the meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain well.
5. Combine Remaining Ingredients: Combine the remaining ingredients with the meat mixture and bring it to a boil.
6. Simmer the Chili: Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours or until the chili has thickened.
7. Let’s Eat: Serve hot and topped with your favorite garnishes or side.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: You can make chili up to 3 days in advance. Prepare the chili according to the instructions, then once it has cooled store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat, follow the reheat instructions below.
How to Store: Once the chili has cooled store it in a freezer-safe container or gallons-size freezer bag. Freezer bags are our preference since they can be placed flat in the freezer and stacked. The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the chili overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. Leftovers can also be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
How to Reheat: The chili will thicken as it sits in the refrigerator so a few splashes of broth or water may need to be added to loosen it up a bit when you reheat it. To reheat on the stove transfer it to a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. To reheat in the microwave transfer to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel, and heat for about 2 minutes stirring every 30 seconds.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- If your chili is too thick, just thin it out with a little beef or vegetable broth and then cover it to trap some of the liquid.
- If your chili is too thin, just thicken it by adding masa harina, corn starch, or flour a teaspoon at a time.
- Stir the chili occasionally as it simmers to prevent the bottom from scorching.
Frequently Asked Questions
Great chili will have a rich, complex chile flavor, and using dried chiles as the base for chili gives you a flavor that combines sweet, hot, fresh, and fruity elements.
There are so many ways to serve chili. Some of our favorite toppings are diced white onion, diced radish, sliced avocado, cojita cheese, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and jalapeños. You can serve it with corn chips or cornbread. It’s also great as a topping on a baked potato.
Yes, make the chile paste, brown the beef and cook the onions then add all the ingredients to a slow cooker. Stir to combine and then cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Cooking it in a slow cooker or crockpot will add liquid to the chili as the condensation falls back into the pot which will produce thinner chili so reduce the amount of broth to 2 cups. Additional broth can be added to thin it out to the desired consistency.
Let’s Connect! If you make our recipe for Game Day Chili or any other recipe on Casual Epicure, please don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It helps others who are considering making our recipes and we love hearing about your cooking experiences. And if you snapped some shots, share them on Instagram, and be sure to tag @casual.epicure so we can feature them in our stories.
Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, we recommend checking out some of these:
Game Day Chili
- Large Pot or Dutch Oven
Homemade Chile Paste
- 5-6 large guajillo chiles, dried
- 4-5 large ancho chiles, dried
- 2 ½ cups beef broth
- 6 ounce can of tomato paste
Game Day Chili
- 1.5 – 2 pounds ground beef, chili grind
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 15 ounce can of pinto beans
- 1 15 ounce can of red kidney beans
- 1 28 ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
- 1 12 ounce bottle dark beer, such as Shiner Bock
- 1 4.5 ounce can of chopped green chiles
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 3 teaspoons black pepper, freshly ground
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- shredded cheddar or colby jack cheese
- sour cream
- green onions, diced
Homemade Chile Paste
- In a medium saucepan warm the beef broth.
- Split and deseed dried chiles.
- Toast chiles in a cast iron pan for approximately 20-30 seconds per side. Chiles will begin to have a fruity smell and darken, resembling leather. Be careful not to over-toast.
- Tear or cut chiles into 1-2 inch pieces and add chiles to broth. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat, letting sit for 5-10 minutes.
- Blend chiles and beef broth in a blender for approximately 2-3 minutes or until chiles have been broken down. Add tomato paste and then blend until smooth.
- Using a spatula work the chile mixture through a wire strainer to remove residual chile stems or seeds.
Game Day Chili
- Cook ground beef, onion, and garlic over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Stir until meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain well.
- Combine remaining ingredients including chile paste and beer with the meat mixture and bring to a boil
- Reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours or until chili has thickened.
- Serve hot and topped with your favorite garnishes or side.