Dad’s Dynamite Chili

Growing up I was accustomed to seeing both of my parents in the kitchen. My dad cooked quite a bit. His breakfast specialty was pancakes, but he had a huge repertoire when it came to dinners. Most of the meals he cooked then (and continues to cook now) are his own creation – he knows his way around a list of ingredients. He has a knack for knowing what flavors will meld well together and has created some pretty amazing dishes over the years. One of his specialties is chili. To be honest, I am not a huge chili fan. I’m a major wimp when it comes to spice (I’m the one ordering 0 stars in Thai restaurants). That said, I love my dad’s chili.

Because it’s been a cold week here in the Pacific Northwest, I opted to add my dad’s chili recipe into our weekly meal rotation. His chili is my ultimate comfort food – hot and hearty and full of flavor. There’s just something about indulging in hot “bowl” foods like soup and chili when the temperatures drop.

Close up of a pot of chili

The Perks

What’s great about my dad’s recipe is that you can customize it based on your tolerance for spice. Fortunately for me, my entire family is spice-averse. Thus, no one complains when I make this recipe with mild heat. It is also super simple to make – the most time-consuming part is browning the meat and opening the cans. It is also really flexible when it comes to the time needed to cook it. You can throw it on the stove and let it cook just until hot (though it will taste better the longer you can let the flavors meld). Or you can put everything in the slow cooker and let it simmer all day (my preferred method).

And More Perks!

Here are just a few other reasons this recipe should make its way into your meal rotation –

  • If you have kids, this is a fun (and less risky) recipe for them to help you with. There are no knives involved and ingredients can be added to the pot before any heat is introduced. If they are anything like my kiddos, they will enjoy dumping the ingredients into the pot and stirring everything together!
  • It freezes beautifully! Make a double batch and freeze half of it. I have stored it in my freezer for over a year and though it came out with minor freezer burn, it still tasted great once defrosted and heated.
  • The flavor does not deteriorate when cooked in advance and stored in the fridge. This chili is not a leftover you need to fear.
  • It can be “slimmed” down. If you are watching your waistline, you can make some easy substitutions. Just swap out the ground beef for ground turkey and forgo the cheese.
  • Almost anyone can make this recipe – even the cooking challenged. It’s a great recipe for bachelors, college kids, or just anyone really – it’s quick and simple!
  • All of the ingredients are relatively stable, so you can have them on hand without risk of spoilage. As long as you store your ground beef in the freezer, all other items store easily in the pantry (except the cheese). I like to keep the ingredients on hand at all times so I can throw this together on days we lack fresh ingredients.

Chili Making Step by Step

Man at the stove browning ground beef

Start by browning the ground beef (you can also substitute with ground turkey). Open all your cans and drain the liquid off the beans.

Little girl smiling and holding up a can

Rinse the beans. I like to dump them all into a colander. It’s quicker and gets them cleaner than trying to rinse them in the can, but do what works best for you! In addition to the kidney beans, our family likes to use 2 cans of pinto beans and 1 can of black beans. Feel free to adjust based on your family’s preference.

Close up of kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans mixed together in a colander

Cooking the Chili

Dump all the ingredients into your crock pot (if slow cooking) or stock pot (if cooking on the stove top) and stir to combine. I like to cook in my crock pot any chance I get because I don’t have to be as attentive – I can just set it and forget it until dinner time. Also, feel free to leave out the corn as it is totally optional to the recipe (my dad’s original recipe didn’t include it). That said, I love the fresh pop of flavor it adds so we almost always include it. The salsa is what dictates the spice level, so while we opt for mild, you can make it spicier by substituting for one with more heat.

Girl at stove pouring tomato sauce into a slow cooker

Cook in your crock pot on low for 4 to 6 hours or on the stove on medium heat until heated through. Stir occasionally if using the stove. For even better flavor, let it simmer a few hours for the flavors to meld.

Bowl of chili topped with shredded cheese and a side of cornbread

Once done, serve hot topped with shredded cheddar. Pair it with a side salad or your favorite cornbread and enjoy! This recipe makes A LOT of chili. It’s so hearty that even my bottomless-pit-of-a-hubby can’t eat much more than a bowl of it. You can either halve the recipe before cooking, or plan on leftovers!

Dad’s Dynamite Chili

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours

Category: Dinner

Yield: 8

Dad’s Dynamite Chili


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 3 - 15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2/3 large Pace salsa, mild
  • 32 oz can kidney beans
  • 3 - 15 oz cans other beans (black beans, pinto, etc)
  • 2 cups fresh, frozen, or canned corn (optional)
  • Sharp cheddar cheese, for topping (optional)


  1. Brown the ground beef and add to a large pot (if cooking on the stove) or crock pot (if slow cooking).
  2. Drain and clean the beans. Add to the pot, along with the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salsa, and corn (if using). Stir to combine.
  3. If cooking on the stove, cook until heated through and to preferred temperature, stirring occasionally. At this point, you can either take it off the stove and serve, or let it simmer for an hour or two, stirring periodically as needed.
  4. If using the crock pot method, cook on low for 4-6 hours.
  5. Serve in bowls and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Pair with a side salad or your favorite cornbread and enjoy!


The salsa controls the spice level of this recipe, so if you like your chili spicier, substitute the mild salsa for one with more heat.

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