This is the world's best homemade chili with bacon, ground beef, beans, and the perfect blend of spices. Everyone will go crazy for this classic chili recipe that is awesome topped with shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, and some crumbled bacon. It's a game day favorite for any chilly winter day!
Why you'll love this bacon chili recipe
This is an award winning recipe! I can't tell you how many chili cook-offs I've won with the world's best bacon chili. Everyone who's ever eaten a bowl has agreed that it's the best! It's like my cheeseburger soup; once you've tried it, no other chili recipe will ever do!
This recipe is super simple with just a couple of easy steps. Bake the bacon, sauté the onion, brown the ground beef, dump everything else together and simmer for 30 minutes. Even the most beginner cook can make the world's best chili!
The list of ingredients is pretty long, but that means that this chili is packed with goodness - every single addition infuses a burst of flavor that you will miss if you leave it out.
This recipe makes a TON of chili - perfect for football watching parties or winter get-togethers or to plan for leftovers later in the week or even to freeze for later when you need a quick meal.
This chili recipe is healthy. I use lean ground beef, veggies, and a blend of seasonings that skips the preservatives found in commercial chili packets. It has a lot of lean protein and a ton of fiber thanks to all those beans. It does have a pound of bacon in it, but divided between 12 servings, that comes out to less than 1 slice of bacon per bowl of soup.
What you'll need to make the world's best chili recipe with bacon
I prefer to bake my bacon in the oven on a baking rack set on top of a baking sheet. I think this is by far the easiest, least messy way of cooking it, and so that's what I recommend you do too. (Instructions below.)
To bake a pound of bacon all at one time, you'll need 2 racks and 2 baking sheets. No matter how hard you try, you cannot squeeze a whole pound of bacon onto one baking sheet.
To make the actual chili, you'll need a very large stockpot, and a garlic press is always a helpful and handy tool to have. If you don't have a garlic press, you'll need to either crush or mince the garlic with a knife.
I have used my garlic press at least 5 times a week for the last 22 years. I use it so much, I've had to replace it twice. They don't really wear out, but the coating sort of wears off, and I don't want the coating coming off in my garlic. Once that starts to happen, I replace it. They aren't expensive.
This chili recipe has a lot of ingredients, and that's why it tastes so darn good.
Can you find chili recipes with 5 ingredients? Yes, you certainly can.
Do they taste as good as this one? No, they absolutely do not.
You will be glad you went to the work to prep all these ingredients and especially the specific blend of spices. This is an award-winning chili that everyone will go crazy for. I promise.
- Bacon - You are going to use a whole pound of bacon in this blessed soup, and you are going to love every minute. When I make the bacon, I pour off the bacon grease to cook the onion in, let the meat cool completely, and then I chop it, leaving about a quarter cup out of the chili to use as a garnish on top of the bowls.
- Bacon grease - Sweet onions sautéed in bacon grease is pretty much heaven on earth. If you have something against bacon grease, you could use vegetable oil I guess, but why on earth would you do that?
- Sweet onion - I love a sweet Vidalia onion, and that's what I use in this recipe. I cut it very small because I have a kid who hates onions, and I cook it until it is very deep brown and almost caramelized. That makes it very sweet and gives the chili a wonderful, robust flavor.
- Fresh garlic - When this recipe calls for 6 cloves of garlic, I mean 6 of those enormous cloves from the outside of the bulb, not the teeny weeny ones from the center. If you're using the skinny ones from the center of the bulb, use 10 or more. They'll get lost in all the spices, and you won't even taste the garlic when it's all done, but you'll miss it if it's not in there.
- 93% lean ground beef - I use 93% lean ground beef exclusively because it has fewer calories than a fattier type, and I am calorie conscious. Because you cook the onions in bacon grease, there is plenty of fat in this chili, and you certainly don't want to add extra from the ground beef. If you use 93% lean ground beef, you won't have to drain the meat before adding the rest of the ingredients. If you use fattier beef, you'll have to do the extra step of draining the beef/onion mixture before adding the tomatoes, beans, and spices.
- Brown sugar - This is a teeny tiny amount of brown sugar in an enormous recipe, so please don't get stingy and try to leave it out. It balances the savory spices and makes the chili amazing.
- Dark chili powder - I think you can buy light chili powder, but I've never done so. I specified dark chili powder because that's what my chili powder container says, and I want your chili to come out just like mine does. So dark it is.
- Onion powder - I know the chili already has an onion in it, but use onion powder anyway. I love the Three Onion rub from The Pampered Chef and use that in place of traditional onion powder, but the powder will work well too. If you don't have either one, you could use dehydrated onion too.
- Smoked paprika - Smoked paprika is different from regular (sometimes called "sweet") paprika. Smoked paprika, as you might expect, has a deep smokey flavor that goes really well with chili powder and cumin. I love it in this recipe. If you don't have smoked paprika, you could use sweet paprika, but the flavor will be different.
- Cumin - Cumin is a very umami, earthy spice that is used in Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes. A little goes a long way.
- Salt & black pepper - I use low sodium broth and low sodium beans so that I can add just the amount of salt that I want and don't have to worry about salt from the canned ingredients overpowering the chili.
- Low sodium fat-free beef broth - One time, I accidentally doubled the amount of broth (I was cooking distracted!), and the chili came out fine. But it's better if you use only one carton and not two.
- Dark red kidney beans - This is 2 cans of kidney beans, and you will drain and lightly rinse them prior to putting them in the pot. My older daughter goes crazy over kidney beans, so they are a must in any chili recipe. You can substitute an equal amount of any beans you want.
- Black beans - This is 2 cans of black beans, and you will also drain and lightly rinse them prior to putting them into the chili. My younger daughter goes crazy over black beans and, for about 10 years, chili was called "black bean soup" at my house. As in, "Can we have black bean soup for supper tonight? It's my favorite."
