Cowboy Chili Is Hearty, Homemade Fast Meal

Chili is a hot favorite at the Johnson household, but since we both work, time can be an issue. The crock pot doesn’t always get set up on a workday morning, or we’re out of our stash of browned hamburger in the freezer.

But Cowboy Chili doesn’t need cooked all day. In fact, you can whip it up in about an hour. It’s rich, chunky, and scoops up well on corn chips. (I favor the lime-flavored ones made by our neighbors at Shearer’s.)

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Cowboy Chili

This chili is more rich than spicy, so if you like it hot, you may want to ‘doctor’ up individual servings.

  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: Serves 4-5 1x


Units Scale
  • 1 pound lean ground beef (we use ground chuck)
  • 128 oz can (or home canned equivalent) crushed tomatoes
  • 1-to-1-1/2 cups frozen corn (yellow or white)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 115 oz can black beans, rinsed (or home canned equivalent)
  • 115 oz can dark red kidney beans, rinsed (or home canned equivalent)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder (or more, to taste)
  • Garlic powder (to taste)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Fresh-ground black pepper (to taste)


  1. Brown ground chuck in cast iron pan, adding salt and pepper to taste. When meat is nearly all browned, add one teaspoon of chili powder and mix in well. (For an extra flavor punch, add 1/4 cup red wine when you add chili powder, and cook until wine has evaporated.)
  2. Once meat is completely browned, drain if needed and transfer to large stainless steel saucepan.
  3. Add onion to cast iron pan, and brown lightly. Transfer to saucepan. (I know, you can do tomato-based dishes in cast iron if they’re quick dishes like this one. I still don’t like tomato in my cast iron!)
  4. To onion and beef, add the remaining ingredients except the corn.
  5. If you’re looking to control salt in your family’s meals, be sure to rinse the beans well in a colander until all the canning liquid is gone, then add to the onion and beef. To save time when cooking, rinse beans and let drain as you brown the beef.
  6. Simmer 20-30 minutes on low, keeping pan covered. You’ll notice that the crushed tomatoes will cook down fairly quickly, so you may need to add a bit of water (or more red wine). The texture of this chili is more like a thick stew. Keep a close eye on it and stir frequently so it doesn’t stick or burn.
  7. Once the seasonings, meat and other flavors have melded, add the corn, and warm through. Serve hot, topping with extra chopped onion, scallions or sour cream if you wish.


Best bread: Serve with sourdough rolls or cornbread.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes

Keywords: chili, soups

Vollrath stainless steel saucepan at
The 4-1/2 qt stainless steel Vollrath Tribute saucepan from is perfect for the two of us. Larger families may need a stockpot.

This chili is more rich than spicy, so if you like it hot, you may want to ‘doctor’ up individual servings. Because it has such a deep flavor, it’s good for parties, when folks like different levels of heat. It’s a pretty forgiving dish, so you can push the heat levels up, or add more of your favorite ingredients. Make sure it’s not too thick, though! It’ll scorch quickly.

This recipe gives the two of us dinner, two lunches, and a little bit left to add to breakfast burritos. Larger families may want to double or triple ingredients. If you make it ahead and freeze it, don’t add the corn until you reheat to serve.

Best bread: serve with sourdough rolls or cornbread.

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