BA’s Best: Beef Chili

BA’s Best: Beef Chili

Until this recipe, I had never had beanless chili. Until this recipe, I thought beanless chili was a waste of time. Until this recipe I thought beanless chili was just stew masking behind a different name. Until this recipe, I was an idiot.

Those of you familiar with Texas-style chili will surely not be surprised by my idiocy, but understand – to the rest of the world, ‘chili’ means something that is made with cheap, often canned, ingredients, the number one of which is beans. Having grown up on absolute gallons of beans every week, I thought that chili without beans could not possibly harbor anything substantial enough to make it rib-sticking and hearty. This chili forced me to rub my nose in these erroneous ways of thinking with its rich, luscious sauciness and belly-filling meatiness. And just in case you really wanted to turn your previous conceptions of chili on their head, you can hotdish the crap out this chili (Molly Yeh-style) by topping it with homemade tater tots prior to serving. Sorry/you’re welcome.

Beef Chili

BA’s Best: Beef Chili

Taken from BA’s Best arsenal, with the most minor of tweaks here and there

Serves 4


2 dried guajillo chiles
1 dried pasilla chile
1 dried ancho or morita chile
1 L chicken broth
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb boneless beef chuck, cut into small bite-sized pieces (~ ½-inch pieces)
½ lb boneless beef short ribs, cut into small bite-sized pieces (~ ½-inch pieces)
½ lb beef brisket, cut into small bite-sized pieces (~ ½-inch pieces)
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, chopped (optional – it will add more heat)
1 12-oz bottle lager (you can easily substitute with a gluten-free beer to make this recipe celiac-friendly)
Sour cream + shredded cheese + diced red onion + corn chips + cilantro leaves, to serve


Place the guajillo, pasilla, and ancho/morita chiles in a dry skillet set over medium-high heat. Toast the chiles, by pressing them against the pan and turning occasionally, cooking for 2-3 minutes or until dark patches appear and the air smells fragrantly spicy. Avoid blackening the chiles as this gives a more acrid taste to the chili – this is easier said than done as the pasillas and moritas are dark, making it hard to tell when they’re burning. Transfer the chiles to a deep bowl and cover with 2 cups boiling water. Cover and let the chiles soften for 30 minutes. Drain the water and remove the stems and seeds from the chiles. Place the cleaned chiles in a blender along with the chicken broth and puree until smooth. If the chile sauce seems too gritty or flecked with larger pieces of chile skin, strain it before setting aside. **Warning that the toasted and soaked chiles have a way of permeating the air and irritating your throat, especially if you are an allergy- or asthma-prone person (as I am). Open lots of windows if needed and take breaks to go breathe fresh air if you find yourself coughing excessively.

Once you’ve made the chile sauce, move on to the meat. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Lightly dry off the meat cubes with paper towel, then season generously with salt and pepper. Working in batches, cook the beef until seared and lightly browned on all sides. This should take you 3 separate batches to avoid overcrowding the pan. If at any point the bottom of the pot starts to burn, turn the heat down and try to pick out any really burnt bits. Transfer the cooked beef cubes to a large plate and set aside.

In the same pot, heat another 1 tbsp olive oil, lowering the heat down to medium and wiping out the pan first if any burnt bits have collected on the bottom. Bits of beef and pools of beef fat are okay (in fact, ideal), but you just don’t want anything blackened sitting in the pot and rubbing its flavour off onto the rest of the ingredients. Once the oil has heated, add the onions and garlic to the pot, cooking until softened and lightly golden, about 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. The onion juices should help deglaze the pot a bit, loosening any meaty bits stuck to the bottom, but you can help this process along by adding a splash of water or chicken broth if needed. Stir in the cumin, oregano, and chipotle (if using). Cook, stirring, for another minute.

Retun the beef cubes to the pot along with the lager. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the liquid has reduced almost entirely. Pour in the reserved chile sauce and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 ¼ - 1 ½ hours, or until the liquid has thickened and the meat has become fork tender. Add broth or water as needed to help keep the meat submerged during cooking if necessary.

Serve the chili piping hot, with bowls of toppings at the table for people to help themselves to. The corn chips are a non-negotiable as they give a wonderfully pleasing crunch to the braised meat. If you wanted to be really crazy, you could pull a Molly Yeh and turn this chili into a hotdish situation, like this one. Regardless of how you serve it though, lean into that slight lip burn and let the warmth of the chili seep into every part of your body.

Beef Chili