Authentic Chilli con Carne

Call me sad (it is a bit really) but I have been researching authentic chilli con carne recipes, the kind of original 'Tex-Mex' style chilli recipes with a thick brown - rather than thin tomato - sauce. I don't know if it's the pregnancy or the cold weather, I just really fancy some decent homemade spicy food.

So, here's a little chilli history lesson for you. Chilli con carne originated in Texas in the 1800's. Originally, it didn't have beans, but I had to add them to my recipe to be more healthy - plus I love them. I use a mixture of kidney beans and black beans or black eye beans. Tinned tomatoes are also not in traditional Texan chilli, but I found that adding tomato puree definitely improved the flavour without making it too watery or acidic.

You may or may not know, but chocolate, coffee and oregano are key original flavours of Tex-Mex cuisine. If you have never added them to a chilli before definitely try it - the flavour is incredible! You'll never make a chilli without them again. And of course chillies - I love chopped fresh chillies with the seeds left in but use hot chilli powder if you don't have any. You can freeze fresh chillies and use them straight from the freezer?

I've used diced beef but the recipe works just as well with mince beef. Cook it for the same length of time and the mince will be mouth-wateringly tender. Make your chilli extra special by serving with all the trimmings, which in our house means rice, tortilla chips, sour cream, gucamole, salsa and fresh coriander.

Authentic Chilli con Carne

  • Serves: 4-5 adults

  • Time: Around 25 mins hands on time + 2 1/2 hours cooking

  • Cost: £1.70 per serving (based on 4 servings)

  • Calories: 501 per serving (based on 4 servings)

Ingredients For the Chunky Authentic Chilli Con Carne:

  • 3 tablespoons sunflower oil for frying

  • 600g lean diced casserole beef / chuck steak (all white fat trimmed)

  • 1 onion, peeled and diced

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

  • 1-2 large red chillies, chopped (de-seed if you're not keen on heat) or hot chilli powder to taste

  • 1 teaspoon each of: ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon & dried oregano

  • 1 heaped teaspoon good quality instant coffee

  • 1 beef stock cube

  • 30g plain chocolate

  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 2 x tins kidney beans or black beans

  • Salt to taste

  • Boiling water

  • 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika

To serve (some ideas):

  • Rice

  • Tortilla chips

  • Fresh coriander

  • Sour cream

  • Salsa

  • Gucamole


  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large lidded saucepan or casserole dish (you can cook the chilli on the hob or in the oven later on, whatever you prefer). Brown the beef over a high heat (in batches if you need to) and transfer to another bowl.

  2. Add a few tablespoons of water to the pan and let it bubble up, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go to remove any sticky brown bits from the bottom. Pour the water into the bowl with the beef. It contains a great deal of flavour.

  3. Heat the remaining oil in the pan and stir fry the onions for around 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, chilli, oregano and dried spices. Cook for one more minute, stirring all the time. Put the beef, along with any juices back in the pan.

  4. Add the coffee, stock cube, chocolate, tomato puree, bay leaves and beans to the pan. Pour over enough boiling water to cover and give everything a really good stir so the chocolate has melted and the coffee and stock cube have dissolved. Season to taste with salt.

  5. Bring to the boil and pop the lid on the pan. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for around 2 1/2 hours until the sauce has reduced and the beef is very tender. Stir occasionally. Alternatively cook in pre-heated oven on gas 3 / 160 C / 140 fan for the same length of time.

  6. When the chilli has cooked, add 1-2 teaspoons smoked paprika to taste. Stir well and serve. The chilli will keep for 3 days in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.