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  • Writer's pictureOllie Tarrant

The ultimate chilli con carne

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

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Making Chilli has become a bit of an obsession of mine. It’s one of my favourite meals to cook for so many reasons. The ease of chucking the ingredients into a pan and letting it slow cook for hours is brilliant, and the resulting tender, succulent meat and rich flavour is so satisfying. Its a great meal to share with others also – one big pot of food that everyone can help themselves to is intrinsically social, and is what food and eating, in my opinion, should be about. I’m a huge fan of Mexican food and flavours generally, and a Chilli is one of the best ways to combine as many of those delicious middle-American flavours as possible!

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It is for these reasons that I’d say that this dish has become one of my most cooked meals, and every time I’ve made it, I’ve experimented slightly, trying to work out what works and what doesn’t. I’m now pretty set on this as a recipe for what I prefer most, but as with all food, you can and should make it your own, and add or take away flavours to make it personal. I’ve made this using beef brisket and beef short ribs, so feel free to change it according to personal preference. However, if you’re looking for a starting point, with deep, rich, earthy flavours aswell as some fantastically complex spices, give this recipe a go. I like to serve it with some basmati rice, sour cream, warmed tortillas, and my Guacamole and Pico de Gallo recipes (pictured above), to turn it into a Mexican feast. Without further ado, I give you my ultimate Chilli Con Carne!

Ingredients (serves 5-6):

  • 1.2kg beef cheek (or shin)

  • 2 red peppers roughly diced

  • 2 red onions roughly diced

  • 2 tins of plum tomatoes (use chopped if not available)

  • 1 tin of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

  • 100ml espresso

  • 1 dried ancho chilli

  • 1 dried cascabel chilli (optional)

  • 1 dried pascilla chilli

  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika

  • 1 tsp sweet paprika

  • 1 tbsp cumin

  • zest of 1 lemon

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 3 tsp chipotle paste

  • 1 tsp oregano

  • 1tsp chilli flakes (optional, for extra heat)

  • 20g of dark chocolate

  • Small handful of coriander stalks, finely chopped

  • juice of half a lemon

  • large pinch of salt and pepper


  1. Pre-heat your oven to 160C. Trim away some of the excess fat from the beef cheeks. If you ask nicely, your butcher might do this for you. Once this is done, score the beef cheeks in a criss-cross fashion, creating texture. In a large oven-proof pan, fry the meat with a splash of oil, until it begins to brown on all sides, and is sealed. You may need to do this in batches.

  2. In the same pan, add a touch more oil, and add the roughly diced peppers and onions. You are only looking to add colour here, not to cook them through.

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  1. Mix all the spices, chipotle paste, lemon zest, salt and pepper together in a bowl with the lemon juice and a large glug of olive oil until you form a paste. Spoon this paste over the browned beef cheeks, making sure to get inside all of the criss-crosses.

  2. Add the meat back into the pan with the onions and peppers, and add in the plum tomatoes. When adding the tomatoes, pour them through your hands, squashing the tomatoes and letting the juice into the pan. Fill up one of the empty cans with water, and add that into the pan. Add in the coffee, cinnamon stick, ancho, cascabel and pascilla chillis into the pan, and stir it altogether. Bring to a simmer, and transfer the pan, with the lid on, into the pre-heated oven for 5-6 hours, stirring every hour or so. Every time you stir, make sure you drain off any excess oil that has risen to the top.

  3. Taste for seasoning along the way. If it needs a touch of sweetness, sprinkle in a small amount of caster sugar. Season with salt and pepper as required.

  4. 30 mins from the end of cooking, add the dark chocolate, finely chopped coriander stalks and the drained and rinsed kidney beans, stir through again, breaking up the last of the meat.

  5. Remove from the oven once the meat is incredibly tender, and falling apart. Remove the cinnamon stick and dried chillis, and serve with guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, rice and warm tortillas.

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This is one of my absolute favourites, and I would absolutely love you all to make it. If you fancy giving it a go, DM me on Instagram (@OTCooks_Eats) if you want any help or clarification on the recipe, or just to share your foodie thoughts in general! If you’re not following me already, hit the follow button for more food and drink inspiration, and new tasty recipes. As always let your friends know, and happy cooking everyone!

OT x

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