Winter Chili for a Chilly Winter

ChiliIt’s the middle of winter and – in most parts of the country – it’s bitterly cold. Whereas most people turn to “comfort” food like heaping bowls of mashed potatoes or platters of mac and cheese in the winter months, those of us living Primally must approach things a little differently. We can’t take solace in the grains and beans that fill so many stomachs with empty calories and regressive nutrition, and that provide the “full” feeling that people seem to enjoy (I don’t know about you guys, but it just makes me feel bloated and useless).

But don’t assume eating junk food is the only way to stay full, happy, and warm. We have plenty of options. Spicy food, for one, leaves me feeling warm and sated. And I’ll put a hearty stew full of meat, veggies, and spices up against any modern carb fest. Or even better: make a big pot of beanless Primal chili! It’s unquestionably hearty and spicy, it’s full of healthy protein and fats, and it’ll make plenty of leftovers for later use.

I made this recipe on Tuesday with the kids. It was incredibly easy, and I’m actually eating a big bowl of leftovers as I type this (like with most stews and chilis, it’s actually better after marinating a couple of days in the fridge). There’s a fair amount of prep work, but once it’s simmering you’re basically trying to kill time until it’s ready to eat (the amazing smells permeating your kitchen don’t make this any easier).

Primal Chili Recipe:


3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, diced
3 pasilla peppers, seeded and diced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
3 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 cinnamon stick
2 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes, crushed
1 dark beer, such as a porter or imperial stout
2-4 tablespoons canned chipotle chile, diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Grated queso fresco, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Lime wedges, for garnish


Heat a large heavy bottomed pot over medium heat; add 3 tablespoons olive oil, the onions, pasilla peppers, and red pepper. Cook until everything is soft and the onions are beginning to caramelize, about 10 minutes.

Pat the beef dry and season it with salt and pepper. Add it to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.

Add oregano, paprika, coriander, cumin, chili powder, garlic, cinnamon stick, tomatoes, beer and chipotle (add as little as one teaspoon to the whole can depending on how hot you’d like your chili).

Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the meat and shred it with a fork.

Return it to the pot, and cook for another 10 minutes, uncovered, to thicken. Right before you are ready to serve add the red wine vinegar to the pot and stir. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve with the queso fresco, cilantro, and lime for garnish.

Serves 6-8.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that the recipe isn’t strictly Primal. The beer and cheese in particular probably leap out at you. If you want to stay pure, nix those items, using plain water as needed instead of beer. But a bottle of good dark beer is worth the tiny sacrifice (especially if it means the perfect pot of chili), in my experience, and the cheese is in such small amounts that it’s basically inconsequential (especially if you’re already following the Primal Blueprint).

petrilli Flickr Photo (CC)

Further Reading:

Is Canned Soup Really That Bad For You?

Choose Your Own Salad Adventure

More Mark’s Daily Apple Recipes

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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65 thoughts on “Winter Chili for a Chilly Winter”

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  1. Mark you are starting to scare me. First the bars, now the chili. I am posting my wifes buffalo chili crockpot recipe soon! This one looks mighty good too. Chili is so good during the cold cold winter (that you So-calers don’t experience 😉 )

    The SoG

  2. I went Primal several months ago, and chili has become my staple meal. I love it. And I ate beanless chili long before I cut the carbs. Beans in chili = wrong (just look up any contest winner. Nary a bean to be found). A couple suggestions:

    +Try beef broth instead of beer. Beer sounds like it will make a chili taste heartier, but it really just adds a sour undertone.

    +Depending on the quality of meat, you may want to brown it separately and strain the meat before adding it to the pot. I’d especially suggest this if you go with ground chuck.

  3. Mark,

    I did know you had recipes! I am going to make the Avocado soup tonight.

    I have now successfully hosted three dinner parties in a purely primal way. (Other than the sugar the guests have in their after dinner tea, oh and the odd glass of Port too.) I don’t actually talk about the absence of starchy carbs, I just serve. Only great comments so far and people leave feeling great!

  4. McFly – I’d have to disagree about the sour undertone. This chili had none of that. Give it a try (and make sure you aren’t using some lite pilsner).

    fatehunter – I love to hear these stories. People don’t have to know what you are serving them is Primal food. Primal food is just delicious, natural food that anyone can enjoy. Serve copious amounts of veggies with some quality meat all covered in delicious fat and they’ll never miss the starches, breads, potatoes and pastas. And they’ll leave the dinner party feeling satisfied instead of stuffed and bloated.

