Chilli con carne recipe: How to make the best chilli con carne

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Chilli con carne is an ideal dish for those cold autumn evenings, filled with vegetables and warming spices. Typically served with rice, and even a topping of sour cream, you can add as much or as little spice as you like.

Chilli con carne translates to chilli with beef and originated in northern Mexico or southern Texas.

The ingredients and side dishes for chilli vary around the world, with some pairing it with rice, others with tortilla chips, saving leftovers and adding to potatoes or even sandwiches.

Before World War 2, there were hundreds of chilli parlours across Texas and other states – selling family recipe chilli.

Each venue purported to have their own secret recipe for the iconic dish, and indeed this tradition has continued in families around the world, with hundreds of different takes on the traditional chilli.

If you want to give this recipe a go, below is the perfect recipe for chilli con carne.


• 1 large onion

• 1 red pepper

• 2 garlic cloves

• 1 tbsp oil

• 1 heaped tsp hot chilli powder (or 1 level tbsp if you only have mild)

• 1 tsp paprika

• 1 tsp ground cumin

• 500g lean minced beef

• 1 beef stock cube

• 400g can chopped tomatoes

• ½ tsp dried marjoram

• 1 tsp sugar

• 2 tbsp tomato purée

• 410g can red kidney beans

• plain boiled long grain rice, to serve

• soured cream, to serve


Prepare your vegetables. Chop one large onion into small dice, about 5mm square.

Cut one red pepper in half lengthways, remove the stalk and wash the seeds away, then chop. Peel and finely chop two garlic cloves.

Start cooking. Put your pan on the hob over medium heat.

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Add one tablespoon of oil and leave it for one to two minutes until hot (a little longer for an electric hob).

Add the onion and cook, stirring fairly frequently, for about five minutes, or until the onion is soft, squidgy and slightly translucent.

Tip in the garlic, red pepper, one heaped teaspoon of hot chilli powder or one level tablespoon mild chilli powder, one teaspoon paprika and one teaspoon of ground cumin.

Give it a good stir, then leave it to cook for another five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Next, brown 500g lean minced beef.

Then turn the heat up a bit, add the meat to the pan and break it up with your spoon or spatula.

The mix should sizzle a bit when you add the mince.

Keep stirring and prodding for at least five minutes, until all the mince is in uniform, mince-sized lumps and there are no more pink bits.

Make sure you keep the heat hot enough for the meat to fry and become brown, rather than just stew.

To make the sauce crumble one beef stock cube into 300ml hot water and pour this into the pan with the mince mixture.

Add a 400g can of chopped tomatoes. Tip in half a teaspoon of dried marjoram, one teaspoon of sugar and add a good shake of salt and pepper.

Squirt in about two tablespoons of tomato purée and stir the sauce well.

Simmer it gently. Bring the whole thing to the boil, give it a good stir and put a lid on the pan.

Turn down the heat until it is gently bubbling and leave it for 20 minutes.

Check on the pan occasionally to stir it and make sure the sauce doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan or isn’t drying out.

If it is, add a couple of tablespoons of water and make sure that the heat really is low enough.

After simmering gently, the saucy mince mixture should look thick, moist and juicy.

Drain and rinse a 410g can of red kidney beans in a sieve and stir them into the chilli pot.

Bring to the boil again, and gently bubble without the lid for another 10 minutes, adding a little more water if it looks too dry.

Taste a bit of the chilli and season, it may take a lot more seasoning than you think.

Now replace the lid, turn off the heat and leave your chilli to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This is really important as it allows the flavours to incorporate.

Serve with soured cream and plain boiled long grain rice.

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