Mom’s Chili


updated 1.25.2020.

Here’s what I said about this dish back in 2011:

I grew up eating this dish in the cold Wisconsin winters. We couldn’t get enough of Mom’s chili and would eat and eat day after day until our chili supply was depleted. On Mom’s recent trip out here for my birthday, Mom and Sis went camping in the California Redwoods for a few days and needed something that was easy to cook over the campfire. So Mom decided  to make a batch for the camping trip with the leftovers to freeze for a rainy day. Like today! (Or perhaps the cold, rainy Portland winter…)

I grew up eating bowls of this chili laden with noodles and cheese. My mom’s coveted chili recipe was one of those recipes that was popular at big family get-togethers and often requested. It’s a recipe she pulls out when Sis or I fly home to Wisconsin during the winter. It’s a homemade bowl of comfort you can eat during the cold, snowy winter months when you’re less likely to spend your free time outside and more likely to hibernate at home.

I’ve been on the West coast now for about 12 years and, believe it or not, chili isn’t the first thing I think of eating during a SoCal winter. It’s not often all that cold in SoCal, at least not in comparison to Midwest standards. But having found myself in need of having to use up my freezer ingredients for my pending move back up north, I thought I’d break out my mom’s best chili recipe and have some friends over to share.


I realize now why this was one of my mom’s go-to recipe during Wisconsin winters while I was growing up. It’s so easy to make! Literally brown the meat and cook the veggies, add the other ingredients and let it all simmer away on your stove. It’s a forgiving recipe and can be changed to your tastes. If you want to go healthier, use ground turkey. No one will notice. I swear!

I realized when making this the other day that I was out of chili powder (which I found completely confounding) so I used Ancho Chili powder instead. I can’t tell you I noticed any substantial difference between the pot of chili I made with Ancho Chili powder versus my mom’s classic recipe. I also subbed Lawry’s seasoned salt because I’m low on Himalayan pink salt (which is what I’m using to salt my food these days).



  • 2 to 3 lbs ground hamburger, sirloin, ground turkey etc. (can use a mixture)
  • 3 big celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 28-oz cans plum tomatoes
  • 1 48-oz can tomato juice
  • 1 30-oz can of chili beans in chili gravy (these are actually pinto beans so if you can’t find “chili” beans use pinto)
  • 1 10.7-oz can of tomato puree
  • 1 T. paprika
  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1 T. salt
  • 6-oz can tomato paste (optional – if the sauce needs thickening)


  1. Brown the hamburger and add the celery and onion and brown until the veggies become soft.
  2. Add remaining ingredients. Simmer on low for one and a half to two hours. Refrigerate over night.
  3. Reheat the following day and serve with freshly made noodles, cheese, sour cream, onions or any of your favorite chili toppings. If you find the chili too thin for your taste on the day you’re serving, you can cook it down a little by simmering over medium-low heat. This method can produce a very thick chili if that’s the way you like it.

Recipe rating: 


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