I recently got back from a trip to Iowa to visit my daughter Allie and her adorable family. Seeing the grandbabies’ cute faces is my favorite thing in the world! During our visit, we ate all of Iowa’s favorite foods, meaning both beef and pork. Just kidding – Iowans eat a lot of different things, but in farm country they certainly love their meat! This recipe for Instant Pot beef chili is inspired by a dinner we had at Jethro’s BBQ ‘n’ Bacon Bacon, a barbecue joint I highly recommend if you’re in the area. The chili at Jethro’s is rich and spicy, with tons of fresh jalapeño flavor. When I got home, I wanted to try to create a similar recipe.
This Instant Pot beef chili recipe makes a medium spicy chili with a touch of smoky bacon and plenty of fresh veggies. My family likes Texas style chili, without beans, but feel free to add beans if that’s your style.
Cooking beef at high pressure in the Instant Pot makes it perfectly melt-in-your-mouth tender. For this recipe, I like to use lean beef stew meat, ground in a food processor to get just the right texture. Instead of stew meat, you can use a beef chuck roast cut into 1-inch chunks, or use ground beef if you don’t want to grind the meat yourself.
I have to admit this is not a quick and easy Instant Pot recipe. It takes a couple of hours to make, but it’s absolutely worth it! I made it two nights in a row as I was developing the recipe, and nobody complained.
If you’ve never ground your own meat, don’t be intimidated. Start by freezing the beef for 25-30 minutes to make it easier to grind. Divide the partially frozen beef into 2-4 batches, depending on the size and power of your food processor. Smaller batches make it easier to grind the meat, and allow you to control the texture better. Pulse 10-20 times until you get beef chunks that are about 1/4 inch. Some will be bigger, some will be smaller.
While the beef is in the freezer, you can get the rest of the ingredients ready. Dice the bell pepper, onion, and jalapeños, and press the garlic. I usually leave out the seeds from the jalapeños, but if you like your chili hot, leave some of them in.
If you want a chili that is stew-like rather than soup-like, now is the time to prepare the secret thickening ingredient. Grind about 2 cups of tortilla chips in a food processor or blender until you have 2/3 cups of crumbs. You’ll add these at the end of cooking to thicken your chili.
Next, mix up your spices. True chili heads usually make their own spice mix. I customize my spice mix for each chili recipe, depending on what kind of flavor profile I’m going for. For this recipe, I use New Mexico chile powder, which I can buy cheaply in cellophane packets. You can find it near the Mexican dried peppers and spices. New Mexico chile powder is a medium heat chile powder with earthy and fruity undertones. It’s a one-ingredient chile powder made from dried chiles only, unlike standard “chili powder” blends that contain oregano, garlic, and sometimes salt. If you can’t find New Mexico chile powder, you can use Ancho chile powder, or a standard chili powder blend. Mix the chile powder in a small bowl with cumin, dried Mexican oregano, garlic powder and a tiny pinch of cinnamon.
Another thing you can do while the beef is in the freezer is cook the bacon. Just a little bacon adds a lot of flavor to this chili, without overwhelming the other ingredients. Cut 4 slices of bacon into half-inch pieces, and cook in a large skillet over medium high heat until almost crisp. Remove the pieces of bacon with a slotted spoon, and leave the bacon fat in the skillet.
Instant Pot fanatics will probably wonder why I decided to sauté the bacon in a skillet, when the Instant Pot has a sauté function. I wanted to sauté not just the bacon, but the veggies and beef as well. I couldn’t fit all this into my 6-quart Instant Pot DUO and get a good sear on it without dividing it into several batches. To brown all the meat and veggies at once, I decided to use my trusty 12-inch cast iron skillet. You can absolutely sauté in the Instant Pot if you would prefer.
Once the bacon is cooked, sauté the vegetables and garlic in the bacon fat until they start to soften. Add the spice mixture and cook a few minutes more. This helps the dried spices “bloom” and release their flavors.
Next, add the beef, season with salt, and cook until the meat is browned and partially seared. Add the bacon pieces and cook 1-2 minutes more.
Put the meat and vegetable mixture in the Instant Pot, and add canned crushed tomatoes and beef broth. Cook on high pressure for 30 minutes. By this time, you’ll definitely have your family wandering into the kitchen asking what smells so good!
After cooking for 30 minutes at high pressure, allow the pressure to release naturally for 20 minutes. Quick release the remaining pressure, and remove the lid. Stir in the beans, if you want those in your chili.
Finish your chili by adding the tortilla chip crumbs (optional) and lime juice. Let the chili rest for 10 minutes to thicken.
In my opinion, chili toppings are just as important as the chili itself! Serve your Instant Pot beef chili with your favorite toppings, like Fritos or tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, diced white onion, pico de gallo, lime wedges, or chopped cilantro. I’m totally in love with this Instant Pot beef chili recipe! It’s definitely a keeper your family will love!
- 2 pounds beef stew meat (or substitute ground beef)
- 2-3 tablespoons New Mexico chile powder (2 for mild, 3 for medium heat)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 4 slices bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed (or 1 tablespoon crushed garlic)
- 2 large or 3 small jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced fine (leave in some of the seeds if you like it hot)
- 1 large yellow onion, diced fine
- 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, diced fine
- 1 green bell pepper, diced fine
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 (14 oz.) can crushed tomtoes
- 1 cup beef broth
- 1 (14 oz.) can kidney, pinto or black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 2/3 cup finely crushed tortilla chips (optional, to thicken)
- 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Toppings: Fritos or tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped white onion or pico de gallo, diced avocado, lime wedges
- Place the beef stew meat in the freezer, to make it easier to grind. Freeze for about 25 minutes. Divide the partially frozen meat into 2-4 batches, depending on the size of your food processor. Pulse until the beef is coarsely ground. Aim for chunks that are about ¼ inch, although the chunks will not all be the same size. You can use ground beef if you would rather not grind your own.
- Stir together the chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl. Crush the tortilla chips, if using, in a blender or food processor.
- In a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, sauté the bacon pieces until they are beginning to crisp and the fat is rendered. Remove the bacon pieces with a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave the bacon fat in the bottom of the skillet. (See note below for directions if you prefer to sauté using the Instant Pot.)
- Add the onion, peppers, and garlic to the bacon fat in the skillet, and sauté over medium-high heat about 3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the spice mixture. Cook and stir for 3 more minutes.
- Add the meat to the skillet, and season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is browned and partially seared. Add the bacon pieces, cook and stir 1-2 more minutes.
- Transfer meat and vegetable mixture to the Instant Pot. Add the tomatoes and beef broth, and stir to combine. Secure the lid on the instant pot, and set to cook for 30 minutes at high pressure.
- After the chili has cooked for 30 minutes at high pressure, let pressure release naturally for 15-20 minutes, then quick release remaining pressure and remove lid. Add beans (optional) and stir.
- To thicken the chili, add crushed tortilla chips, stir, and let rest for about 10 minutes. If you don’t want to use crushed tortilla chips, you can thicken the chili by cooking on the sauté setting with the lid off to evaporate some of the liquid (optional).
- Finish the chili by stirring in fresh lime juice. Serve with your favorite toppings.
If you prefer, you can sauté the bacon, vegetables and beef using the Instant Pot sauté function adjusted to high heat. Divide the beef into 3 batches to avoid excess moisture.
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