Teach Your Kids How to Make Bean Chili (Recipes Kids Should Know How to Cook Before Leaving Home)
When I first left home and started cooking for myself, chili was one of the first things that I learned how to cook. I’ll never forget calling my mother-in-law and asking for her chili recipe. Instead of a recipe, with a list of specific ingredients and measurements, she simply described how she made chili, using whatever ingredients she happened to have on hand at any given moment. This was not was I looking for. I didn’t know how to cook and felt like I needed specific instructions. She assured me that I could tackle chili and everything would turn out deliciously. And, of course, she was right!
Chili is the dish that gave me confidence in the kitchen. It’s the dish that taught me how to season food, using spices and salt and pepper to taste. It’s the dish that taught me how to look inside my fridge, see what I have on hand, and then go make dinner.
Chili is forgiving and is a great recipe for practicing your cooking skills.
It’s hard to mess up chili and it is the kind of food that can be interpreted and cooked in many different ways. Over the years I’ve figured out my favorite way to cook chili and pretty much make it the same way every time now. That “recipe” came about because I experimented and had fun figuring it out. I still don’t measure any ingredients and sometimes those ingredients change, depending on what I have on hand, but I have definitely found my chili groove and it’s one of my kids’ favorite meals.
Here, I’m sharing “my recipe” with you. But remember kids, you can make this recipe your own. Don’t be afraid to experiment and get comfortable cooking without a recipe. The recipe below will provide you with some general measurements, but feel free to tweak the amounts. Remember, chili is forgiving and is a great recipe for practicing your cooking skills.
Bean Chili Recipe (with or without meat)
- 1 bell pepper, chopped (any color pepper works…I like the red/yellow/orange peppers because they are sweeter, but green bell peppers had some nice color contrast)
- 1/2 of an onion, chopped
- Two 14-ounce cans of beans (I usually use 1 can of kidney beans and 1 can of “chili beans,” which is a mix of three different kinds of beans. Black beans, northern beans, white beans and pinto beans all work nicely. You can also use canned baked beans, but make sure it’s only one of the cans of beans that you include for optimal flavor and texture!)
- 1/2 to 1 pound ground beef (if you want to make vegetarian bean chili, skip the beef and add one more additional can of beans of your choice)
- Two 14-ounce cans UNdrained diced tomatoes (I like “petite diced” best)
- One 8-ounce can tomato sauce (you’ll find it in the canned tomato section at the store)
- If you have leftover salsa or tomato sauce in the fridge you want to use up, add some of that in, too!
- Chili Powder (about 1 tablespoon, but you can do more or less to taste)
- Cumin (about 1 teaspoon)
- Paprika (about 1 teaspoon)
- Optional: Cayenne pepper (just a few shakes, this will make the chili spicy if you want it spicy!)
- Optional: 1/2 to 1 tablespoon brown sugar (I only add this sometimes, when I want a little bit of sweetness in the chili)
- Salt (start with 1/2 teaspoon, taste, then add a bit at a time until it tastes right)
- Pepper (a few shakes!)
- In a large pot, heat about 1 tablespoon of cooking oil over medium heat (right in the middle of the dial, a “5” on a dial that goes up to 10).
- Add the chopped onions and bell peppers. Cook until softened and onions look clear, about 5 minutes.
- If using ground beef, add the ground beef and cook stirring for about 5 minutes, until all the ground beef is broken up and browned. I like to sprinkle the meat and vegetables with a bit of salt and pepper while they cook.
- Once meat is cooked through, remove the pan from the heat, pushing everything to one side and then tipping the pan so the grease drains to the side of the pan where there is no food. Carefully soak up the grease with paper towels. Return pan to heat.
- Add the canned tomatoes, tomato sauce and beans. (If using up leftover salsa or tomato sauce, add them at this time, too.)
- Bring chili to a simmer, adding all of the spices at this point. You can raise the heat to medium-high (about 7-8 on a dial that goes up to 10) to bring it just to a boil then reduce the heat to medium-low (about a 3 on a dial that goes up to 10) to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
Published March 23, 2017. Last updated May 23, 2018.