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Enjoy National Chili Day with a Cook-off in your Outdoor Kitchen

February 23, 2022

Chili isn’t just a cold weather food – you can enjoy it all year round. Just look at all the outdoor chili cook-offs and contests held across the country – it’s a crowd-pleasing dish you can make with a variety of meats, veggies and spices to suit any palate. 

To Bean or Not to Bean

Although some areas of the country will disagree on whether beans belong in chili, the traditional chili recipe calls for both meat and beans — along with several spices — to create a savory mix of flavors. Here’s a classic recipe perfect for this special “holiday:”  

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 
  • 1 large onion, chopped 
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste  
  • ¼ cup chili powder 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin 
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander 
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano 
  • 2 pounds of ground beef (can be substituted with vegetarian-friendly alternatives)  
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper 
  • 1 15-ounce cans kidney beans  
  • 3 14-ounce can diced tomatoes  


  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and bell pepper, cook, stirring until softened (5-7 minutes). Add tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, coriander and oregano. Cook, stirring for about 2 minutes/until brick red.  
  1. Add beef, 1 teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Continue cooking and stir until beef is no longer pink (about 3-4 minutes). Add beans, tomatoes, 1 cup of water and ½ teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer and cook, adjusting the heat as needed and stirring occasionally until thickened (about 35-45 minutes). Season with salt.  

Looking for a Unique Way to Kick it Up?

You can stop here to make savory chili – or you can add even more heat and flavor with different chiles and spices. We talked to Anne Milneck, chef and proprietor of Red Stick Spice Company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana about how to make your chili an award-winning recipe.  

According to Anne, the best chili has a good balance of savory, umami flavors from meat and aromatics, along with tang from the tomato and heat from chiles. To enhance the savory flavors of the meat, Anne says chili powders are key. These spice blends can be spicy, smoky or even chocolatey – so finding the one that speaks to you is important. A great combination of all these flavors is Anne’s Dark la Mesa Chili powder blend.

outdoor chili cook off recipes

If you want to bring the heat, it’s all about the chiles. A chili powder or flake will increase the spice level, and the final selection depends on how far you want to take things. A great reference is the Scoville chart, which breaks down different chiles and their Scoville level, which ranks the spiciness. Understanding the type of heat and flavor profile you want will determine if you need chili powder blend or a single chile ground to a powder, like Ancho or Jalapeño. Some adventurous chili eaters will even venture to the Ghost pepper, which isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for a more subdued option, Hot smoked paprika also is a great option to add a sweeter heat.  

For National Chili Day – and any day you want a hearty meal – fire up your outdoor grill, grab your spices and get cooking!  

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