Chili Parlor Chili
A classic American staple made easy.
Deep with complex flavor, smooth, and served on top of a hotdog or eaten solo in a bowl, nothing screams classic Americana quite like chili. Nowadays, you’ll find recipes teeming with a volume collection’s worth of ingredients and tons of pots, all of which use up your precious free time and wreak havoc on your kitchen. But what if there was another way? Well, there is with this classic Chili Parlor Chili! This recipe is simple and super versatile, and what’s even better is that it tastes like you’ve been cooking it for hours.
While every country has its meat sauce, American chili has been a backbone staple for many communities in different states. From Chili Queens serving cowboys in the flatland frontiers of Texas to frugal counter service chili parlors staving off the strife of the Great Depression, chili has been front and center affordable good eats. Mirroring the rich sauces of northern Mexican cuisine, chili relied on the deeply developed sauce to provide satiety, when in reality, there was very little meat in the chili itself. During the Great Depression, many places added bulk by substituting some or half of the ground meat for cheaper ingredients like oatmeal. While Chili Queens are long gone, and very few Depression-era chili parlors stand, the memory of smooth and saucy chili still rings loudly in everyone’s memory. Luckily, now you don’t have to reminisce about it, you can make this chili.
This is a one-pot recipe from start to finish, you sear, simmer, and cook the chili all in one pot. Searing the meat in a bit of oil releases the fat, providing richness. Here you see that this chili is still a very bright red color from the tomato puree.
Next comes, well, everything else. Yes, this is a dump-and-pour recipe. If you wanted to be extra fancy, you could add all of the spices after searing the ground beef. Cooking the spices before adding the liquids will bloom spices, making them more fragrant and cooking off some of the spices’ raw flavors. But, if you’re like me and have a goal of chili in your mouth immediately vibes, then the simple dump-and-pour method works just fine, you’ll be cooking the chili long enough to develop some good flavor.
After 35 to 40 minutes, the color deepens, and the chili becomes super fragrant. While the ingredient list hosts a number of familiar flavors — onion, garlic, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, and paprika, there are so many unsuspecting ingredients that you’ll find in the recipe as well. Here this chili takes a trick from Mexican mole’s playbook. Cocoa powder is the secret ingredient that makes your chili deep with flavor. Unsweetened cocoa powder works with heat to complement and enhance flavors that are usually lost in the heat of the chilis and the heavy fragrance of aromatics like garlic and onions.
Cocoa powder isn’t the only secret trick to this chili. While many people pigeonhole soy sauce into dishes that have Asian flavors, this ingredient is a versatile workhorse. It gives the dish an earthy or savory quality.
You only need to simmer it all for 40 minutes, but don’t just set it and forget it. Periodically stir the pot, especially the sides and the bottom.
This sauce is super versatile, you can have it as is, topping it with onions, scallions, or cheese. You can also make the famous dish called Cincinnati chili which is spaghetti topped with smooth chili sauce. Or you can do what I did and use it as a sauce for hotdogs. This chili freezes well, just make sure you cool it down completely before portioning it into freezer bags.
However you eat it is up to you, but you’ll certainly be making this chili more frequently than you plan!
Chili Parlor Chili
10m prep time
40m cook time
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lbs ground beef, you can use either 90/10 or 80/20
- 2 cups beef or chicken broth
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce or puree
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons chili flakes
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- In a large pot heat oil over medium heat and then add in ground beef. Use your spoon or spatula to break up the meat. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until most of the pink is gone.
- Add in broth, tomato sauce, chili powder, cocoa powder, Worcestershire sauce, chili flakes, paprika, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper.
- Bring to a simmer, and then lower the flame. Cover the pot, and cook for 35 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent chili from sticking to the bottom.
- Season with salt and pepper and enjoy.