My Favourite Chilli Con Carne

My all time favourite comfort food recipe, cooked in advance makes an ideal as a mid-week winter warmer

I’m amazed that I’ve yet to write this recipe up.  It’s been a mainstay ever since I went to university many years ago and was really my entry into spicy cooking.  I used to head out to Bradford market on a Saturday morning, stock up with the best fresh ingredients including mince from my favourite local butcher’s stall, head back and cook up a large batch of chilli which would keep us going for much of the following week.  Cheap student cookery at it’s best!  The baked beans were another student touch – much cheaper than kidney beans at the time, these helped to bulk out the dish but also introduced a level of sweetness which made the chilli more appealing to those who were less likely to pick a spicy dish.  I credit this recipe with my mother’s first venture into spicy eating.  You’ll notice that these are added very late in the cooking process.  Experience has shown that putting the baked beans in too early will inevitably encourage the chilli to catch and burn on the bottom of the pan

But which chillies to choose?  The choice is entirely yours.  The chilli variety will give different effect not just on heat but also on flavour so I would strongly encourage you to experiment.  The easy, safe option is to use 2 tsp of hot chilli powder.  It’s a bit ‘ordinary’ but will give you a mild chilli with a repeatable level of heat.  But chilli powder doesn’t tend to add a lot in the way of flavour, and if I go down this route I tend to also add a couple of tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce at the very end of the cooking.  However I prefer to use fresh (or frozen) chillies.

I would tend to avoid the narrow finger chillies I’d use in Indian or African recipes as these tend to give some raw heat but limited flavour.  Cayenne chillies are a good option – nice flavour and not too hot so 3-4 of these, finely chopped with or without their seeds will work well.  But by far my favourite is to use one of the hottest habanero type chillies.  A single Scotch Bonnet or  Orange Habanero can be chopped and stirred into the mix, but why not really go to town and add a crazy-hot variety like a whole Carolina Reaper or my favourite,  Chocolate Douglah?  These add blistering heat but also the most amazing flavour.  To avoid melting the pan just add the chilli whole and allow the flavours to penetrate with the slow cooking.  At the end of the cooking gently squeeze the juices from the chilli and remove from the pan.  Stir well and serve

This recipe really does improve with a age.  I always make up a large batch a day in advance and freeze the leftovers.  For me, this recipe makes enough for 5 * 3 person meals served with rice and a little salad


  • A little vegetable oil
  • 1 kg Minced Beef
  • 2 large Onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 250g Mushrooms, cleaned & sliced
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds, lightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp Mixed Herbs
  • ***Chillies of your choice***, or 2 tsp+ of hot Chilli Powder
  • 3 Large Peppers, chopped
  • 2 tins chopped Tomatoes
  • 2 tins Kidney Beans, rinsed
  • 2 Knorr Beef Stock Pots (or beef stock of your choice)
  • 2 tins Baked Beans


  • Gently brown off the mince in a little oil then add the onions and garlic.  Sweat until the onions have softened
  • Add the herbs, cumin, chilli and mushrooms and stir well.  Cover and allow to sweat for a few minutes until the mushrooms have softened
  • Add the peppers, kidney beans, tomatoes and beef stock.  Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about an hour
  • Stir in the baked beans and simmer for another 30 minutes before checking the seasoning and adjusting to taste
  • If you’ve used a whole hot habero-type chilli, now is the time to locate it, carefully squeeze out all of the juices and remove the chilli-solids.  If after tasting you’re feeling very adventurous, crush the solids to a pulpy mash and stir well into the chilli
  • Ideally set aside for 24 hours before serving to get the best flavours, but can be served immediately or frozen in batches


  • Making this with fresh tomatoes adds an extra level of sweetness, but only really worthwhile if you’re swamped with home-grown fruit
  • Consider tweaking the flavour and heat at the end by stirring through sweet chilli sauce (you won’t need this if you’ve gone down the habanero route!)

3 Comments Add yours

  1. those chillies tho!!!!!!!!

    1. don’t you just luv ’em?

  2. chefkreso says:

    Sounds really tasty 😁

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