Home » 13th Annual Chili Contest: Entry #5 – The Best Chili

13th Annual Chili Contest: Entry #5 – The Best Chili

Sweet heat and smoky, this chili offers up beef, beans, chiles, and bacon — a little bit of something for everyone! The variety of spices provides a rich, deep flavor that has distinct features of brown sugar and bacon. That sweet and savory combo always gets me!


I was so anxious for a long weekend, I bolted out of work on Friday and went…straight to the grocery store. Me and everyone else on earth, I do believe. The place was a mad house with all of the new year holiday prep and way too many dollars later, I was heading home with a car FULL – food, beverage, a few gifts, and of course some 50% Christmas wrapping paper.

I wore Mark down and he agreed to host my book club on New Year Day. I had a hankering for an Italian feast and to rid of some wine that came back with Mark to the US back in, ahem, 2009. This prep work included making homemade arancini which also entailed my first ever deep frying attempt. I burned my face on a splatter of oil at one point, but I gained some skill moving forward and no harm done, thankfully. Also prepped were a traditional meat lasagna and a pesto-spinach-chicken lasagna.

Sunday, before everyone arrived, we spent the day cleaning like MAD. We purged a ton of stuff and cleaned and cleaned…it was wildly productive. After everyone departed, we settled in to watch a few episodes of Tulsa King on Paramount Plus and we’re enjoying it quite a lot.

Today was spent playing tennis for the first time in many, many months, doing laundry, and watching the Illini, unfortunately, lose their bowl game against Mississippi State. It was a close game and we were hoping to make it a 9-win season, but at least it was a good game. We enjoyed our last but not least chili of the football season and for my 13th annual chili contest!

Round-up and winner coming up SOON!


  • Sweet heat. What is it about a bit of spice that is perfectly balanced with a bit of sugar? This recipe nails that. The tomatoes offer a perfect layer to that combination with thanks to their acidic edge.
  • One pot is all! Even the bacon cooked first up is all done in a single pot making this recipe easy on the clean-up.
  • Y’all know chili is THE perfect food, right? Offering up every major food group, it is both balanced and satisfying.


  • Bacon: Flavor coming from both the bacon and the drippings used to cook the veggies, the bacon-y flavor runs deep. A little goes a long way, so discard (not down your drain, however!) any excess bacon grease.
  • Beans: While kidney beans and black beans are called for in this recipe, feel free to swap in whatever varieties you prefer. I always love chili beans and pinto beans in chili.
  • Beef: This recipe keeps it traditional with ground beef, however you can easily swap in a ground poultry or vegetarian crumble, if preferred!
  • Spice: If you want to keep this super kid-friendly or lower on heat, omit the cayenne and/or reduce the chiles. The bit of heat from the chili powders must stay to maintain the smoky, chili flavors.


  • I’m a huge fan of chili recipes that include both fresh and canned vegetables, upping the nutritional content of vitamins, minerals, and fiber in recipes. Canned tomatoes are high in cancer-fighting lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and K.
  • Beans are an excellent source of fiber and with most folks falling short of the recommendation for fiber (20-35 grams per day), a half cup serving of beans provides a whopping 7 grams!


  • Store chili covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Chili is unique in that it is often even better on day 2 and beyond!

The Best Chili

The Best Chili

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes

Sweet heat and smoky, this chili offers up beef, beans, chiles, and bacon -- a little bit of something for everyone! The variety of spices provides a rich, deep flavor that has distinct features of brown sugar and bacon. That sweet and savory combo always gets me!


  • 5 strips uncooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb 90% lean ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp ancho chili powder
  • 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • ¾ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ¼ cup low-sodium beef broth
  • 1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 oz) can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1 (7 oz) can fire roasted green chilis
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce


  1. Cook bacon in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, cooking until bacon is crisp and brown. Remove cooked bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate. Discard all but 1 tablespoon bacon grease and return pot to heat.
  2. To the pot, add the onion and pepper; stir and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add garlic, stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add beef and cook for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through, breaking up into a crumble as it cooks. Add the brown sugar and all spices (chili powders, paprika, cumin, onion powder, black pepper, salt, and cayenne pepper) and stir well.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients — beef broth, beans, tomatoes, tomato paste, chilis, and Worcestershire sauce, as well as the cooked bacon; stir well.
  5. Bring to a boil and cook 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 30 minutes to allow flavor to really develop. Serve with preferred toppings.


Recipe from Sugar Spun Run, submitted by Kelsey

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1/6 recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 407Total Fat: 12.5gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 1006mgCarbohydrates: 38.7gFiber: 13.0gSugar: 7.7gProtein: 35.0g

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