Political controversies, financial debates, and social science arguments may come and go, but it's safe to say that here in the US, chili will remain a contentious subject for all time. Beef or pork (assuming you're using meat at all)? Beans or no beans? Tomatoes or sans tomatoes? What kind of chilies? Our approach at Serious Eats has generally been to stay out of these battles, because we believe that with the right technique, any kind of chili can be a winner. Whatever your preferences for America's most beloved stew, it's a flavorful, hearty meal that's deeply satisfying on any winter night, but it's particularly apropos on Super Bowl Sunday—since it's easy to make in large batches, it can form the basis of your party menu. We can't promise that the version you end up making will fit all your guests' individual visions of The One True Chili, but we can assure you that each one of the 15 recipes below—from all-beef Texas chile con carne to vegetarian chili with beans, sweet potatoes, and hominy—will be a delicious argument for its kind.
The Best Chili Ever
So, immediately after noting what a touchy topic chili is, we're gonna trot out a recipe that we call "the best"? Dangerous, we know—but this chili really does maximize flavor at every opportunity, using chopped short rib; puréed dried chili peppers; a host of unusual toasted spices, including star anise, cloves, fennel, and coriander; coffee and chocolate for richness; and Marmite, anchovies, and soy sauce for extra umami. Sorry, Texans, but this one also incorporates beans—dried kidney beans, to be exact, which we soak overnight and cook in salt water. It's a lot of work, but the payoff is extraordinary.
Real Texas Chile Con Carne
If you're among the many who insist that a chili with beans is no kind of chili at all, consider this an apology for our previous recipe. This chile con carne is all beef, made with big hunks of chuck and a blend of fresh and dried chilies. Simmering the peppers in chicken stock until soft, then puréeing them with an immersion blender, is the key to the best flavor. The result is a hot bowl of well-browned, deeply seasoned, ultra-tender beef—and very little else.
1-Hour Pressure Cooker Texas-Style Chile Con Carne
Got Texas chili lovers to feed, and not a lot of time to spare? Though chile con carne typically requires hours of simmering, you can cut your prep time down to just an hour with the help of a pressure cooker. Otherwise, this recipe is quite similar to the preceding one—though, to speed up the process even more, we brown the chuck whole in the pressure cooker before cutting it into chunks.
Chili for Chili Burgers, Chili Dogs, or Chili Fries
Making a good chili burger isn't as simple as throwing some of your favorite chili on a sandwich. Here, the chili is a condiment, not an entree, which means it should have a saucier, more even consistency and a less in-your-face flavor. To make the perfect meaty burger, hot dog, or French fry topping, we slow-cook ground beef, thicken it with a little masa, and season it with dried whole chilies, toasted whole spices, and some of our favorite umami bombs: anchovies, Marmite, and soy sauce.
Quick and Easy Skillet Tamale Pie With Brown Butter Cornbread Crust
An old-school marriage of chili and its natural sopping-up partner, cornbread, tamale pie is easy enough to make on a weeknight, but still a great fit for a Super Bowl party. For a slightly updated version, we flavor our ground beef with a custom spice blend and mix in corn, black beans, tomatoes, cheese, and scallions. The whole skillet is topped off with our brown butter cornbread batter, which lends a warm, nutty flavor and more richness than standard cornbread.
The Best Tamale Pie With Braised Skirt Steak, Charred Corn, and Brown Butter Cornbread Crust
If you're willing to put in a little extra effort (Super Bowl Sunday is a special occasion, after all), you can provide your guests with not just a really good tamale pie, but one that they'll be asking you about for weeks. Here, we swap out ground beef for skirt steak, slow-cooked until it's fall-apart tender, and use whole dried chilies, plus fresh poblanos, for the flavorful sauce. Sliced green olives add a nice briny touch.
Pork and Chicken
Carne Adovada (New Mexico-Style Pork With Red Chilies)
When you're making pork-based carne adovada—New Mexico's answer to Texan chile con carne—the fattiness of the meat demands to be tempered with a sweetness that's hard to find among dried chilies in other parts of the country. The answer? Add raisins and frozen orange juice concentrate to your pepper mixture, which add brightness without making the sauce too citrusy.
Chile Verde With Pork
Traditional New Mexican chile verde is defined by roasted Hatch chilies, which are virtually impossible to find in most of the country. If you're not blessed with access to them, you can still make a delicious, if nontraditional, chile verde using a combination of poblanos, jalapeños, and sweet cubanelles. Tomatillos lend a bit of tartness, and their high pectin content helps to thicken the stew.
Easy Pork and 3-Bean Chili
This simple recipe makes the most of two of our favorite chili tricks: Brown the meat on just one side to bring out its flavor without overcooking it, and add sweetness and depth with raisins and orange juice concentrate. Cooking the canned beans slowly in the stew allows them to take on tons of flavor.
Spicy Chorizo and Pinto Bean Chili
Spicy and vinegary, this quick chili is made with raw Mexican-style chorizo (either homemade or store-bought), a base of spiced meat that'll give you a head start on building flavor. For a shortcut, rather than using whole chilies, we incorporate chili powder fortified with onion, garlic, cumin, and Mexican oregano. Fish sauce is the secret ingredient, amplifying the meatiness of the chorizo.
The Best White Chili With Chicken
A chili made with chicken and white beans is an unconventional option, but it's worth trying—we don't throw the "best" label around lightly, promise! It's mildly spiced with ground cumin and coriander seed, plus a mix of poblanos, Anaheims, and jalapeños. Puréed white beans and shredded pepper jack make the chili extra creamy.
The Best Vegetarian Bean Chili
The first step in making a great vegetarian chili: Forget about faux meat. We want a dish that celebrates the natural flavors of vegetables and beans, not one that tries to mimic ground beef. For textural contrast, this version uses a mix of red kidney beans and chickpeas, and soy sauce and Marmite to pump up the savoriness.
Vegan Sweet Potato and 2-Bean Chili With Hominy
Because black beans and diced sweet potatoes, the primary ingredients in this vegan chili, tend to get very soft when cooked, we include chewy hominy for additional texture. To make the sauce, blend dried chilies into a paste and add fresh orange juice for sweetness.
Vegan Black Bean and Squash Chili
This chili gets lots of bulk from black beans, cubed butternut squash, and chopped bell peppers, while chilies in adobo add plenty of heat. We top the chili with avocado to add creaminess, plus optional cheese—you can substitute a vegan cheese replacement to keep the dish completely dairy-free.
Quick and Easy Vegetarian Tamale Pie With Brown Butter Cornbread Crust
Tamale pie is a snap to turn vegetarian. Red kidney beans replace the ground beef and complement the black beans, while charred corn, poblano peppers, and green olives add extra sweet, smoky, and briny flavors. To really intensify the dish, add minced red jalapeño and scallions to the warm, buttery cornbread batter.