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Hearty, healthy chili recipes

Chili recipes are as numerous and varied as the people who enjoy this spicy concoction of meat, tomatoes and other vegetables. Here’s a collection of the best low-carb varieties, featuring a few (formerly) secret ingredients.


Chili is more than a satisfying stew

To say chili – or more precisely, chili con carne (Spanish for peppers with meat) – is a stew is like saying water is a liquid: it’s so much more than that. This hearty dish originated in Mexico as a way to use leftover meats, make beef go as far on the family’s menu as possible, and serve bar patrons food on the cheap.

For its ability to satisfy hearty appetites inexpensively and deliciously, chili has earned a place of honor in places significantly north (or south!) of the equator. In fact, chili is the official dish of Texas, owing to the state’s proximity to Mexico and chili’s popularity among cowboys, who packed a dried mix for later reconstitution on the trail.

So what makes up a traditional chili? Virtually all recipes have these ingredients in common:

· Meat
· Tomatoes
· Peppers (check out these peppers!)
· Garlic
· Onions

Note that beans are not on the list. In fact, the chili cookoff rules of the Chili Appreciation Society International – a group that promotes the consumption of chili and sponsors hundreds of chili cooking contests a year to benefit charities – expressly forbids beans, rice and other ingredients it considers fillers. So if you’re on a low-carb regimen and think you can’t eat chili because of the beans, think again! (However, if you can’t fathom chili without beans, give this high-fiber Red Zone Chilirecipe a try.)

Low-carb chili recipes

Recipes vary by region and tradition. Here are just a few, adjusted where necessary to fit your low-carb way of eating.

Traditional Texas-Style Chili

Serves 4 to 6

Contrary to what you might expect, the original recipe for chili contains meat, chili peppers (or chili powder) and spices – that’s it. No tomatoes, other vegetables, rice or other ingredients we commonly associate with the dish. The meat is typically small chunks of stew meat such as beef or venison.

6 small dried seeded red chiles, stems trimmed (or 3 tablespoons chili powder)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 pounds cubed beef chuck or venison
1-1/2 cups beef stock
1/3 cup chopped garlic
1 chopped onion
2 tablespoons cumin
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 cup paprika
2 sprigs fresh cilantro

1. Put chiles in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Remove saucepan from heat, cover and let sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a skillet, heat oil and brown 1-1/2 pounds of the meat, cooking for 7 to 8 minutes. Do not drain.

2. Puree chiles and water in a blender or food processor. Transfer to a large, heavy pot along with meat and juices. (If using chili powder, add this to meat.) Simmer over low heat. Add beef stock to cover meat and add garlic, onion, spices and cilantro. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about an hour uncovered, stirring occasionally and adding water, if necessary. Skim fat from surface before serving.

Chili Verde (“Green Chile”)

Serves 4 to 6

1 pound cubed pork
5 tomatillos
3 serrano chiles
4 garlic cloves
1 medium onion
1/3 of a cilantro bunch

Brown pork chunks and drain off fat. Place tomatillos, chiles, garlic and onion in a pot. Cover and heat on medium high, stirring occasionally until soft. Remove from heat and puree mixture in a blender or food processor. Pour puree over meat and simmer 15 minutes on low heat. Add cilantro and continue simmering for another 15 minutes.

Chili Casserole

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds ground beef
1 packet taco seasoning
2 small cans diced chiles
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

Brown meat. Add taco seasoning and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Line casserole dish with chiles. Alternate layers of meat and cheese until all are used, ending with a layer of cheese. Place under broiler for 5 to 7 minutes or until cheese is melted. Serve with sour cream, salsa and/or guacamole.

Classic Red Chili

Serves 6 to 8

1 large chopped green pepper
2 chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 tablespoon oil
2 pounds ground beef
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 small can tomato sauce
1 cup water
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Salt to taste

Saute green pepper, onions and celery in oil in a large heavy pan until onions are translucent and vegetables are tender. Add beef and cook until browned, then drain. Stir in tomatoes, tomato sauce, water, Worcestershire sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Low-carb not-so-secret ingredients

Adventurous cooks can’t resist tinkering, and chili is the perfect pot of potential. If you’re in the mood to add some diciness to the spiciness, try these ingredients:

· Beer
· Bourbon
· Cinnamon
· Coffee
· Diet cola
· Dry red wine
· Peanut butter
· Saffron
· Tequila
· Tomatillos
· Vinegar
· Whiskey

More low-carb features

Check out our online magazine LowCarb
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