Award Winning Chili Cookoff Recipe

This is a popular chili recipe that has won or placed in many chili cookoffs at work, in my neighborhood, and at tailgate parties!

This recipe has been called the world's greatest best tasting chili from my daughter - I will cook for her any day!

Award Winning Chili Cookoff Recipe

There are lots of variations available - listed below.


  • 1 pound lean ground beef (or use ground turkey for a lower fat version)
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 small onion chopped fine - I like sweet onions
  • 1 Red bell pepper chopped fine
  • 1 Green bell pepper chopped fine
  • 1 can (~15 ounces) kidney beans - drained
  • 1 can (~15 ounces) black beans - drained
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounce) chopped stewed tomatoes - Italian spiced
  • 2 small cans tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cups water - you may want to add more while cooking depending on desired thickness
  • 1/3 cup Heinz 57 Steak Sauce - some people prefer A1, I think 57 tastes better
  • 1 package of chili seasoning mix
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt - I like the sea salt my son brought me from France
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh parsley

Optional additions:

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar (or some prefer honey or molasses) - some like it sweet - some like it hot!
  • 1-2 diced carrots
  • 1-2 stalks diced celery
  • 1 small yellow summer squash chopped fine
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to spice things up a little
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder if you want it hot (or more to your taste)
  • Substitute Spicy V8 juice for the tomato paste for an interesting twist
  • Substitute 1 small can beef broth instead of the water


  1. In a large skillet, cook bacon until just before it gets crisp. Remove and set aside.
  2. Cook the ground beef (or turkey) and sausage. I like to cook it in the bacon grease because I love the taste of bacon! Drain when browned and then add chili seasoning, cumin, garlic salt, pepper, and salt. Mix and leave on warm heat.
  3. While the ground beef and sausage is cooking, in a large pot, combine the vegetables (stewed tomatoes, red bell peppers, green bell peppers, onion, garlic - and the optional carrots, celery, and squash), liquids (tomato paste, tomato sauce, water, steak sauce) and the remaining spices (red pepper flakes) and cook until fresh vegetables are tender (the carrots take the longest to cook - make sure they are not crunchy).
  4. Add the meat mixture, beans, cilantro, and parsley to the vegetables in the large pot.
  5. Crumble (or cut) the bacon into small pieces and add to the mixture.
  6. Cook for 20-30 mins at med-low heat to combine flavors.

Serving suggestions

  • Serve with fresh grated cheddar cheese on top
  • Serve with a spoonful of sour cream on top
  • Serve with chopped green onions on top
  • Serve with diced fresh tomatoes on top
  • Serve with warm cornbread (or jalapeno cheese cornbread if you feel creative)
  • Serve with corn tortilla chips - heated to get the restaurant feel
  • Serve with saltines
  • And finally, my favorite, serve with Frito corn chips

This recipe is as good or better the second day as the flavors will continue to mix during the evening.

Several times, I have cooked this the day before and then just reheated the mixture before dinner. We often cook this as we get together over Halloween as we get together with family and friends. Having a hot bowl of chili for the kids after they go out trick-or-treat'ing is the perfect thing to warm them up after they are finished.

This is also perfect for the local chili cook offs that happen in your community. You can tailor the chili recipe to meet the type of cookoff you are entering. For example, if it is at your local farmers market, you might add the optional vegetables. If it is a tailgate cookoff, go a little heavier on the meats. You get the idea. This is a great award winning chili cookoff recipe.

Please leave your comments below with any other variations or serving suggestions.


  1. Hello. I appreciate the site and the great recipes, but if anything besides meat and gravy is showing when you turn in chili at a competition here in texas, it will never win.

  2. Hey Aaron, so do you have a Texas contest worthy recipe to show what Competition Texas Chili looks like?

    Send it over and I will get it published!

  3. How many servings does this make? Thanks!

  4. pcsutton says:

    Chili has no beans....

  5. That is a purist view 😉

  6. I tried this recipe yesterday, customized it a bit, for a Movember Chili Cook off at work, and I won by a landslide! Thanks so much for this amazing recipe, what a perfect mix of ingredients! Sure lives up to its name!

  7. Yes, please tell us how many people this serves!!!!!

  8. Nathan says:

    For how many it serves...I find it depends on your mix-ins and if it is a more liquid state. My family of 6 (4 small kids) will have leftovers but the more hearty you make it the more there will be. I also love to make chili dogs...the more flavors the better. Im hoping to either crock pot this overnight to enhance the flavors or maybe dutch oven it at my next campout.

  9. Zach Wilson says:

    Thanks so much. Awesome recipe. First time making chili from scratch ad I won with 20 other competitive pots. I used some of the optional additional ingredients but not all of them. I didn't know what cilantro was until last night.

  10. doing a trial run for my cook off I think this chili will turn out very well I tweaked it just a little bit I used BBQ sauce also I also used a can of Bush's baked beans just something to Try

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