You have entered a bean-free chili zone. And that comes from a bean lover. There's something about chili that's ALL steak. Completely Steak Chili is loaded with steak (and mind-blowing flavor) that won't break your bank, but will keep them full through the game. Adapted from The New Basics*.
For many, making (and eating) chili is a highly personal thing. People have their family recipes, their top-secret recipes, their secret ingredients. Heck, there are over 125 chili cook-offs in the United States with more popping up all the time. Chili is a sport, my friend. Sweating while eating a bowl of chili counts as exercise, right?
All that being said, I too have a chili recipe that I have made and tweaked and made and tweaked. Countless times.
And any changes to my chili recipe have to be either
- subtle so as not to arouse suspicion or
- sanctioned by certain family members. (Trust me, once I dared to try a completely different chili recipe that had ancho chiles and chocolate in it and mutiny ensued. This girl doesn't have to be told twice.)
As passionate as people are about chili, I find that it's a dish that can also be very polarizing. Just one word divides chili people into 2 camps.
Chili without beans
Do me a favor. If you are a passionate "chili with beans devotee", give this recipe a try first.
When you try it, make sure you top your bowl of chili with all the good stuff (see below for the best toppings) and take a bite. I think you'll find that good steak chili can more than stand on its own because the meat is the star. And this chili recipe showcases the star in the best way.
Caveat: if you love beans in your chili (and I understand completely), then add a few! Nothing bad is going to happen. They'll add a nice bit of bulk and can help stretch the recipe for a crowd. Just don't tell my family.
The best meat for steak chili (it might surprise you)
Alright. Now that we got the bean discussion out of the way, let's get to the beef. This recipe traditionally calls for a round bottom roast which I used for many, many years. The chili WAS good - some might even say great- but I knew it could be better. If you think about chili meat the way you do choosing meat for meatballs, then you won't be surprised to learn that the same principles apply.
Chili meat needs marbly fat. Fat brings flavor.
And I think fat is cool with the keto and paleo crowd so this chili's got that going for it.
What about the cost? Steak is expensive, right? Here are some cuts of meat you might think of when you hear "steak":
- Filet - You don't have to worry too much that I'm going to suggest filet because filet isn't fatty enough. Next.
- Ribeye/New York Strip - What about these cuts? While ribeye is great for so many things, you don't need to get all spendy and use it in your chili. Ribeye is best cooked and eaten quickly and at high heat. All of those reasons make New York Strip overkill for chili too.
- Top/Bottom Round Roast - while they have a good layer of fat on top, there isn't enough running through these roasts to give that jolt of meatiness we crave. They work perfectly well though because they have an advantage over the cut of choice in that they're very easy to cut. There isn't a lot of fat to remove.
The best cut of meat for chili is...
- Marbly fat - while you may have to do a little trimming up depending on where you purchase your roast, the chuck roast creates a load of flavor.
- Inexpensive - you can buy a lot at a reasonable price and serve chili to your friends and neighbors and family and passers-by.
- Texture - becomes super tender from low and slow cooking
Time to make the chili
The first thing you're going to do is
- Trim and cut your meat with a sharp knife eliminating the big, obvious pieces of fat as you go. Set the meat aside on a cutting board until you need it.
- Cut your meat lengthwise into 3 large pieces separating from the fat in between the sections. It should be fairly easy to distinguish these sections.
- Next, cut each section into 2-3 sections and then crosswise into ½" x 2" long strips. This is an approximation as it'll depend on your cut of meat and where the fat lies.
This chili recipe is a little backward in that you don't brown your meat first.
You brown your onions in oil and then add the seasonings all together and toast them at the bottom of the pan. Ok..let's talk seasonings. There's one more thing to say about them:
Chili without a seasoning mix
No packets, no pouches, no can.
You are going to make chili with about four or five spices and herbs that you likely have already in your pantry. If you don't, you'll have them for the next time you make chili. Or tacos. You don't need to buy anything labeled chili mix. We want to know what's in our food and that goes for our seasonings as well.
- You need a big pot.
- After you have sauteed your onion and seasonings together, you going to start adding your beef in batches. You want the beef to sear so don't be afraid to use some heat.
- Once all the beef is browned, add it all to the pot and to that add some tomato paste, pureed whole tomatoes, beef stock, and some sugar. Oh and some salt and pepper.
- Bring up the heat a bit to make sure everything in the pot meets and gets to know everything else.
- And then bring it back down to low and slow for about 3 hours. You'll put the lid on when the chili starts to thicken up.
