Chili, without the beans—just beef, tomatoes, onions, and lots of great spices. Make it ahead, freeze the leftovers, eat it for days.

Photography Credit: Nick Evans

Oh, boy. I’m worried about venturing into the bean vs. no bean chili debate!

If you didn’t know, it is hotly contested in some parts of Southern United States as to whether or not chili should contain beans. Let me just state for the record that I am not from the state in question (Texas) nor do I have a particular horse in this race.

All Roads Lead to Chili

When it comes to chili, my answer to the great beans vs. no beans debate is “YES.” What I mean is that I find both versions very delicious and will not turn down a bowl of either.

I do tend to like beans in chili because they add some bulk economically, and I find them delicious. But many people have dietary issues with beans or would rather not have them. Plus, some people just don’t like the texture or flavor.

If you’re nodding your head right now, then this is the chili for you! It has the perfect balance of tomato, beef, aromatics, and spice. It goes great piled high with toppings or with chips, and is ready to go in under an hour.

How to Make Chili without Beans brown the beef

Buy The Right Beef

I like chili with ground beef, but you can also use cubed chuck roast for this recipe as well.

If you go with chuck roast, just know that you’ll have to simmer the chili much longer to get the meat tender, but some people prefer that style.

I don’t particularly like lean ground beef in most other recipes, but I think a 90/10 blend of ground beef works really well for chili like this. The extra fat blends in to the chili and makes it nice and rich. If you go more fatty than 90/10, you would probably want to drain off some of the grease before making the chili.

How to Make Chili without Beans simmer the chili

The Trick for Thick, Hearty Chili

In general, you don’t want your chili to be too thick or too runny. Too runny and it’s closer to soup.

One trick I use to thicken my chili is to add some cornmeal to it. You don’t need much (a few tablespoons) and it doesn’t change the flavor. It just gives the whole dish some nice body and thickness. If the chili seems too thin for your tastes, just simmer it an extra 5 to 10 minutes to thicken it a little more. The cornmeal should help with that.

How Long to Cook This Chili

Made with ground beef, this chili is done in under an hour—or you can simmer it for much longer if you want. It will thicken and become more richly flavored the longer it simmers.

If you use chuck roast, just keep simmering until the meat is fork tender and shreds easily—about two to three hours.

Personally, I think chili can be even better on day two, after the flavors mingle in the fridge for a few hours!

Chili Recipe No Beans

Ways to Top Your Chili

Once your chili has finished cooking, the question becomes what to serve it with. There are a bunch of options, but I like the standards: shredded cheese, sour cream, and scallions.

A side of tortilla chips is never a bad idea. Hot sauce? Sure. Avocado? Absolutely. Diced onions? Why not?! Go crazy!

Freeze the Leftovers!

Leftovers will keep refrigerated for about five days, or frozen for up to two months. You could even make a double batch and stock your freezer for later!

Looking for more great chili recipes?!

Easy No-Bean Chili Recipe


You can swap the ground beef for the same amount of ground chuck. Cut it into bite-sized cubes and simmer the chili for 2 to 3 hours, until the meat is tender.


For the chili:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 (28-ounce) can chunky tomato puree (or diced tomatoes)
  • 2 cups beef stock

For the toppings:

  • Sliced scallions
  • Sour cream
  • Grated cheddar cheese
  • Tortilla chips
  • Diced avocado
  • Diced onion
  • Dutch Oven or heavy-bottomed pot


1 Brown the beef: In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and then the ground beef. Brown the beef well, breaking it up with a wooden spoon while it cooks.

Let the beef cook for 5 to 6 minutes, until it’s lightly browned. There shouldn’t be any visible pink spots on the beef.

How to Make Chili without Beans brown the beef

2 Add the onions through cornmeal: Add the onions, green peppers, jalapeño, and garlic to the chili and stir. Let the vegetables cook for a few minutes until they soften. Add the cumin, paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper, and stir together.

Finally, add the tomato paste and cornmeal and stir into the mixture. It will seem very dry at this point, but let it cook for a few minutes like that, stirring constantly, to develop some color.

Chunky No Bean Chili add the onionsEasy Chili without the beans add the spicesChili Recipe No Beans add the tomatoes

3 Add the tomatoes and beef stock to the chili. Use the liquid to scrape up any bits stuck to the pan.

4 Simmer the chili: Bring the chili to a simmer and turn heat down to low. Let the chili simmer for at least 10 minutes, but it could simmer for hours at this point if you wanted to. Just keep an eye on it to make sure it has enough liquid and add water if it seems dry.

How to Make Chili without Beans simmer the chili

5 Serve! Serve the no bean chili with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, and fresh scallions.

Leftovers can be kept in the fridge for a few days or frozen for up to two months. Reheat chili slowly on the stovetop.

Easy Chili without the beans serve the chili

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Nick Evans

Nick has been writing delicious recipes for the home cook for almost a decade. He lives in Denver, CO and embraces a delicate balance of diaper changing, trail running and beer drinking. His website is Macheesmo and his first book is Love Your Leftovers.

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Category: Recipes