Cowboy Chili

Cowboy chili is a rich and hearty dish made with ground beef, beans, vegetables, tomatoes and beef broth. Warm up with a bowl today!

Two bowls of Cowboy Chili topped with shredded cheddar cheese with a pot of chili, cornbread and condiments to the side.

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I’m one of those people that could eat soup year round. However, after enduring one of the hottest summers on record in Mississippi, I eschewed anything soup related until the temperatures dropped at least into the mid-80’s. The day I made my mother-in-laws recipe for Cowboy Chili, the temperature was in the low 70’s and a light drizzle had been falling off and on all day. Perfect!

Looking for more soup recipe ideas to warm you up on a cold day? Try this comforting Chicken Tortilla Soup.

What is the difference between cowboy chili and regular chili?

What exactly does it take to make chili “cowboy chili?” The difference comes down to meat and beans. Cowboy chili calls for two pounds of ground beef instead of the standard one pound found in most chili recipes. It also includes beans, making it a rich and hearty dish that will not only warm you up but stick to your ribs.

Ingredients and tools you will need

Cowboy Chili requires ten ingredients, which include:

  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 (15 ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 (16-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 (1.25 ounce) package chili seasoning mix
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 (14 ounce cans) beef broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Large stock pot with a lid
Collage of ingredients needed to make Cowboy Chili.

Brown the beef and sauté the veggies

Add the ground beef to the stock pot and cook over medium heat until no longer pink, about eight minutes. Strain the beef from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain all but about one tablespoon of the grease from the pot. 

Add the diced onion and green bell pepper. Sauté the vegetables until they are tender, about 8-10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds. Return the ground beef to the pot.

Add the beans and broth

To the pot, add the pinto beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes with their juice, the chili seasoning mix, chili powder and beef broth. Stir until everything is combined, then bring the broth to a boil.  

Simmer the chili and serve

Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the chili for two hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to your preference. Serve Cowboy Chili hot with your choice of toppings.

Chili in a stock pot after it has simmered for two hours.

Topping ideas

One of the best things about chili is your ability to make it your own with a variety of toppings. They sky is the limit here, but some of my family’s favorite toppings include shredded cheddar cheese, corn chips, sour cream and sliced green onions. 

Other ideas you may want to explore are sliced black olives, diced purple onion, freshly squeezed lime juice, fresh or pickled jalapeños, diced green chilis, diced avocado, crackers, crumbled cornbread, tater tots, cilantro, tortilla chips, salsa or cotija cheese.

Variations

See something about this recipe that doesn’t quite tickle your fancy? Chili is easily adaptable to suit your preferences. I’m a wimp when it comes to really spicy food, and I have two young children. Therefore, I tend to prepare our chili on the mild side. However, if you like a little (or a lot) of heat, consider substituting the mild chili mix I used for hot or 5-alarm seasoning. 

Don’t like beans? Leave them out! Though I would recommend adding more ground beef to keep the thick and hearty texture of the chili. Black beans and Great Northern beans are good substitutions for pinto or kidney beans because they can withstand the long cooking time.

Not a fan of beef? Omit it and add an additional can each of the beans. The ground beef can also be replaced with ground turkey, chicken or venison. Because each of those meats are leaner than ground beef, expect to reduce the time it takes to brown the meat.

Storage, freezing and reheating instructions

Storage. Within two hours, allow leftover chili to cool, then transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Consume the chili within four days.

Freezing. This chili recipe freezes well and is a great addition to your freezer for those busy days when you just don’t have time to cook. Transfer the chili to an airtight, freezer safe container. Be sure to leave a couple inches of room for expansion. You could also fill freezer bags 2/3 full. Remove as much air from the bags as possible and seal tightly. Freeze the bags flat. Once frozen, stack the backs for easy storage.

Reheating. Allow the chili to thaw completely. Transfer to a saucepan with a lid. Cover and reheat over medium low heat until the chili begins to bubble. 

Frequently asked questions

Can I make this in the Instant Pot?


Yes. Brown the ground beef using the SAUTE function. Strain the beef and set aside. Remove and discard any accumulated grease. Add the ground beef back to the Instant Pot along with all the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine and seal the lid. Select the MANUAL function and set the cook time for 40 minutes. Allow the pressure to release naturally.


Can I make this in the slow cooker?


Yes. Brown the ground beef in a separate skillet. Strain the ground beef from the skillet and spoon it into the slow cooker. Discard the grease. Add all the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Cook on low for six hours or on high for four hours.


Can I used dried beans?


If using dried beans, I recommend cooking them separately rather than cooking them in the chili. Acidic foods, such as tomatoes, prevent the beans from getting soft. Cook the beans according to the package directions before adding them to the chili.


Can I use ground turkey or venison?


Yes, see the section titled Variations.


Can I leave out the meat entirely?


Yes, see the section titled Variations.


Can I skip browning the ground beef?


I don’t recommend it. Not only does browning the ground beef add more flavor and better texture, it allows some of the fat the render off. Skipping this step could result in more liquid and grease in your chili.


Can I used a different type of ground beef besides 80/20?


I chose 80/20 ground chuck because the beef maintains its shape during the extended cooking time and it produces less grease. If you wanted to go leaner, I wouldn’t go more that 85/15. Very lean ground beef such as 90/10 will become dry and crumbly, while fattier ground beef like 73/27 seems to get mushy and render off a lot more grease.

Bowl of Cowboy chili topped with shredded cheese.
Bowl of Cowboy chili topped with shredded cheese.
Print Pin
4.80 from 5 votes

Cowboy Chili

Cowboy chili is a rich and hearty dish made with ground beef, beans, vegetables, tomatoes and beef broth. Warm up with a bowl today!
Course Main Course, Main Courses, Main Dishes, Soup
Cuisine American
Prep Time 18 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Servings 6 people
Calories 336kcal
Author Lisa B.

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 1 large green bell pepper diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 15 ounce can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 ounce can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 3 16-ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 1.25 ounce package chili seasoning mix
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 14 ounce cans beef broth
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Add the ground beef to the stock pot and cook over medium heat until no longer pink, about eight minutes. Strain the beef from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Drain all but about one tablespoons of the grease from the pot.
  • Add the diced onion and green bell pepper. Sauté the vegetables until they are tender, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Add the minced garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds.
  • Return the ground beef to the pot.
  • Add the pinto beans, kidney beans, diced tomatoes with their juice, the chili seasoning mix, chili powder and beef broth.
  • Stir until everything is combined, the bring the broth to a boil.
  • Cover the pot and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the chili for two hours, stirring occasionally.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your preference.
  • Serve Cowboy Chili hot with your choice of toppings.

Video

Notes

Storage. Within two hours, allow leftover chili to cool, then transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. Consume the chili within four days.
Freezing. This chili recipe freezes well and is a great addition to your freezer for those busy days when you just don’t have time to cook. Transfer the chili to an airtight, freezer safe container. Be sure to leave a couple inches of room for expansion. You could also fill freezer bags 2/3 full. Remove as much air from the bags as possible and seal tightly. Freeze the bags flat. Once frozen, stack the backs for easy storage.
Reheating. Allow the chili to thaw completely. Transfer to a saucepan with a lid. Cover and reheat over medium low heat until the chili begins to bubble. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 336kcal | Carbohydrates: 35g | Protein: 21g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 52mg | Sodium: 1200mg | Potassium: 825mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 10g | Vitamin A: -2IU

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Great chili. Made this last night and my whole family loved it. Kids went back for a third serving! Thanks for the idea!

  2. Ground beef? Doesn’t anybody use good quality beef cut into small bite sized cubes when making chilli?

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