  5. Come on SoG… we dipped down to 48 degrees last night in LA. We deserve to be warmed by some chili too!

    Here’s a recipe I always make that is super easy but always tastes delicious. A great alternative if you don’t have the time or the ingredients Mark’s amazing-sounding chili needs.
    – 2 bls Ground meat- can be either all beef or a combo beef and turkey
    – Canned tomatoes- preferably 8 oz diced tomatoes (drain juice) and 26 oz stewed tomatoes (leave juice)
    – 1 full chopped onion
    – Chili powder and pepper to taste

    While meat is browning , chop onion and open tomatoes (drain the diced). When meat is browned, drain. Add meat, onions, tomatoes, chili powder and pepper to large pot – cook on low simmer for as little as 20 min and as long as 1 hour – stirring occasionally. Total time can be 30 minutes with prep – can be made up to 24 hrs in advance. Just re-heat on stove or in microwave.

    1. Holly,

      Thanks for putting out this recipe. I made it tonight because I was dying for some chili. It is amazing. So simple, so tasty. I can’t wait for the left overs now!

  6. Love the use of all the different peppers. It’s a nice twist from my usual chili recipe. I’ve heard real Texans think that beans in chili are an abomination 🙂

  7. Thanks for another great recipe! I’m going to make this tomorrow. It also solves a dilemma. I got a six pack of Shiner Christmas Cheer for Christmas but since I’ve gone primal on January 1st I still have two bottles left.

    It was 64 degrees in sunny Colorado yesterday, but half that and cloudy today so this will be good to try.

    Not to be like people who are given free beer and then complain that it’s not cold but can you list the number of servings the recipes make? This looks like it makes a lot but with a family of six I want to make sure there is enough for everyone.

  8. Dave – Good question. Sorry I didn’t list it. If I recall correctly this makes 4 largish bowls. It could be stretched to 6 small bowls if you were serving it with a side salad or something else to round out a dinner.

  9. I would have to add at least one can or cup of soaked beans or my husband will not eat it. Maybe it’s a Canadian thing but I’ve never even seen Chili made without beens. Maybe I’ll cut the beer to make up for it 🙂

  10. Thanks Mark for sharing this great recipe! This is just in time for my dinner plan. Tomorrow we’re expecting rain/snow mix. I’ll definitely make enough for left overs because next week snow on the way. This recipe sounds delicious!

  11. Don’t worry, Zen Fritta. I understand that this isn’t the first beanless chili. To say it is primal is only to point out that it fits within the Primal eating philosophy. Thanks for the link.

  12. Thank you for this recipe….this was a great starting point for tonight’s dinner in a crockpot that turned out to be Exceptional! The spices were hmmmm good.

  13. Love this stuff. I haven’t made chili with beans or ground beef in 10 years! I say leave out the tomatoes too. Beef, peppers and spices get the job done quite nicely all on their own!

  14. Why didn’t I see this before I went to the store today? Considering the high was, oh, about 25 degrees today, that would have been marvelous. And any excuse to use beer in a recipe is great in my book. (Darn German and English ancestors!)

  15. Mark.
    I’m going to the farmers market this morning and will pick up a variety of fresh peppers.
    Thanks for the recipe. I’ll be making it tonight!
    Oh, SOG it’s a crisp morning here in SW Florida, about 70 degrees 😉


  16. Looks tasty Mark. I know what you mean about chilli being a fantastic winter warmer. I cooked something similar this week but used spinach in stead of tomato. Beef and spinach doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven but they go really, really well together – especially once you have added a few spices.

  17. I like chilli without beans and so does my husband…in part because he knows his option is to cook his own dinner. We had a huge cooking extravaganza on New Year’s Day–I roasted about 10 pounds of goat meat and 5 pounds of beef and washed and chopped about a dozen different vegies. We got creative and filled the freezer with homemade pot pies for my husband (not primal due to pie crust and gravy with flour but far better for him than the frozen, salty processed lunches he reverts to) and we made and canned in the pressure cooker three different versions of homemade soup–chicken, goat and beef. Then we barbecued rack of goat ribs that we had marinated since the night before for our New Year’s dinner. Cooking together can be pretty fun and it’s great to be stocked up on healthy “grab and go” food for when things get busy.

    I work at a public school located on a leased cattle ranch. Wild elk roam there, too. I buy and am gifted elk meat, goats, farm eggs and grass-fed beef from ranchers regularly. I make a lot of jerky as a result of the access to meat, and also because it works so well for me in my pack while rock climbing and mtn biking. The rancher woman I work with says beer helps soften and break down the beef, and she advocates its use in jerky. I have not liked the flavor it added to my jerky in the past, but the last batch was different. I used stout instead of a lager. (I was given the stout at Christmas and normally I don’t really like to drink that. I prefer hoppy IPAs, and light low-carb beers like Heineken help me keep my carbs under 100–carbs range from 3 grams to 30 grams per beer depending on the type.) ANYHOW, I think Mark may have something there with the stout. Here is how I made the last batch, which was a big hit.

