Sunday Night Recipe: The Best Chilli Con Carne You'll EVER Taste (and it's pretty healthy, too)

Everybody I know loves a good Chilli Con Carne. And nearly everyone I know says they make a great version. Most people I know use some kind of packet seasoning – because it’s quicker – and I don’t think anyone thinks it’s a particularly healthy meal.

BUT! I have developed a Chilli con Carne that is not only better than any other I’ve ever tasted (huge claim I know, but also VERY true…), but it’s packed with goodness, so won’t even make you feel overly guilty. Of course, you can stay traditional and serve with some fluffy white rice, but personally? I prefer a beautiful baked potato and huge crispy side salad.

Best of all? The main dish is a one part wonder, so involves very little washing up; is easy to scale up, so you can feed a huge group of friends with if they pop by unexpectedly; and tastes even better later, so is ideal for dividing up & freezing for another day.

So…how do you make it?

  • slug of olive oil
  • 1x medium red onion
  • 4 x cloves of garlic
  • 1 x red pepper
  • 1 x yellow pepper (or green. Or orange. Or another red. Up to you)
  • 1 x courgette
  • 1 x 400g or 500g pack lean steak mince (or Turkey mince if you’re being crazy healthy)
  • 1 x can mixed beans (I use 3 bean salad in spring water from Sainsburys)
  • 1 x 600g jar passata OR 2 x can tinned tomatoes*
  • 1 x teaspoon cumin
  • 1 x teaspoon chilli powder (to YOUR taste)
  • If you like it spicy, add some chopped fresh red chilli too…again to your taste.
*I don’t like using ready made sauces BUT – I once made this when I only had 1 can of chopped tomatoes in the cupboard, so I added that and in desperation I replaced the 2nd can with a can of Lloyd Grossman tomato and chilli sauce I had to hand, and it was AMAZING. I have used it ever since, it makes the recipe even more fabulous. Trust me and try it.

These measurements serve 4 HUNGRY people, or 6 less greedy ones. Cooking time varies as you can leave on a low heat for a long time if you like – but can be done within 45 minutes.

  • Chopping board
  • Sharp Knife
  • Sieve
  • Large, heavy bottom pan with lid (non- stick best)
  • Large spoon (for stirring)
  • Small spoon (for tasting!)
Chili Con Carne: Veggie Prep...Chopped and ready to go.
  1. Add some oil to a large saucepan and lightly colour mince, then remove from pan. Drain excess liquid and set to one side. (Do not over cook – as you’ll be cooking more later – and there’s nothing worse than rubbery meat! If using Turkey you can skip this stage if you want and just poach in liquid at stage 6)
  2. In the same pan, lightly fry onions (use beef juices, but add a touch more oil if required.) Again, just cook until softened – do not burn!
  3. Add garlic to the onions and soften that for a moment or two.
  4. Add peppers, cumin, chilli powder (+fresh chilli if using) and stir until everything is well coated. You’ll smell the amazing spices and it will be DELICIOUS.
  5. Add most of the tinned tomatoes/passata/sauce and bring to a light simmer
  6. Re-add meat, cover, and leave to cook on a low heat for as long as you like (but at least half and hour) – making sure you stir regularly. If mixture starts to get too dry, add the rest of the liquids or even a touch of wine or water.
  7. Once the peppers are soft and the meat is tender, add the courgettes and beans and leave to cook for another 15-30 minutes until the courgettes are the desired texture. I like mine softened, but with a bit of bite left to them. Not too squidgy.

And that’s it! I spoon the whole lot into a big serving dish and let everyone help themselves…it’s the kind of dish that’s perfect for family style dining. Informal, warm and popular with everyone. I made this for friends yesterday and we all loved it…and yep, perhaps even had seconds ūüėČ

You can of course make any variations you like too. Add sweetcorn. Use kidney beans instead of mixed beans. Top with parsley and sour cream. Grate cheese over the top. You can even omit the meat altogether and make it a vegetarian recipe. Whatever you like. Be as healthy, or unhealthy as you like. Totally up to you.

Chili con Carne - family style

First time tips…

If you’re not used to cooking, here are a few tips that will make this SO easy, people will believe you’ve been cooking all your life!

  1. PREPARE! Before you start any actual cooking, get all the ingredients chopped and ready to go. It will make everything less stressful as you go.
  2. You don’t need to chop anything particularly prettily, unless you’re that way inclined. Just make sure the onions are cut quite small and the garlic is minced finely. The peppers and courgettes can be left fairly chunky – or however you prefer.
  3. When you add the garlic, keep an eye on it. It just needs to be coated in oil and slightly softened before adding the next ingredients. There is nothing worse than the taste of burnt garlic, and it will continue to cook.
  4. Don’t be too heavy handed with the spices early on. Even if you like your food really spicy, remember you can always add more chilli as you go…but you can’t take it out. If at stage 6 it’s not quite hot enough when you taste, add a touch more here.
  5. Stir regularly. You don’t want anything to catch (start burning) on the bottom of the pan.
  6. SEASON! I used to be scared of salt and pepper, and hardly added any. Now, I tend to taste at every stage and season as I go. I definitely recommend adding a pinch of salt at stage 4, and again at stage 6.
  7. Remember to wash the beans¬†thoroughly¬†before adding to the pan. Drain them into your sieve and run the cold tap over them to remove any of the gloopy liquid they’ve been sitting in.
  8. Don’t forget to cook your side dishes while the main dish is cooking!

With winter coming, this is a perfect meal. You get some veggies inside you, it’s really hearty, a great meal for family and friends and really doesn’t require much work at all. I get everything on the go, then sit back with a glass of vino (Chilean, of course), popping back occasionally to stir. I always use beef and in total, I usually let mine cook for about 90 minutes so the flavours really develop together…but as I mentioned earlier, you can cut that back to 45 minutes (or even 30!) if you’re in a real rush.


Chili con Carne - ready to eat!

Please do let me know your thoughts if you try this. I’d love to see pictures of your versions, or hear about any adjustments you make to suit you.


I adapted this version from a Bethenny Frankel version I found on the net. Hers uses turkey and fewer vegetables. I prefer mine. Just saying ūüėČ

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    September 17, 2012 at 10:24 am

    Looks good. Try adding those jarred roasted peppers instead… and a dash of Worcester sauce goes a long way.

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