Blue-ribbon “Cowboy” Basic Chili Recipe

Published by riseandbrine on

This cowboy chili recipe is a riff on a basic chili recipe that won my husband first place in a few chili cook-offs. When I adapted Don’s recipe, I made a few tweaks, and he is convinced that my version is wayyyy better than his – and Don does not admit defeat easily! That means it must be good, if it beats his blue-ribbon chili recipe.

I call this “cowboy chili” because it’s so basic. Don’t let the chili paste ingredient list fool you. The laundry-list of spices and three kinds of chili are essential to building depth of flavor in this recipe. It’s what sets this chili apart from all other chili recipes. You further deepen the flavor of the chili paste by pan-frying it with the meat and onion before adding the rest of the ingredients.

The bulk of the chili includes beans, meat and tomatoes – the three amigos of anything you can actually call “chili”. The liquid is a broth of your choice – I use home-made chicken broth.

I like to serve this chili with a big chunk of cornbread and either cheese or sour cream to make it a real meal. The spiced beans and meat with deep chili flavor pair well with the cool, brighter flavors of the cornbread and dairy.

A Quick Basic Chili Recipe

This chili comes together pretty quickly. It’s the perfect dish for a weekday night when you don’t want to put a lot of effort into dinner, but you want something delicious, hearty, with leftovers for lunch the next day. The only thing you chop in this recipe is the onion!

We eat this chili year-round, not just in the winter. In the summer, pair it with a michelada an eat outside, under the early-evening sun. YUM!

Basic Blue-ribbon Chili

Blue Ribbon “Cowboy” Basic Chili Recipe

3.67 from 3 votes


Chili Paste

  • 2 large Dried mild chilis, like New Mexico chilis or Guajillo chilis
  • 1-2 small Spicy chilis like chili arbol (or use 1/2 tsp ground cayenne)
  • 3 cloves garlic, or 1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 Large Onion (chop the other half to cook with your meat or veggies in the chili)
  • 2 Tbsp Chili powder
  • 2 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Ground coriander
  • 2 Tbsp Cilantro (fresh is best)
  • 1 tsp Chipotle powder or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 C. Chicken, veggie, or beef stock. or water if you don't have stock.
  • 1/4 C. Diced tomatoes – Canned work well if you don't have fresh Reserve the rest of the canned tomatoes and their juices for the chili.
  • 1 tsp. Basil
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Ground Black Pepper

Cowboy Chili

  • 1/2 Large Onion, diced (leftover from the chili paste)
  • 1 Pound 80/20 Ground Beef
  • 3 Cans Small Red Beans Other beans can be used if you prefer. Mix and Match!
  • 1 Can Diced tomatoes with their juices, plus the leftover diced tomatoes from the Chili paste. About 24oz total.
  • 3-4 C. Chicken or Beef stock
  • 1 tsp. Chocolate chips (about 8 chocolate chips)
  • 1-2 tsp. Kosher Salt


  • Blend together the Chili paste ingredients using a blender until smooth.
  • In a large pot over medium heat, cook the ground beef and the onions until onions become transparent.
  • Add the chili paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring to keep it form sticking to the bottom.
  • Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the beans and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low heat.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips, and salt to taste, then let simmer for 30-45 minutes uncovered, stirring occasionally. If it becomes too thick, add more stock.



Victoria · May 23, 2020 at 4:01 pm

5 stars
this chili has a great flavor. my husband loves it.

    riseandbrine · December 13, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Awesome! It’s a family favorite here too 🙂

Chico · May 23, 2020 at 6:16 pm

Wow that was better than I expected!!

    riseandbrine · December 13, 2022 at 9:44 am

    Yay! Glad you liked it. 🙂

Anonymous · April 1, 2022 at 6:06 am

1 star
Don’t serve this standard “Southern chili” to a Texan unless you want to be laughed at

Anonymous · August 1, 2022 at 5:22 pm

5 stars
super duper

Dale · October 4, 2022 at 12:25 pm

Do you reconstitute the peppers prior to blending them?

    riseandbrine · December 13, 2022 at 9:40 am

    I don’t, I find when I blend them with the liquid they reconstitute enough before adding them into the pot.

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