You think we’re about to drop a recipe on you? Not really.
The best-ever chili has no recipe. You have to be willing to put just about anything in your chili without much regard for measuring it. So this is more of a laundry list of ingredients and techniques than an actual recipe.
Let’s be clear, however: the only ingredient that we believe is mandatory in any chili is some form of chile pepper—fresh, dried, powdered, it doesn’t matter. Texas chili has no beans; vegan chili has no meat; Cincinnati-style chili contains cinnamon. Those are all fine examples of chili, but the best-ever chili must at minimum contain at least one form of chile pepper, in whatever form you can find.
Beyond this one requirement (and perhaps the inclusion of a little cumin) the ingredient list is yours alone. Ours always includes some form of an allium, whether it’s the old standby onion, or shallots, or garlic, or a combination. A mirepoix including celery, carrots, or bell pepper is great as well. Start by sautéing these chopped veggies (or others) in oil, stock, wine, beer, or some other liquid.
Once your veggies are transparent and soft, start adding any dry seasonings you may want to use: basil (!), dried coriander, and Mexican oregano are great standbys. Let those seasonings marry into your sautéed vegetables.
Then you can add wetter vegetables like tomatoes, as well as tomato sauce or paste, as well as any pre-cooked meat and any other liquids. (If you have dried chiles, this would be the perfect time to drop them in to reconstitute.) Add salt and black pepper to taste. We’ve also added tomato juice, tomato soup, and even leftover chili into ours.
Finally, just add love and a little time. It’s done when it smells like chili.