The Ultimate Chili According to Americans

Photo: Provided by Edelman.

According to a recently released survey by Bush’s Beans, millennials cook and eat more chili in the winter than baby boomers do. So what makes a great chili? Glad you asked, because Bush’s found out when they questioned over 1,000 chili-eaters about their habits.

The vast majority (82%) of chili lovers consider beans a must-have ingredient in their chili, with 64% claiming beans are the most important part of the dish. Most of the survey respondents (78%) already had a go-to chili recipe, but when asked what ingredients they’d be interested in incorporating, just over a third named barbecue sauce, almost a quarter said mustard or cooking wine, and a fifth considered lime. Among the less popular—but still adventurous—add-ons were: balsamic vinegar (18%), maple syrup (12%), and chocolate (10%).

But what goes into the chili is only half of the story. The other essential element is toppings. Cheese won out as the most popular among survey respondents (83%), but crackers (oyster or otherwise) and saltines came in at a solid 58%. Half of respondents said sour cream was their preferred topping, while onions and chips came in close behind (44% and 43%, respectively). Hot sauce and jalapenos were the topping of choice for a brave 29% and 26% of those surveyed.

Also: 75 Ways to Prepare Potatoes

When it’s time to dig in, chili lovers don’t do so alone. A whopping 97% said that chili was a great meal to share with family and friends and 73% of millennials associated the word “family” with chili. What’s more, over half of those surveyed said that they make, serve, and/or eat chili as part of football-watching festivities. Three out of four respondents went so far as to wager that chili would beat party subs at the Super Bowl! Americans also know who they’d rather share their chili with: the majority of respondents (60%) said the quarterback would be their eatin’ buddy rather than the head coach.

If all that chili talk has made you hungry, fret not because Los Angeles chef Jeffrey Saad (of the Cooking Channel and Food Network fame) took survey respondents’ answers into consideration and created America’s Ultimate Chili.

Before we get to that, though, a few chili-making tips: “Whether you are using meat or making it meatless, add flavor by browning the meat and/or veggies first,” Saad says. “Whatever base you choose make sure it is neutral—i.e. a pure tomato puree versus a flavored tomato sauce—so as not to overpower the great flavors you will add with the beans and vegetables.” Finally, using chili beans is a crucial time-saver because they’re already soaked and cooked. “It’s an instant arsenal of texture and flavor,” Saad says. If you want to punch up your toppings, add barbecue sauce or lime to the sour cream and make sure to caramelize your onions.

And now, without further ado:

America’s Ultimate Chili Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 cups diced onions
  • ½ teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin (whole or ground)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ cup barbecue sauce
  • 1 can (28 ounces) tomato puree
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 Pasilla or green Anaheim chile pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cans (16 ounces each) Bush’s Kidney Chili Beans


Optional Toppings:

  • 1 cup roughly chopped red onion
  • ½ cup cooking wine
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • Shredded cheese
  • Sour cream (to taste)



1. In large pot, heat olive oil and sauté half of the ground beef with onions, until meat is dark golden brown.

2. Add ground mustard powder, bell pepper, pasilla chile pepper, and garlic. Cook 5 minutes. Add syrup, cocoa powder, cumin, black pepper, chili powder, cayenne, barbecue sauce, tomato puree, balsamic vinegar, beef broth, maple syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder, salt, beans, and second half of the ground beef to large pot. Break up the meat and stir.

3. Simmer 20 minutes. Turn heat to low and keep hot.

4. In medium pot, caramelize red onions on medium heat. Add cooking wine, salt, and sugar; simmer until cooking wine is absorbed.

5. Mix lime juice and sour cream together.

6. Serve in chili bowls and top with choice of toppings, such as caramelized onions, cheese, or lime sour cream.



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