Campfire Chili in a Dutch Oven Recipe

Kenji Lopez-Alt

Note: You can use any kind of relatively fatty meat with plenty of connective tissue in it such as beef short rib or chuck, pork shoulder, or lamb shoulder. The sausage can be any raw sausage you like the flavor of, or can be replaced with more stew meat. Stick with medium to small beans like kidney, cannellini, garbanzo, or navy. Store-bought chili powder can be used, but for best flavor, grind your own chili powder (or make a chili puree by cooking toasted chilis in water or chicken stock and blending).

Recipe Facts

Active: 45 mins
Total: 96 hrs
Serves: 8 to 10 servings

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  • 1 pound cannellini beans, soaked in water for at least 4 hours
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder (see note) cut into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
  • 1 pound raw hot Italian or chorizo sausage, removed from casing (see note)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chili, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup finely minced cilantro
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced scallions


  1. Rinse and drain soaked beans. Heat oil in Dutch oven over hot coals until smoking. Add half of pork and cook until well-browned on all sides, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with remaining half of pork. Transfer second batch to bowl with the first batch.

  2. Add sausage to pot and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon until no longer raw. Return meat to pot with sausage and add onion, jalapeño, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and half of cilantro. Cook, stirring constantly until aromatic and onions have begun to soften, about 4 minutes.

  3. Add soaked beans, tomatoes, enough water to cover meat and beans by 2 inches, and a large pinch of salt (it should still taste under-seasoned, as it will reduce). Place lid on Dutch oven and cover with hot coals. Allow to heat for 10 minutes then peek and check temperature. Liquid should be mildly bubbling.

  4. Allow to cook until beans are soft and creamy and meat is completely tender, 3 to 6 hours depending on how hot you cook it (for best results, cook over very low heat for a long period of time). Check on pot as it cooks every hour or so, topping up with water as necessary. After the chili is done, season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the remaining cilantro and scallions. Serve immediately.

Special equipment

Dutch oven

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