    1. Slice up the beef into strips and marinate it in equal parts of wheat-free soy and tapatia sauce for 24 hours in the fridge in a covered casserole dish.
    2. Add more hot sauce (anything that’s really hot, about a quarter cup)to a food processor along with half a bottle of stout, two habanero peppers with seeds and one jalapeno with seeds. (This was for 1.75 pounds of beef.) Puree it well.
    3. Add that pepper puree to the marinading meat, stir it in well and let it marinate another 4 hours or so, stirring a few times so the death paste doesn’t infiltrate a few lone pieces too much.
    4. Cook in food dehydrator for about 7 hours.

  18. Also I agree beef and spinach are great together. I make a meat sauce with ground beef, bell peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, tomato sauce and spinach. The rest of the family eats it over pasta and I eat it straight up.

  19. I make chili with and without beans but i always use the beer. I also always add, just at the end of simmering a good sized hunk of dark chocolate. Some chili powder has coco in it but this adds a great background flavor.

  20. The recipe is primal, but the photo is not. There appear to be a few kidney beans trying to hide amongst the chunks of beef.

    Beer probably helps jerky become more digestible, but it’s not necessary for chili. Any meat slow-cooked in liquid for hours becomes so tender it can be shredded with a fork. A couple nights ago I simmered some freezer-burned beef in a crockpot for four hours, and it tasted fine.

  21. Sonagi – You have a keener eye that I. I see them now. Of course, the pic isn’t an actual pic of my dinner; just an illustration. Cheers!

  22. Hey Katie,
    It IS Marvelous! When you go shopping, get the ingredients. I’m in cold temp’s too. I cooked some last night and it’s awesome! I’m expecting snow Tuesday, so i have left overs. This recipe is absolutely delicious!!!

  23. I made it last night too. I put too much chipotle in though which overwhelmed the flavor of everything else (and made it hot!). I recommend starting with just a little and adding more if you want more kick and if you like the taste of chipotle.

  24. Mark!

    Thanks for the fantastic chili recipe! It’s outstanding.

    What an interesting mix of flavors and yes, definitely, the beer is a nice touch. Not sour at all. The beer gives it body and oomph.

    This recipe’s a keeper.

  25. Oh I am SO excited to try this! I’ve been missing chili on these cold NYC nights…

    And thanks to all other commenters on ways to tweak, my nights are going to be filled with new fun ways to make chili!

  26. What are “pasilla peppers”? If you don’t have easy access to those kinds of peppers, say if you live in Podunk, PA, what can you use as a substitute?

  27. Stacey- I made it and skipped the peppers all together (Im a total spice wimp) and it was great! I did add a little chipotle sauce from the latin market we have here (they also have this sauce in the mexican section of many grocery stores). Anyhow, you could sub in ancho chile for the pasilla, no problem.

  28. I made the Chili. My thoughts are … I found it had too much tomato. To compensate, I increased all the spices by 50% and added half an ounce of Tapatio hot sauce. Next time I’ll cut the tomato content to one can. I used Guinness for the beer, but I want to try a Stone smoked porter next time. I also added a tablespoon cocoa but couldn’t detect it. I also had a big problem with meat stuck in my teeth – I going to try the crock pot next time.

    1. I am actually making a batch right now, and I’m using the Rogue Chocolate Stout as my beer. We’ll see how it turns out, but it might help bring out that cocoa flavor.

  29. The protein bars are in my toaster over right now. They smell incredible!! Didn’t have the berries so I subbed a few raisins (less than the 1/4 c called for). More recipes like this that I can bring to work and avoid the vending machine!!!!!

  30. I was really digging the “essence” from the cinnamon stick.

    Today I had leftovers for lunch and it was even better!

  31. Follow up on the pasilla chiles. I looked them up, finally, after no responses from my query. :-p

    Pasilla chiles are also “ancho chiles” which I actually had on hand, dried.

    Made the chili last night sans garlic due to a guest’s garlic sensitivity and offered garlic powder on the side for those who wanted it. Also used beef broth in place of beer. It was very very very tasty!

  32. We love this recipe.

    I cook it in the crock pot. Raw beef and all. Cooks about 10 hours slow all day and tastes awesome ! Def favorite !

