The World’s Greatest Chili

Ancho (Ahn-cho) Chile (Capsicum Annum) means Wide Chile Pepper. This chile ranges from 3 – 4 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. An Ancho is the dried form of a Poblano Pepper and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper. Anchos have sweet fruity flavor with hints of cherry, prune, and fig. Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the Holy Trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000.

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4 large dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil
1 1/2 lbs ground beef
1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 (15-oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained
2 Tbsp masa harina
1 1/2 tsp salt
Garnishes: Shredded Chihuahua or Monterey Jack cheese, Mexican-style sour cream, chopped chives, tortilla strips and cilantro


For the chile seasoning: Heat a medium-size skillet over medium. When hot, toast chiles one by one: open flat and press down with spatula until the chile releases its aroma and toasts lightly, 10 to 15 seconds. Flip and toast the other side. In a small bowl, cover the chiles with hot water and let rehydrate 30 minutes, stirring frequently to insure even soaking. Drain.

In a food processor or blender, combine the chiles and a little water, garlic, and cumin. Blend to a smooth puree, scraping down and stirring frequently. (If the mixture won’t move through the blender blades, stir in a tablespoon or two of water to get things going.) With a rubber spatula, work the chile mixture through a medium-mesh strainer into a bowl.

Browning the meat and onion: Heat the oil in a medium-size (4-quart) pot (preferably a Dutch oven or Mexican cazuela) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ground beef and onion. Stir, breaking up clumps, until browned thoroughly, about 10 minutes. (If there is lots of rendered fat, tip it off and discard.)

Finishing the chili: Add the chile puree and stir for about 5 minutes as the mixture thickens and concentrates all those rich flavors. Stir in 2 cups water and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, masa harina and salt. Partially cover and simmer gently over medium-low, stirring frequently, until the sauce has reduced to coat the meat rather thickly, about 30 minutes. Serve with shredded Chihuahua cheese, sour cream, chives, tortilla strips and cilantro for each person to add to the chili as they want.

Makes 5 cups, enough for 4-6.

From Rick Bayless