A Texas-style chili with lots of flavorful ground beef and a plethora of healthy veggies, this Chili Con Carne is a delicious, make-ahead crowd-pleaser!
Scott and I have been diligently working on shedding a few pounds over the last few weeks, knowing the holidays and lots of indulgent celebrations loom ahead. We laughingly (although it's not that funny) call any excess weight our "blog bellies", as we sometimes have a little too much "taste-testing" under our belt. We enjoy regular biking, swimming, walking and Pilates but still find that it can be difficult to shed those extra pounds. For us, it seems that a stint on a low-carb diet is the best (and easiest) way to achieve our weight loss goals. All this to say, I've been playing around with more low-carb recipes lately and this delicious Chili Con Carne is one of our new favorites!
Because this chili has lots of protein and fiber, a small bowl for lunch keeps us satiated all afternoon, preventing pantry raids and empty-calorie snacking.
You don't need to be on a low-carb diet though to enjoy this delicious Chili Con Carne. With layer upon layer of fabulous flavor and the fact that it can be fully prepared in advance, this recipe is perfect for feeding a crowd with ease or prepping ahead for easy weekday meals. I love that it only gets better as the ingredients have a chance to meld, mingle and marry in the refrigerator.
What is Chili Con Carne?
That's not a super easy question to answer as it all depends on where you're from. Here in North America, Chili Con Carne is, for the most part, a chili with origins in the great state of Texas where this dish is wildly popular and has lots of renditions. It's commonly made from beef although the cut can vary and ground beef is acceptable in some circles. The one strict rule for Texas-style Chili Con Carne (in Texas)? No BEANS! Yep, the name translates from Spanish to "chili with meat".
In other parts of the world it's not the same story. For example, in England and Australia, Chili Con Carne is simply "chili" and can be made with or without beans. This Café Chili Con Carne is Texas-inspired and features lean ground beef and lots of healthy veggies. No beans (although that's up to you).
Layers of flavor
You'll notice with the first bite that there are lots of layers of fabulous flavor in this chili. Here are some of the ingredients that I call "flavor bombs" that are included in this recipe:
- Bacon - Just a few strips of good quality bacon bring an amazing, smoky flavor as a base for this chili.
- Aromatics - Onion, celery, sweet bell pepper, jalapeño and garlic are sautéd together adding a lot of great nutrition and a delicious layer of flavor.
- Herbs and spices - Common pantry staples add to the fabulous blend.
- Ancho chili powder - What is it? Ancho Chili powders is made from charred poblano chiles that have been dried and ground. It adds a smoky depth and a medium level of heat. You can adjust the heat by adding more or less.
- Worcestershire sauce is a magical flavor enhancer when used in small increments. It's a combination of unique ingredients: tamarind, anchovies, vinegar, onion and garlic that blend to create an umami layer of flavor.
- Fire-roasted tomatoes are available these days at most grocery stores in the same section as the regular canned tomatoes. The difference is that they are roasted over an open fire, taking on a bit of char before they are canned. I love using fire-roasted tomatoes in most of my recipes as they're sweet, subtly smoky and not as acidic as regular canned tomatoes
- Cilantro - This recipe calls for finely chopped cilantro at two different points. It's simmered with the other ingredients to create a unique layer of flavor, nothing like fresh cilantro. The second addition is at the very end along with another finely chopped jalapeño. This adds fresh vibrant flavor along with lots of visual appeal. If you're not a cilantro fan, I recommend omitting the second dose but not the initial. You will neverl know there's cilantro in this Chili Con Carne but guests will wonder what makes it so good!
- Baking Soda - There's also a pinch of baking soda in this recipe. Baking soda? Yes! A small amount of this alkaline magical ingredient tames the tomato acid without changing the flavor!
I'm super excited to have a big batch of this Chili Con Carne tucked away in my fridge for quick, easy, healthy lunches and hearty meals on the run. Here are a few tips to ensure success! ENJOY!
Cafe Tips for making this Chili Con Carne
- Don't let the longer list of ingredients scare you, many of the herbs and spices are common pantry staples.
- This recipe calls for Ancho chili powder. As mentioned above it's a smoky, slightly sweet chili powder with a medium level of heat. You can find ancho chili powder in the spice section of most grocery stores. You can also find it online.