- Fire roasted diced tomatoes - I think Hunt's makes these, and the fire roasting gives them an amazing flavor that goes so well with the smoked paprika and chili powder. It's a chef's kiss kind of moment. If you can't find fire roasted tomatoes, just use any kind of diced tomatoes or even Rotel. I mean, I suppose you could buy whole tomatoes, roast them in the oven until the skins turn black, and then dice them yourself, but let's not go crazy. This chili has enough steps as it is without charring your own diced tomatoes.
- Diced green chilis - I think diced green chilis are one of the unsung heroes of the grocery store. They come in a little can, and they make almost every dish instantly better. They are sweet and savory at the same time and are not to be missed in this chili.
- Tomato paste - This thickens the chili and gives it a nice tomatoey flavor.
- Worcestershire sauce - This adds a salty umami flavor to the chili. It's a small amount, but you don't want to miss it.
- Garnish for the soup - sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, avocado diced, crumbled bacon (reserved from earlier)
How to make the best chili with bacon
- Cook bacon according to your favorite method. I prefer to bake mine on a wire rack on top of a sheet pan in the oven at 375ºF for 15 minutes. If you prefer a different method, use that. However you cook the bacon, reserve 2 tablespoons of bacon grease for the next step. After the bacon has cooled, chop it coarsely and reserve ¼ cup of the chopped bacon to use as a garnish.
- Heat a large stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of bacon grease to the pot then add the chopped onion.
- Cook until translucent and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.
- Add garlic to the pot and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it up with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Once the beef is mostly browned, add the brown sugar, chili powder, paprika, cumin, onion powder, black pepper, and salt and mix well.
- Add beef broth and stir.
- Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, chilis, Worcestershire sauce, and chopped bacon.
- Bring chili to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or longer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. This step isn't absolutely necessary, but the flavor of the chili will be much nicer if you do it.
- Top with sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, diced avocado, and a sprinkle of chopped bacon, and serve hot.
Should I drain the beans before I add them to the chili?
Yes, you should definitely drain the beans before adding them to the chili. The extra liquid would make it too thin and runny.
You should also drain the green chili peppers, but you should not drain the diced tomatoes. Their juice makes the chili taste better.
Is this chili spicy?
Nope. There's nothing in this chili to make it spicy, and that's why my kids love it so much.
If you want your chili to be spicy, you could add one or more of the following:
- ½ teaspoon (or more) of cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon (or more) of your favorite hot sauce
- 1 teaspoon (or more) of crushed red pepper
- A handful of pickled jalapeño slices
- 1-2 fresh jalapeño peppers, sliced or diced (sauté these with the onions so they get soft) - if you want some heat, remove the seeds and membranes from the pepper flesh. If you want a lot of heat, leave them intact and slice.
What toppings are best on chili?
Whatever you like!
Okay, you asked for suggestions, so here's what I like the best:
- A dollop of sour cream
- Shredded cheddar cheese - the more, the merrier!
- Diced avocado
- Crumbled bacon
- Fresh cilantro or parsley
- Diced raw sweet onions
- Sliced green onion
- Caramelized diced onions
- Crackers or croutons
- Corn chips or tortilla chips
- Pickled or fresh jalapeño slices
You could serve your chili in a bowl by itself or over top of rice, mashed potatoes, or a baked potato.
Bacon chili variations
You could make this chili with ground turkey or even ground chicken instead of ground beef.
You could use diced sweet onion or chopped green onion as a garnish.
You could add ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper or a few dashes of hot sauce with the spices to give it a spicy kick.
Is chili better the longer it cooks?
Generally, yes. I let my chili simmer for about 30 minutes, but if you can let it go for an hour or even longer, it will taste even better.
Just keep in mind that it will thicken up as the longer it cooks, so you may need to add a splash of beef broth or water if it gets too thick.
Can you make chili ahead?
Definitely! Chili is one of those magical foods that gets better the longer it sits, so feel free to make it as much as one to three days before you need it. Keep it in an airtight container or freezer bag in the fridge and just reheat on the stove or in the microwave when you're ready to serve.
How to store leftover chili
Leftover chili can be kept in a plastic freezer bag or an airtight container for up to 5 days.
You can also freeze it in a plastic freezer bag or airtight container for up to three months. To serve, allow chili to thaw in the refrigerator overnight and then heat on the stovetop or in the microwave.
What can you make with leftover chili?
This recipe makes so much chili that you're almost guaranteed to have a lot of leftovers. Most of the time, I take half of the batch and freeze it, and we still have a good bit left to eat the rest of the week. (It's just me and my two kids, a tween girl and a teen girl.)
Here are some ideas for making leftover chili a little more exciting:
- Chili baked potato - Spoon it over a baked potato that's been split in half. Top with lots of shredded cheese and a dollop of sour cream.
- Chili nachos - Spread a bag of tortilla chips on a sheet pan, then stop with a generous amount of leftover chili. Add lots of shredded cheese and bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted. Add your favorite nacho toppings like jalapeño slices, diced tomatoes, and sliced green onions.
- Chili mac and cheese - Mix equal amounts of your favorite mac and cheese with this chili. Mix well, top with a generous amount of shredded cheese, and bake at 350ºF for 15-20 minutes or until heated through. (It may need to cook longer if the mac and cheese and chili were in the fridge.)
If you like chili, you're going to love these other soups:
- Cheeseburger Soup
- Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup
- Instant Pot Cheeseburger Soup
- Simple & Easy Cheesy Cauliflower Soup
- Cheesy Vegetable Soup
- Crockpot Potato Soup
- Black Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Soup