Crowd-pleasing chili toppings
While the chili is bubbling away, it's time to assemble all your toppings. These are the toppings that have to be on the table when we have chili:
- sharp cheddar cheese
- Fritos or your favorite corn chip (my family lived in Texas and we adopted their tradition)
- onions - typically green but red or white work too!
- sour cream (not pictured)
Some other toppings:
- cornbread (either on the side or crumbled on top)
- elbow macaroni for a little chili mac
- hot sauce or sriracha
- pickled jalapenos
After the chili has cooked up and you've eaten it on Game Day cheering on your home team, what are you going to do with the leftovers?
What to make with leftover steak chili
First of all, chili is one of the best leftovers you'll find rummaging through your fridge. If you have enough for a whole other meal, then certainly put it in a freezer-safe Ziploc, label it and freeze it for about 3 months. But if there's only enough for a couple of servings, here are some ideas on how to use leftover chili:
- Cheesy Chili Omelet: make a cheese omelet and spoon chili over top for a hearty breakfast. Some of those pickled jalapenos would come in handy about now.
- Steak Chili Nachos: cover a sheet pan with foil and place a hearty, single layer of tortilla chips on the pan. Spoon over some chili and top with your favorite shredded cheese, diced jalapenos or peppers, roasted corn. Serve with guacamole and sour cream.
Why is chili better the next day
A couple of reasons. One has to do with the proteins breaking down further into amino acids as food sits in the fridge which is all sciency and good. Another reason has to do with umami (which you can learn more about why it's called the fifth taste). Tomatoes are already loaded with umami (called "the fifth taste" along with salty, sweet, sour and bitter) and the next day more of that umami has developed further. Umami is the rich, satisfying flavor that some recipes just have hands down. Foods with umami produce that mouth watering sensation you sometimes experience when eating. Some other umami-rich foods include cheeses like Parmesan, mushrooms, red meat (like what's in this steak chili), and soy sauce.
Making chili for one
Make a half batch and freeze it into smaller bag portions.
Make ahead tips:
- Can be made 1-2 days ahead of serving.
- Can be frozen for up to 3 months. Cool completely before refrigerating/freezing.
**Note: The New Basics is out of print, but copies can be found here. Full credit to the authors for inspiring this recipe!
Other great chili options
- Looking for a great instant pot chili recipe? Pip and Ebby's Instant Pot Chili is a quick, cozy bowl of comfort.
- These Bacon and Scallion Buttermilk Biscuits from Kathryn make amazing chili partners.
- Kendell's amazing Pumpkin Donuts would be an awesome treat on your Halloween night buffet.
Completely Steak Chili
- 4 TBSP peanut oil, divided; can use canola or olive oil as well
- 6 lbs chuck roast, trimmed and diced into 1" pieces
- 1-2 large chopped onions, about 1 ½ cups
- 4-6 TBSP chili powder, start with 4 and add more if needed
- 4 TBSP cumin
- 1 TBSP oregano
- 1 -2 tsp crushed red pepper, I start with 1 depending on the crowd being served
- 2 cans whole San Marzano tomatoes, 28 oz each. pureed in blender to desired consistency
- 6 oz can of tomato paste
- 1 qt. beef stock
- 2 TBSP sugar
- 1 TBSP salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- corn chips
- chopped green onions
- sour cream
- pickled jalapenos
- Puree tomatoes in a blender until almost smooth (for about 10 seconds).
- In a large dutch oven, heat half the oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and saute until lightly browned about 4 minutes.
- Add the spices and herbs (minus the salt and pepper) and saute the onions in the spice mixture for about 3 minutes toasting everything up all nice and good.
- Move the onions and spices to one side of the pot. Add the remaining oil and brown the meat in batches until it gets a nice sear. Add more oil if you need it.
- When the last batch of meat has been browned, add all the meat back into the pot along with the beef stock, both kinds of tomatoes, and the sugar. Stir until everything is mixed together and season with the salt and pepper.
- Bring to a low simmer. Taste for seasoning. This is when I'll add a little more chili powder or salt and pepper if needed. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for about 2 ½ hours until the meat is tender covering when the chili thickens after about 1 ½ hours or so. Periodically check for seasoning.
- Serve big large bowls with toppings and bread (see below).
- corn chips
- shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- chopped green onions
- sour cream
- pickled jalapenos
- Serve with cornbread
- Make ahead tips:
- Can be made ahead and frozen for up to 3 months.
- Can be made 1-2 days before serving as well.