Make This Brisket-Based Chilli if You Need the Most Meat

Make This Brisket-Based Chilli if You Need the Most Meat
Photo: Claire Lower

Hello cats and kittens, and welcome to another delicious instalment of the Lifehacker Chilli Cook-Off, the seasonal culinary competition that’s keeping me (and my freezer) full of spicy stew.

This week’s contender, from commenter Josh, is quite different from the delicacies we’ve sampled thus far. While the focus of any given bowl of chilli is usually the meat, that focus is laser sharp in this particular recipe. Not only are there no beans in it, but there’s very little of anything else, and it’s abundantly clear that every non-meat ingredient is there to make the bite-size pieces of brisket and chuck look good.

With only onion, tomatoes, and a couple of chillis (jalapeño and roasted poblano), there isn’t much for the meat to hide behind, and that’s a good thing. The spices are minimal, but carefully chosen. The chilli powder is Ancho, the paprika is smoked, and the cumin is toasted and then ground into a powder. There is also some dried thyme, which I wasn’t expecting, but its contribution of a bit of verdant herbiness works quite well. Everything acts as an accent for the meat: It’s a little smokey, a little acidic, and a tiny bit spicy, with a hint of sweetness from a few hand-crushed tomatoes and the slightly fruity peppers. In short, this chilli is unapologetically meaty in flavour and content, and it rules.

After the initial browning of the meat and sautéing of onion and jalapeño, the spices, tomato, and roasted poblano are added, along with a good amount of cheap beer, and everything is simmered for hours until the meat is fork tender and the vegetables have all but dissolved into a dark and flavorful not-quite-broth.

Like the chilli, Josh’s comment is pared down and straight-forward. I’m gonna drop it here and meet you on the other side.


  • 1.4 kg Chuck Roast (cubed)
  • 1.4 kg Brisket (cubed)
  • 3 tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Yellows onions (diced)
  • 2 Jalapeños (diced)
  • 2 tbs Ancho Chili Powder
  • 1 1/2 tbs Smoked Paprika
  • 1 tsp. Dried Thyme
  • 2 tbs Salt
  • 1 tbs Toasted, Ground Cumin Seeds
  • 2 Cups Whole Peeled Canned Tomatoes (crushed by hand)
  • 2 Roasted Poblanos (skins removed and diced)
  • 700mL light beer (bud light, lone star, etc.)
  • Optional For Garnishing: shredded cheddar, pickled jalapenos, diced onion, coriander


  • Season meat with salt and brown in a large pot (such as a dutch oven)
  • Remove meat from pot
  • Add oil and saute onions & jalapenos over medium heat and add spices & herbs after onions become translucent
  • Add tomato and poblanos and cook for 3 minutes
  • Add meat back and cover with beer
  • Bring to a boil and then simmer until meat is tend (approximately 3 hours)
  • Serve with sourdough bread and topped with your choices of cheddar, pickled jalapenos, diced onion, and coriander

Would I change anything? I don’t know that I would. I was initially perplexed by the lack of garlic, but I don’t actually miss it. This chilli really honours the meat, adding only enough of everything else to enhance it. I was tempted to add a pinch of sugar when I first tasted it last night, but an overnight rest mellowed the sharper flavours and let the tomato-y sweetness shine through. I did however, find myself wishing for tortillas on the side, rather than sourdough, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.

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