Eau Claire eats

Three different levels of chili recipe difficulty

Nick Porisch

More stories from Nick Porisch

The Highlight Reel
May 10, 2023

When Riverview Cafe doesn’t sound appealing, Midwest Meals prides itself on being a healthy alternative.

At its core, chili is essentially a stew containing tomatoes, chili peppers, some form of meat and often beans. 

Those simple core elements lend themselves to many different styles of chili, and whether you’ve never been in a kitchen before or want to push the limits of your culinary abilities — there’s a recipe to match your skill level.

So, here are three levels of difficulty in chili recipes to meet your skills in the kitchen:

Level one: store bought

If you go to the canned foods section in any grocery store, you’ll see dozens of options for canned chili. The standard for canned chili has long been Hormel’s, but feel free to browse your local selection for an option that appeals to you.

What you need

  • One can of store bought, canned chili

Follow the instructions found on your can. In general, it should be as simple as pouring the contents of the can into a stove pot and simmering on medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. After this, your chili will be ready to enjoy.

This is an extremely simple “recipe,” if you can’t tell. Keep reading for some more advanced recipes.

Level two: combine it yourself

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, but aren’t the most experienced chef, this next recipe is great for you. It’s a little more involved than our previous recipe while still staying simple and easy. 

What you need

  • 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 2/3 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 2 cans of dark red kidney beans
  • 2 cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • (optional) 1 tablespoon of Buffalo-style hot sauce

Begin by browning the ground beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. “Browning” means cooking the ground beef until it is totally brown. If you’d like, toss the onion, green pepper, and garlic in the skillet with the beef to give them a nice crispness.

Drain the excess juices from your skillet, and combine all ingredients in a crockpot or slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours, until the beans are soft and the chili is aromatic.

Level three: all out

This next chili might test some of your culinary skills, but the results are definitely worth it.

What you need

  • 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef
  • 2 cans of dark red kidney beans
  • 2 cans of chicken broth
  • 1 can of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 3 or 4 whole, dried arbol peppers
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of cumin
  • 1 tablespoon of garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon Buffalo-style hot sauce
  • 1 ounce of dark chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of ground coffee beans
  • 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons of worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of pepper

This ingredient list may look daunting, but a lot of the recipe is simply combining them.

Begin by chopping the arbol peppers and placing them in a skillet on medium-high heat. Cook for 2 to 5 minutes, until slightly darkened and toasted. Remove the peppers and set them aside.

Next, warm one cup of the chicken broth in a pot at medium-high heat until it begins to simmer. Add the toasted peppers and stir until the peppers become soft.

Then, combine this pot with your cumin, ground coffee, tomato paste, cinnamon, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and chocolate in a blender.

Blend until the combination becomes a smooth, sauce-like substance called a pureé.

After this is done, begin browning the ground beef as described above. Add the onions to the skillet, again cooking until crisp but not mushy. 

Next, in a large pot on medium heat, combine the browned ground beef and onions with your pureé. Add the garlic, oregano and remaining chicken stock and bring the pot to a simmer. Then, add the kidney beans and reduce to the lowest possible setting.

Cook on lowest setting for one hour, then add the crushed tomatoes. From there, cook until beef and beans are tender and the stew has thickened. This will probably take 2 to 3 ½ hours.

Once this is done, remove from heat and add brown sugar and hot sauce. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir and serve.

These three recipes display three different culinary skill levels, so decide which one is for you and try it out.

Porisch can be reached at [email protected].