This chili con carne is made with shredded rather than ground (minced) beef. The beef is incredibly juicy plus it’s faster to prepare than cooking ground beef. This packs a serious flavour punch, it’s made from scratch and the sauce is thick and rich.
“Visiting Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington DC was the catalyst for my mission to make my own signature chili con carne.”
Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington. If you haven’t been there, you haven’t lived. For chili con carne die hards, it is heaven in a bowl. It’s an institution in Washington, if not the entire US. With a run down charm, open late into the night, Ben’s is the kind of place where you have to fight for a table and yell to put in your order.
There’s a famous sign on the wall that’s apparently been there forever that reads: “Who eats free at Ben’s: Bill Cosby. No one else.” It has now been expanded to include the Obama family. And no one else!
Visiting Ben’s was the catalyst for my mission to make my own signature chili con carne. I didn’t even try to replicate Ben’s because I know it’s not possible. It would be like trying to crack the KFC code!
“The effort vs output of this Chili Con Carne is off the charts!”
I’ve tried many chili con carne recipes in my time. Slow cooked on the stove top, making fire roasted sauce from scratch. Shortcut recipes made in the slow cooker and in the oven. Versions with beans and old school Texas style “real deal” chili con carne without beans. Using ground (minced) beef. And using shredded beef. Recipes with 5 ingredients (ummm – NO!). Recipes with 32 ingredients (seriously……).
I’ve read countless articles and even forum threads (Texans take their chili con carne seriously!!!) about what makes “the best” chili con carne. I was quite amazed at the extent of how passionate people are about their chili!!
So I’m not going to declare that this is “the ultimate” chili con carne or that it’s a full blown authentic old school Texan version. It’s not even made with ground (minced) beef! But it’s a darn good version, in my humble opinion. And for effort vs output, it’s off the charts. The sauce is thick and rich, the beef is juicy and really meaty owing to the long, slow cooking.
“I make my chili con carne with shredded beef. It’s faster to make than using ground beef, plus the shreds of beef are so incredibly juicy!”
I make mine with shredded beef. I know that’s not traditional, but hear me out! Firstly, the shreds of beef are incredibly juicy, a moistness that can’t be matched by ground beef. And secondly, it means that if you choose to skip searing the beef, it literally takes 5 minutes to throw everything into the slow cooker then you can just “set and forget”. When the beef is cooked, it is so incredibly tender that it takes barely a minute to shred because it falls apart at a touch.
This recipe makes a very big batch. Because it freezes so well, if I’m going to make this I may as well stock up! So I use a hunk of beef between 1.5 – 2kg (3 – 4 lb) which makes around 12 to 15 cups of chili con carne.
I freeze chili con carn in 1 cup batches in freezer bags. Labelled of course. Always labelled! I always hate myself when I have to throw out something in the freezer because I can’t remember how long it’s been there. A tip for freezing is to flatten the freezer bags out after filling them with chili con carne, then stack them up on top of each other in the freezer. Not only is this a space efficient way of freezing food, but it means it defrosts faster too.
What to serve with chili con carne
The most common way I know for serving chili con carne is with plain rice. However, it is also fantastic served with a baked potato (or in a baked potato skin!), with tortillas, bread rolls, corn bread or on hot dogs.
For garnishes, shredded cheese, sour cream and avocado goes really well (either diced or guacamole). Also fritos / tortilla chips. And for a burst of freshness, coriander/cilantro is a great match. I also sometimes serve it with lime wedges. A squeeze of lime juice does wonders to cut through the richness and it matches really well with the “tex mex” flavours of this chili con carne.
That’s it from me! Onto the recipe. 🙂 Just drop a comment below if you have any questions and I’ll be sure to answer them.
Shredded Beef Chili Con Carne
- 3 - 4 lb / 1.5 - 2 kg beef chuck roast, or any other beef suitable for slow cooking, see notes, brisket
- 2 tbs olive oil, optional - for searing the beef
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 onions, white, yellow or brown, diced
- 1 large red capsicum/bell pepper, seeds removed and diced
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp onion powder
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp oregano
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste, see notes
- 3 tbsp cornflour / corn starch mixed with a splash of water
- 2 cans 15oz/400g red kidney beans, total of 30 oz / 800g, drained
- 28 oz/800g can crushed or diced tomato
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 1 cup water or beef stock
- 3 tsp salt, plus more to taste, separated
- Black pepper
- Cut the beef into two equal size pieces so you have two pieces roughly the same size.
- Season the beef with 1 tsp salt and a good grind of black pepper.
- Heat olive oil in a fry pan over high heat.
- Add the garlic, onion and capsicum (bell peppers) and saute until caramelised, around 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer onion and capsicum into the slow cooker.
- Return fry pan to high heat and add the beef. Sear the beef on all sides until well browned. Remove the beef and place into the slow cooker.
- Pour the 1 cup of water into the fry pan and bring to simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan to mix the brown bits in. Pour the water into the slow cooker with the beef, making sure to get all the brown bits into the slow cooker.
Slow Cook Beef
- If you did the Searing step, then add the remaining ingredients into the slow cooker (remember you already used the 1 cup of water to deglaze the pan so you don't need to add more).
- If you chose not to do the Searing step, then simply place all the ingredients into the slow cooker.
- Cook on high for 8 hours. This will make the beef "fall apart" at a touch.
- Remove beef from slow cooker and shred with two forks.
- Return shredded beef to slow cooker.
- Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with rice and garnishes of choice, such as sour cream, guacamole or diced avocado, grated cheese, coriander/cilantro.
The nutrition assumes 2kg/4lb beef is used and it serves 15 people (1 cup per person).