I am plotting to host a chili cook off, purely so that I can win first prize.

Due to my conspicuous absence of athletic coordination, the fact that I never raised livestock, and my parents’ restriction of my Girl Scout cookie sales territory to a four-block radius during my Brownie days (too much delivery if I expanded), my opportunities to capture The #1 Spot—be it a gold medal, blue ribbon, or merit badge—have been limited.

My saving chance to be a winner: LEAN BEEF AND PEPPER CHILI.

Is it lame to host a contest purely so that I can win a trophy for something other than participation? Perhaps. Make fun of me, then help yourself to a second bowl of Lean Beef and Pepper Chili. We both know you want one.

Lean Beef and Pepper Chili embodies all that a classic chili should be: hearty, rich, and aromatic; layered with spices that build with each spoonful; smothered in all manners of melting, tongue-cooling toppings.


Ben and I created this chili recipe on a wicked winter night two years ago, and we have been recreating and refining it ever since. The recipe version I am sharing with you today is, to us, the chili ultimate.

As its name suggests, Lean Beef and Pepper Chili is loaded with a happy family of peppers, from red and green bell peppers, to jalapeños, to dried chipotle, chili, and cayenne. A trio of beans adds variety and heft, and lean ground beef rounds out the classic chili flavor. Though I’m not typically one to select red meat over poultry or seafood, the taste of the beef in this chili is, I must say, medal worthy!

If you are a vegetarian or simply can’t go red, this recipe still packs plenty of flavor volume, even without the beef. In fact, I recommend that gentler pallets dial-down the spice content (specific suggestions listed in the recipe).


Three final tips for the ultimate Lean Beef and Pepper Chili:

  1. Keep the recipe healthy by selecting a lean ground beef: I go with a 93/7 meat-to-fat ratio. You’ll still enjoy full beefy flavor impact, even with a leaner grind.
  2. Don’t skimp on the smotherings: Shredded cheddar cheese, plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream), and sliced avocado make life—and chili—better.
  3. Wear gloves when seeding jalapeños: The first time I made this chili recipe, I did not, and Ben had to spoon-feed me the finished product while I soaked my flaming fingers in a vat of milk. Oops. WORTH IT!

Whether you are cooking for a cold winter night, a hot Super Bowl party, a fierce competition, or leftovers that keep on giving, Lean Beef and Pepper Chili delivers. With its tiers of spice, a pack of peppers, and hearty texture, Lean Beef and Pepper Chili is warmth to the very core.

Ultimate Lean Beef and Pepper Chili

Hearty, rich, and aromatic, this healthy Lean Beef and Pepper Chili recipe is warmth to the very core. Chunky and flavor-packed, this is a chili classic. Feel free to sub different types of beans (I like the variety in the original recipe below). For more sensitive pallets, half the cumin and chipotle chili powder. Omit the cayenne.

  • 1 pound lean ground beef ((between 90/10 and 95/5 beef-to-fat ratio))
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions (chopped)
  • 2 green bell peppers, (seeded and chopped)
  • 1 red bell pepper, (seeded and chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic ((about 6 cloves))
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, (seeded and finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 12 ounces beer ((dark or light) or substitute chicken stock)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes with green chilis ((15-ounce cans))
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 can dark kidney beans ((15 ounces) rinsed)
  • 1 can white beans ((15 ounces) rinsed)
  • 1 can black beans ((15 ounces) rinsed)
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (about 2 limes)
  • Shredded cheese (for serving)
  • Sliced avocados (for serving)
  • Reduced fat sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt, for serving)
  1. In a large Dutch oven or stockpot, brown ground beef with salt and pepper, breaking apart the meat and stirring occasionally until fully cooked, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Blot dry and set aside.
  2. Reduce heat to medium and add olive oil to the pot. Add onions, bell peppers, and jalapenos. Cook, stirring frequently, until onions are golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, chili powder, smoked paprika, chipotle chili powder, oregano, and cayenne. Stir and heat for 2 minutes.
  3. Add beer, scraping up any browned bits from the pot and simmer 3 minutes. Add diced tomatoes (undrained), bay leaves, black beans, kidney beans, white beans, and reserved beef. Cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until chili thickens, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove bay leaves. Stir in lime juice. Serve garnished with shredded cheese, avocado slices, and sour cream (or plain Greek yogurt).