Cooking with Ceci: Southwestern chili con carne

Tried and tested, southwestern chili con carne is a popular choice for families. Photo by Ceci Martinez)
Tried and tested, southwestern chili con carne is a popular choice for families. Photo by Ceci Martinez)

Every year my boy’s elementary school in California hosted a carnival with rides, talent shows, and among other things a famous chili contest. For three consecutive years, the same family took home the trophy for the “Tastiest Ever” chili! The recipe was classified as “TOP SECRET.” My mission became to recreate this tasty meal as close as the winner family’s! Over the years I’ve tried many different recipes and variations. My toughest critiques, my boys and husband officially awarded a medal to this dish! I hope you will agree with them. This food has lots of flavors, is perfect for hectic days or casual gatherings.

Note: Serve warm chili with plain rice with a spoon of sour cream or pile it on tortilla chips and sprinkle with shredded cheese or with cornbread.

Prep/cook time: about 45 minutes – Serves: 8


2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 green bell pepper, large diced

1 red bell pepper, large diced

1/2 red onion, large diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 1/2 pounds ground chuck

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

3 tablespoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon sugar

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Cook onions until soft and translucent, add garlic, peppers until slightly tender. In the same pot, brown meat breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Make sure to keep the heat hot enough for the meat to fry and become brown, rather than just stewed. Add spices, sugar and mix all well. Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste and beans, give it a good stir, put a lid on the pot and turn down the heat to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If sauce is drying out add a couple of tablespoons of water. Sauce should look thick, moist and juicy. Taste for seasoning. Turn off the heat and leave chili to stand for about 10 minutes before serving so flavors can blend.


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