How Do YOU Cook Chilli Con Carne?

Author: Lauren Coleman

Autumn means many things to me; new cosy knitwear, burning log fires and good red wine, and also a change in my usual recipe repertoire to embrace the new season.
Since moving house and inheriting several apple trees, the first sign of autumn is the smell of apple crumble baking in my oven, the second is when the Le Creuset gets bubbling on the hob with a good chilli con carne slowly heating through. Don’t be fooled though, we all know I’m no domestic goddess.

Chilli con carne ingredients
It seems most people have their own chilli recipe or their own secret ingredient they add to their spicy stew to make it a cut above the rest.

Chilli sauce

Lorna favours Nigella’s super quick Chorizo and Sweet Chilli using, you guessed it, a jar of sweet chilli sauce for maximum flavour in minimum time.

Balsamic Vinegar

Lottie uses a glug of balsamic vinegar in her cooking pot. Balsamic vinegar and tomatoes seem to be best mates and the acidity of the vinegar really adds a tangy taste to the humble dish.

Dark Chocolate

Laura uses a sprinkling of dark chocolate in her chilli to add rich colour and depth to the flavour.

For the Veggie

As many of you know I don’t eat red meat so my chilli is usually packed with lentils and beans. I am a big fan of Jamie’s sweet potato chilli though I deviate slightly (I know, I’m such a rebel) and use all the spice mix on the pototoes and just use coriander and chill in the main dish.


My husband swears by a very finely chopped carrot chunks in his meat chillies to balance out the flavours.

Chilli con carne ingredients

So what are you putting in your chilli? Do you like a good slurp of red wine? A dash of Worcestershire sauce maybe? Let us know your secret ingredient (and at what point you add it the dish) and favourite chilli con carne recipe. I bet it’ll make me want to make one for tonight’s dinner.

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33 thoughts on “How Do YOU Cook Chilli Con Carne?

  1. I like Thomasina Myers recipe that uses big pieces of meat slow cooked then shredded. Start with onions, garlic and celery sweated. Then I use loads of spices – cumin, allspice, different chilli’s (depending on who its for as to how hot), smoked paprika, cinnamon, cloves. Add meat or mince and brown then tinned tomatoes and slow slow slow cook for about 3 hours. Black and pinto beans as well as or instead of kidney beans and red and green peppers added about half an hour from the end of cooking. Toppings of cheese, fresh coriander, sour cream and pickled jalepenos.

    1. I was about to comment saying the exact same thing. We tend to use beef skirt as it shreds nicely and is amazing!

  2. I LOVE Chilli Con Carne! It’s a go to weekday meal that can be batch cooked in advance and stored in the freezer for those days when I’m home late from work, or served atop fries and covered in cheese when I’m feeling naughty.
    For the last few years however, I have sworn by using Turkey breast mince, it slashes the calorie and fat content and lets the spices shine.
    My other secret ingredient, a good splodge of M&S Barbecue sauce. Now I come to think of it, there’s at least one portion left in my freezer…that’s tonight’s dinner sorted!

  3. I love my chillis and the best tip I ever heard was to add a tablespoon of marmite during cooking. It’s adds a deeper earthy flavour which is amazing. And I usually hate Marmite!

    1. I like the sound of this Hannah! Love a bit of marmite.
      Doesn’t Jamie have some form of marmite and pasta recipe too?

  4. I don’t really follow a recipe for chilli, and tend to vary mine depending on what I have when I’m making it. However, I always put cocoa powder in. It probably does a similar job to Laura’s dark chocolate, but I always have it in the cupboard and it doesn’t need grated. I also prefer the flavour of garlic powder in chilli over fresh garlic – but it’s the only thing I use it in.

    1. The cocoa powder is such a good tip Tracy, especially if it’s too tempting to have a full bar of chocolate in the cupboard!

  5. My boyfriend is the chilli king in our house – and he swears by adding a small, strong cup of coffee and a few squares of dark chocolate. And his chilli is amazing! Aside from that he doesn’t have any set recipe and it’s always made up on the spot.

    You’ve reminded me that I need to pick our apples, Lauren! Oops…

  6. Love a good chilli. I have recently had my second baby and batched cooked a few chilli’s for the freezer 😃
    I’m not a fan of kidney beans so I use baked beans instead. I also add a few squares of dark chocolate.

  7. I love the Tommi Myers recipe- her Mexican Food made Simple is our most messy cookbook (i.e. It gets used) but it does take a while… so I have a cheat recipe involving either tinned tomatoes or a jar of red pesto and a packet spice mix! I also always put sweet corn in… and red lentils in my bolognaise which is very non traditional but just adds an earthy deliciousness. The new Nigella book has a black bean and bourbon chilli that looks good too…

  8. Love a chilli! I make a big vat of mine in the slow cooker. We don’t eat meat, so I put in beans, lentils, chick peas and maybe bit of quorn mince, along with loads of smoked paprika and chili powder. Then I add red wine and a splash of Worcestershire sauce and leave to bubble away for about 4hrs. Yummy!!!

  9. I LOVE chilli – I tend to be with Lorna on this and favour Nigella’s Quick Chilli for both taste and ease of cooking. I also love Jamie’s veggie option though, so tasty. Going to try some of these additional tips though – I’ve heard of adding chocolate but have never done it, and I am intrigued by Hannah’s marmite suggestion in the comments! xx

  10. Look away vegetarians, this tip is not for you…. My husband is a keen smoker, not in a puffing, chuffing on a marlborough kind of way, but in an 8 hour smoked brisket kind of way. Whenever he smokes meat we always whack some leftovers in the freezer and that goes into our next chilli. The most crowd pleasing addition so far has been smoked beef short rib in a big batch of Boxing Day chilli. I know it’s not necessarily hugely accessible for everyone, but anything will do, even smoky pulled pork you buy from the supermarché. That, combined with my couple of squares of dark choc as mentioned above, Worcestershire sauce and the best stock you can buy/make = delicious every time.

  11. Yum, love chilli! I always fry my onions and garlic off with some chopped chorizo (adds a lovely smoky flavour) and I always add Marmite and Worcestershire sauce when I put the chopped tomatoes in. Sometimes the skins on red kidney beans can be a bit tough so butter beans work well too. And always serve with sour cream and guacamole! x

  12. I love a good chilli! Every bonfire night we make a big chilli and invite friends round before walking to our local fireworks display. For the last few years we’ve used Felicity Cloake’s recipe – made with coffee and two types of Mexican chilli: ancho and chipotle, and no tomatoes in sight.
    Honestly once you try it you won’t look back! We serve it with Thomasina Miers’ green rice recipe. So good!

  13. I had agreed before a group holiday that I would “just” bring a big pot of chilli for dinner on our first night, but then suddenly felt pressured to pull it out of the bag… a quick google and found an amazing Jamie Oliver recipe for bolognaise sauce that calls for a tin of sun dried tomatoes chucked in a blitzer until you get a smooth paste – add it to mince/veggies with tins of chopped tomatoes and eh voila, you have your chilli sauce! De-lic-ious!

  14. Teaspoon or two of ground cumin the regular mx of meat, beans, tomatoes, spices, veg etc and chunks of chorizo. Towards the end add in some garam masala. Game changer.

  15. I’ve tried it with the chocolate in and although it might be traditional it wasn’t for me. Similarly I’ve tried mole poblano sauce in tacos and wasn’t too keen. But variety is the spice of life so it’s great to try these things before you make your mind up!

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