- I recommend starting with 1 teaspoon of the chili powder and adding more later if you like more heat. You can always add more but you can't take the heat away.
- I have had a hard time finding good-quality beef broth. So I will often sub chicken broth. I like the low-sodium chicken broth at Trader Joe's and get a big load almost every time I go. Another option is to use bone broth for added protein.
- Feel free to add your favorite kind of beans to this chili recipe. Just don't call it Chili Con Carne around any true-blue Texans!
- This chili stores well in the refrigerator for 4-5 days and can be frozen for several months.
- If you decide to make a double batch of this chili, use a very large pot and sauté the ground beef in two batches so it will brown and not steam.
- Ground beef varies in the amount of fat that it renders, depending on brand and fat percentage. I like to pour off all of the ground beef fat after cooking but use some of the bacon fat to sauté the aromatics.
- I like the fire-roasted crushed tomatoes at Trader Joe's for this recipe but regular crushed tomatoes will also work.
- Look for a nice smoky bacon. You can use thin or thick-cut for this recipe. If using thicker bacon though, reduce the amount to two strips instead of three.
Thought for the day:
If we live, we live for the Lord;
and if we die, we die for the Lord.
So, whether we live or die,
we belong to the Lord.
What we're listening to for inspiration:
If you enjoy this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review! It’s so helpful to other readers to hear your results, adaptations and ideas for variations.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound ground beef I like 80/20
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 3 slices smoky bacon cut into ¼ inch strips (if using thick-cut, you'll only need 2 slices)
- 1 large red onion chopped small
- 3 medium stalks celery chopped small
- 1 large red bell pepper chopped small
- 1 medium jalapeño finely chopped, seeds and veins removed if you dont like a lot of heat
- 4 medium garlic cloves finely minced
- 1 tablespoon dry oregano
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 2 cups low sodium beef or chicken broth I like to use bone broth
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes fire-roasted, if possible
- 14.5 ounces fire-roasted tomatoes
- ½ cup finely chopped cilantro
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt more to taste
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 medium jalapeno finely chopped, seeds and veins removed if you dont like a lot of heat
Heat a large Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot over medium heat. Add the oil and swirl the pan to coat the bottom. Add the ground beef and use a metal spatula to break it into 18-20 pieces. Spread the pieces out over the bottom of the pan and allow the beef to cook until nice browned on the underneath side.
Turn and stir the meat with the metal spatula and break it up now into small bite-size pieces. Add the garlic salt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the pan until the meat is nicely browned.
Using a slotted spoon, remove the beef to a paper towel lined plate or bowl. Set aside.
Pour any accumulated grease from the pan and discard. Do not wash the pan.
Add the bacon and spread out to an even layer. Cook, stirring occasionally until golden and crisp. Pour out the grease and return 2 tablespoons to the pan. If you don’t have 2 tablespoons of grease add olive oil to equal 2 tablespoons. Heat over medium low heat.
Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and jalapeño. Stir well and reduce the heat slightly. Continue cooking and stirring (scraping any brown bits off the bottom) for 3-4 minutes until the veggies are softened.
Add the garlic, oregano, smoked paprika, coriander, cumin, ancho chili powder and dry thyme. Stir and cook another minute or two until nice and fragrant.
Add the broth (see Café Tips), crushed tomatoes, fire-roasted tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, finely chopped cilantro garlic salt and baking soda. Stir well to combine. add the ground beef and bring the mixture to a boil.
Reduce to a low but steady simmer and cook, uncovered, for an hour, stirring occasionally. If the chili seems to be getting too thick you can add a bit more broth.
Add the finely chopped jalapeño and ¼ cup cilantro. Stir well and serve with sour cream or Greek yogurt, lime wedges, diced or sliced avocado, sliced green onions, Cotija or cheddar cheese and roasted pepitas. Tortilla chips are also delicious!
ee Café Tips above in the post for more detailed instructions and tips to ensure success.
If you prefer to use Metric measurements there is a button in each of our recipes, right above the word “Instructions”. Just click that button to toggle to grams, milliliters, etc. If you ever come across one of our recipes that doesn’t have the Metric conversion (some of the older recipes may not), feel free to leave a comment and I will add it.