Cooking with Lou

Spice Up Chili

– Posted in: Soup

Spice Up Your Chili

Chili is one of those dishes that have sooooo many variations: veggie, white, chunky, beanless, and on and on. This recipe is your basic meat and bean chili. I spice up chili with a variety of fresh peppers ranging from mild to very hot. A variety will give you different levels of heat in different parts of your mouth (without burning you to the point of being tasteless).


  • 2 lbs of ground meat (turkey or lean beef,  I like to use a chunkier grind for my chili, if its available)
  • 1 onion
  • 1 quart Lou’s Marinara Sauce ( or a jar of your favorite marinara sauce. I use a marinara for the depth of flavor that a long simmered sauce can give.)
  • 1 small red, yellow, or green bell pepper (Enough for about 1/2 cup) If I have one, I use a cubanelle pepper instead. It’s thinner, less membrane, and a tad sweeter, with no bitter aftertaste.
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • 1 habanero (optional, this is for those who really like it hot)
  • 1 tablespoon ground chilpotle powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic or 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 quart tomato juice, or 2 bottles of dark beer or a combination of both. Just make sure you add at least 1 quart of liquid.
  • 1 can spicy chili beans (my kids didn’t like beans in their chili, so I always bought the smallest can, but you can add as many beans as you like, you can even use black beans if you like.) If your kids don’t like the beans, but you want the flavor, just mash them up, or use an immersion blender and puree them.)
  • Cilantro (optional)
  • Juice of 1 lime (or you can substitute 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (You can substitute agave syrup or honey, but DO NOT add any artificial sweetener. The artificial sweetener would add an unpleasant aftertaste. It must be the chemical reaction of long term simmering. )

In a large sauce pan, add a little olive oil to the bottom and let it heat. Chop the onion and add to the pan. Saute until translucent.  Add the ground meat and brown. Salt and pepper the browning meat. Even though you are adding spices later, you still need to add flavor to the meat. You want the meat portion to be just as flavorful as the juice.

When the meat is browned, add the tomato juice and Lou’s  Marinara Sauce. If you don’t have any of Lou’s sauce, feel free to use a good quality grocery store marinara sauce. Once you have the sauce added, we’re ready to add the chili flavor. If you don’t have any marinara sauce on hand, you can use plain canned tomato sauce (32 oz). If you do this you will need to add extra seasoning, especially garlic, basil, salt and pepper. Just remember that every layer needs to add flavor, not dilute it. For a reference of spices you can add, refer to Lou’s Marinara Sauce

De-seed and de-vein the jalapeno and habanero, then finely chop them. WEAR GLOVES.(Rubber surgical gloves work great, or painter’s gloves that you can get at your local hardware store Do not touch your face or eyes, even with the gloves, it will sting and maybe burn. Add the chopped peppers to your pot of chili.

Now, WASH YOUR HANDS a couple of times to remove any remaining pepper juice.I would still keep from touching your eyes. Just to be safe.

Add the ground chipolte powder, garlic, cumin, beans, and lime juice. Let the chili simmer for a couple of hours. The longer it simmers, the better it gets. After an hour or so, add the cilantro. I use fresh, but dried is fine. If you don’t like the flavor of cilantro, just leave it out.

I like to make chili one day, store it in my frig, heat it up again the next day…..Day old chili. Restaurants charge good money for day old chili. If the chile is thicker than you like, add some vegetable, chicken, or beef broth. Don’t just add water. Water will dilute the flavor. If the sauce is not thick enough just let it simmer longer. What ever you add to any dish to alter its consistency, make sure you add flavor not just water.

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