  33. WOW! I would never think about putting beer in a chili. I made a huge batch last night for everyone at work since it was kind of like a pot luck day and I used all the cpices and all the other ingredients with the expeption of meat. I used ground beef instead.
    The flavor was just amazing and no one could figure out what that familiar delicious flavor was. Little did they know it was beer:)

  34. This is a great chili! One tiny tweak that will deepen the flavor even further…try browning the meat first then remove it from the pan, add the vegetables, let them deglaze the pan of all the lovely brown bits left from the meat and cook down. Then add back the meat and proceed as usual. Putting the veggies first doesn’t let the meat caramelize as nicely because of the moisture in the pan and the deglazing gets all of those beautiful flavory bits back in the mix. Great recipe…thanks!!

  35. Just a hint… this is pretty much the same as Tyler Florence’s Texas Chili off of the Food Network with like one or two minor changes. And to the person who mentioned beans in chili, it is an INSULT to a Texan to put beans in chili…beans are yankee stuff. Never saw a bean in a pot of chili until I traveled outside of Texas.

    Also, may I recommend Ancho Chili Powder to all in place of the standard chili powder?? If you look at the winning recipes of the Terlingua, Texas chili cookoff, most of them use Ancho.

  36. Nothing like a dumb Texan spouting off about the “right” way to do something. Idiots, the lot of you.

  37. Nothing like a non-Texan spouting off about being Texan, to a Texan.

    Idiot – you.

  38. Just made this tonight.
    Although we are Primal, we still like beans every once in a while. I added in some organic kidney beans to this and also used ground beef. No vinegar at the end b/c I didn’t think it needed it.
    The flavor is wonderful!

  39. This is legitimately the best chili I’ve ever made, and I grew up in Cincinnati, home of beanless chili (actually quite similar to the chili in the PB Cookbook). It’s getting to be chili weather here, and I’m glad I’m prepared. Additionally, I replaced one of the pounds of chuck with a pound of liver (my cowpool just came in and I have all this liver and no idea what to do with it). So far I’d say that the offal isn’t so awful at all! It lends a nice richness to these hearty stews, and once it’s simmered for 2 hours in spices, you really can’t tell any difference. Great stuff!

  40. This is fantastic! I’ve never had chili without beans so the first time I made it it seemed a bit… thin? A couple of nights later I made taco meat and had a decent sized scoop leftover so I put it in last bowl of chili. That’s what I was missing!

    I just made a batch tonight and this time I not only added a pound of taco meat but some celery and red bell pepper, too. Little bit of shredded sharp cheddar, little dollop of “sour cream” (aka Greek yogurt) and this is perfection in a bowl.

  41. Wow. I googled Paleo Chili and this was the most interesting one I found. And I must say, that this is by far the BEST chili I have ever eaten. The cinnamon is absolutely genius. Thanks for making Paleo delicious and easy 🙂

  42. Perhaps I chose a pot that was too small (typical large two handled sauce pot, ~2qts) but the meat didn’t brown really. I’m hoping it still cooks out well but next time I think I’m going to brown the meat in a cast iron pot first and then add it back to the chili after that. It will add more of a cooked flavor to it, I think.

  43. Don’t know what I’m missing, but I made this tonight, and it’s awful, tastes like cumin. I’m a trained chef, and it was abysmally bad. I followed the recipe to the tee, and will be looking for another recipe. Sorry…

  44. Made this tonight using Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter. I was forced to use slightly different peppers, but it turned out amazing. Thanks Mark!!

  45. Made it last night to eat today. Used Great Lakes Blackout Stout for the beer and thought it was incredible. I’d like to make it a bit less tomatoey but not sure how to do that. Much better than the bean kind.

  46. Hi Mark!

    I don’t have papilla papers and I’m not sure where to find them; can I use a different kind of pepper? Also, did you mean chipotle chile peppers? Finally, If i don’t have or use red wine vinegar and rather than buying a bottle for just this recipe, can I use a different type of vinegar? Balsamic or even just red wine maybe?

    Thank you in advance!

    1. In case anyone ever has this question in the future, my wife and I substitute poblano peppers, because we can never find pasilla peppers.

      Also, we’re still making this years later. Great recipe.

  47. Was looking for this to send to a friend and am so glad to see this page is still on here! I wanted to let you know this has been our go-to chili recipe for the last 8 years! Thank you!! 🙂

  48. Mark,
    would it be possible to post calories, carbs, and protein ( per serving) for EVERY recipe on you web site. I use that info ALL the time

  49. Seems like a metric tonne of spices….but it’s not too much! And it’s a good balance of flavors. When I don’t follow this recipe (i.e., try to wing it), I get the spices wrong.