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Cowboy Chili

In the mood for comfort food? How about a bowl or two of cowboy chili?

This recipe is everything you can ask for in a chili.

The seasonings alone – chili powder, cumin, oregano, to name a few – already tells you this will be good.

Cowboy Chili with Beans and Ground Beef
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The ground beef is simmered in the broth and seasonings for an hour, so you can expect maximum flavor! 

Sure, it’s not the quickest recipe out there, but it’s 100% worth it! It’s exactly what you need on a cold, rainy evening. 

Make any day even cozier with a bowl of cowboy chili!

Cowboy Chili 

Fun fact: did you know that traditional chili didn’t actually contain beans?

However, since beef was valuable and limited back in the day, people would normally serve chili with a side of beans to bulk it up.

Cowboys then combined the chili and the beans, hence the name. The rest is history.

Beans may not be in the original recipe, but for me, it’s not good chili without the beans. 

How Do You Make Cowboy Chili From Scratch?

First, you’ll need to saute the beef. Stir the ground beef, garlic, and onion in a large saucepan for about 10 minutes, or until the beef is brown.

Drain the liquid and add the tomatoes, broth, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper. 

Now cover the pan and let it simmer on low heat. This part takes the longest time – about an hour.

It’s an essential step, though, as this is when the flavors start to marry.

You won’t need to stand by the stove the whole time. Just stir the chili from time to time to prevent the bottom from burning.

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The last step is to add the pinto beans and salt, and cook for additional 15 minutes. 

Spoon the chili into bowls and top with your favorite chili add-ons. There you have it – a hearty, cozy, bowl of comfort.

What Gives Chili the Best Flavor? 

All chili experts have their own secret ingredients to make their chili stand out. Here are some of my favorite flavor enhancers:

  • Sweetener – Chili is a savory dish but a little bit of sweetness couldn’t hurt. In fact, it brings out the flavors of the spices even more. White or brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup all work.
  • Cocoa Powder – Kitchen newbies might find this odd, but adding cocoa to chili is actually an age-old technique! It rounds out the flavors of the ingredients really well. Don’t worry, your chili won’t taste like chocolate.
Cowboy Chili

Tips for the Best Chili 

When it comes to chili, there’s no limit to flavor variations. Let your tastebuds guide you! Here are some awesome suggestions, though.

  • Want a smoky chili? A bit of liquid smoke does the trick. Chipotle or adobo sauce work, too.
  • It doesn’t have to be just ground beef. You can make chili with other meats, too, such as ground turkey, chicken, Italian sausage, and chorizo.
  • Add vegetables for a heartier stew. I’m talking carrots, potatoes, eggplant, mushrooms, corn, celery – the list goes on and on. Raid the fridge and add whatever you have in there!
  • Instead of chili powder, make your own seasoning mix. Chili powder contains sweet paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. Feel free to add, subtract, and change up the proportions. 
  • The recipe calls for pinto beans, but you can also try kidney or black beans. Be sure to rinse and drain them well to rid of salt.
  • Add jalapeno peppers for extra spice.
  • Add beer. It’s an awesome flavor enhancer! It also contains starch, so it’ll help thicken the chili, too.
  • Dress it up with toppings. For me, chili isn’t complete without sour cream, cheese, and chips!

How to Make Chili Thicker 

There are so many ways to thicken chili, so you never have to worry in case it turns out soupy. Here are some fool-proof ways:

  • Stir in some starch – Whether it’s flour, cornstarch, or masa harina, these starches will make any soupy soup nice and thick. Dissolve a tablespoon of starch with a bit of cold water, and pour it into your chili. Stir until desired thickness is achieved.
  • Remove the lid – I love this method because it requires no effort! Just remove the lid and let the chili simmer on low heat until enough liquid has evaporated.
  • Mash the beans – Beans will release their natural starches when you break them down. As you know, starch thickens liquid like no other. Don’t mash all the beans, though! Just a handful will do.
  • Add tomato paste – Aside from thickening the chili, it also gives it more tomato flavor.
  • Add quick oats – It works the same way that starch does. Start with one teaspoon of oats and stir. Keep adding until you achieve your desired consistency.
  • Add xanthan gum – It sounds toxic, but it’s actually safe to eat! Xanthan gum is a wheat or soy extract that can thicken any liquid without affecting its flavor. It’s the same ingredient used in gum and ice cream.

Cowboy Chili



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  • 3/4 pound extra lean ground beef

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped

  • 1 (15-oz) can chopped stewed tomatoes

  • 1 cup beef broth

  • 2 tablespoons chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano

  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • Cook the ground beef, garlic, and onion in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir for 10 minutes, or until beef is browned. Spoon out the liquid.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, broth, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper.
  • Reduce the heat to low and cover the saucepan. Let the chili simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Add in the pinto beans and salt. Stir for 15 minutes. Serve in bowls. Enjoy!


  • Chili tastes better the longer it sits, so better make it ahead of time. Store cooled chili in the fridge until ready to serve. 
Cowboy Chili

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Hey there! I'm Kim. I love running, cooking, and curling up with a good book! I share recipes for people who LOVE good food, but want to keep things simple :)

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