I've been making chili since I got married almost 13 years ago and we make it every fall-winter. There's just something so warm and ...

Cardboard Mom's Chili Recipe

I've been making chili since I got married almost 13 years ago and we make it every fall-winter. There's just something so warm and comforting about it! If I had chosen a date for National Chili Day, I definitely would have chosen a day during football season - football and chili have just always gone together for us! It's a little warmer than it's been, but there's still snow on the ground outside so I think today is a perfect day for chili, even though football season is long gone.

I'm going to share my chili recipe but, to me, there is no perfect chili recipe. It's a very versatile personal kind of dish so feel free to use this as inspiration to create your own signature chili recipe! I don't even make it exactly the same every time!

Cardboard Mom's Chili


  • 1lb ground beef (or a mix of ground beef and Italian sausage with casings removed)
  • 1 1/2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, choppped
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn
  • 14-15oz can of diced tomatoes, no salt added
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8oz can tomato sauce, no salt added
  • 1/2 cup ketchup (or plain BBQ sauce)
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • Seasonings of choice - I usually include garlic, onion, and chili powders, cumin, paprika, oregano, and salt and don't measure :-)

Special Equipment: 
6-quart slow cooker
1. Cook ground meat in a skillet. Once it's cooked through, add it to the slow cooker.
2. Add in the onions, peppers, corn, diced tomatoes, and garlic.
3. Pour the tomato sauce, ketchup, and apple cider vinegar over the meat and veggies. Sprinkle brown sugar, cocoa powder, and seasonings over the top. Give everything a gentle stir.
4. Cover the slow cooker and cook on HIGH for at least 3-5 hours, stirring well after an hour or two. After that, leave the slow cooker on LOW or KEEP WARM until you're ready to eat (or just eat right then if you can't wait!)
5. We like it best served with a sprinkle of shredded cheddar, a dollop of sour cream, and a pile of Fritos for scooping.

- Sometimes I add about a cup of refried beans or a can of black beans, but my family prefers it without beans.  
- The kids don't really like spicy stuff so I leave it out now, but before they came along I used to add 1 1/2 tablespoons of pureed chipotles in adobo (it may not seem like a lot but a little really does go a long way and it adds a nice smoky spicy flavor). Now, if we want it a little spicy we just add a little hot sauce or chili sauce to our bowls after it's cooked.
- You could experiment with other ground meats - I've used venison before when we had friends go hunting and share some meat with us. I've also used veggie crumbles when making it for vegetarian friends and it's been delicious every time! 

I hope you're inspired to create your own chili recipe that your family will love!