Amazing Beef Chili—No Beans About It (or in it)

Even though neither of our favorite football teams were in the Super Bowl this year, we still felt it was a necessary evil to pay homage to the annual NFL championship game with some good down-home chili. As coincidence would have it, there was a posting on my Facebook feed with a new Bon Appétit recipe that was built on browning 5-pounds of boneless beef chuck and a variety of dried chiles.


Decades ago, I never put beans in my chili, but that changed over the years and I now love to include several different types of beans, but alas, this recipe doesn’t require any. I was initially tempted to throw some in anyway, but Hubby said to just go with the original ingredients the first time around.

A case is made here for it being faster and easier to brown the meat in larger pieces first and chop them afterward—and I thought that made a lot of sense. Then incorporating intact dried chiles instead of jarred powders contributes a more complex flavor and a saturated color. Finally, adding lager imparts just the right amount of bitterness, rounding out the chiles.

Dried ancho chiles are usually easy to find, but the other two, guajillo and pasilla, may have to be ordered online, where I finally got them from Amazon within two days. Since this takes a good chunk of time, and chilis taste better a day or so later, make it ahead of time if possible. I made it the Friday before Super Bowl allowing two days for all of the yumminess to meld.


The cookware of choice for this culinary endeavor was “Big Red”, our large 9-qt. Le Creuset enameled cast iron pot. She’s a true work-horse and is the perfect vehicle for braises, stews, and chilis. After simmering for two hours, I let it cool down, then covered it and put the pot directly into the fridge for two days. An hour before we planned to feast on it, I slowly warmed the chili in the same pot over a low heat.


Beef Chili—No Beans About It

  • Servings: 8-10
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print


  • 4 large or 6 medium dried ancho chiles
  • 2 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 dried pasilla chiles
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into½-inch slices
  • Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 14.5-ounce can fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 12-ounce bottle lager
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
Toppings suggestions: sour cream, grated cheddar, chopped red onion, lime wedges, cilantro, sliced avocado, pickled jalapeños, corn nuts, or even Fritos!
  1. Remove seeds from ancho, guajillo, and pasilla chiles and place in a medium bowl. Pour in 3 cups boiling water and cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap; let sit until chiles are softened, 20–25 minutes.
  2. Transfer chiles and soaking liquid to a blender and blend on high until smooth, about 1 minute; set aside.
  3. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium-high. Season beef slices all over with salt and pepper.
  4. Working in 2–3 batches, cook, turning pieces once, until browned, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  5. Reduce heat to medium; add onions and garlic to pot. Cook, stirring often to loosen browned bits from bottom of pot, until onions are translucent and very soft, 6–8 minutes.
  6. Add cumin and oregano and cook, stirring, until spices start to stick to pot, about 1 minute.
  7. Add tomatoes and brown sugar and scrape bottom of pot to loosen spices, then add lager. Bring to a lively simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until beer is almost completely evaporated, 10–15 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, cut beef slices into ½” pieces, discarding any large bits of fat or gristle.
  9. Add beef, reserved chile purée, and 2 cups water to pot; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, until liquid is thickened and meat is very tender, 1½–2 hours.
  10. Taste chili and season with more salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat and stir in vinegar. Divide chili among bowls and top as desired.

Do Ahead: Chili can be made 4 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Reheat gently over low, stirring occasionally, and adding a splash of water to loosen if needed.

Original recipe by Claire Saffitz from Bon Appétit

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