Ad Hoc Chili


My father-in-law makes a crazy good sweet chili.

The man is pretty much a wizard with beans in general. I think I will forever associate visiting his house with the smell of baked beans, brown sugar, and sausage. Good stuff.

Mr. Awesome (my husband) loves his dad’s chili. Not only is it supremely tasty, but he grew up with it. Probably tastes like home.

My father-in-law hosts an annual chili cook off at his house with each of his kids and their spouses bringing their own version of chili and everyone voting to see who’s is the best. From what I understand, father-in-law’s epic concoction usually wins.

If the weather feels like cooperating the big event will be tomorrow and as a full fledged member of the family now (not to mention the wife of a very competitive husband) I needed to come up with my own chili that could potentially rival the perennial champion’s. Having never really made chili before, I drew upon three sources: my mother, the internet, and (most frighteningly of all) my own imagination.

My original goal was to make a sweet chili with a little kick. However, after grossly underestimating the effects of a teaspoon of ground red pepper, I ended up with a sweet chili with a kickback. Mr. Awesome and I do not, as a general rule, like our food spicy. Still, I don’t mind a little spice from time to time, so I have a feeling I may end up eating more of this chili than he does.

For the spice mix, I decided not to go with the traditional store-bought packet that graced the chilis of my childhood. Thanks to Pinterest, I discovered that you could in fact DIY it. The link I found was helpful, though the language in it is …intense in an adult sort of way. You can see the recipe for “2AM Chili”  here, but it is R rated. Not something I would normally link to in a post, but I’d feel bad if I didn’t source it. That said, I adapted it for my own purposes and made some changes:

Spice Mix

4 tsp chili powder

4 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground red pepper

1 tsp basil

2 tsp white granulated sugar

1 Tbs onion powder

1 Tbs garlic powder

2 Tbs unsweetened coco powder

2 Tbs all purpose flour

I combined all of the above spices in a small container with a lid and mixed it up. Then, in a big pot, I mixed the following:

1 lb browned ground beef, drained and rinsed to remove grease

2  x 30 1/2 oz. cans of mild chili beans in sauce (do not drain)

2 x 15 oz. cans of tomato sauce

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1/4 – 1/2 cup maple syrup

I added the spice mix and stirred it up. It took a couple of taste tests before I came to the right amount of brown sugar and cumin, but you get the idea. The pot is on the stove and will be cooking on low for the day. I’m sure a Crock Pot would work just as well, but ours is not big enough for this batch of chili.

So, will my first attempt at the great art of chili making beat out the father-in-laws? Going to have to wait and see. After testing it, Mr. Awesome thinks we might have a chance with the bit of extra spiciness. Still, I hold no delusions of besting a chili that has been well loved for decades. Perhaps I can hope for a close second.


As I suspected, we were not able to make the chili cook off this weekend due to nasty weather. However, my husband and I have been eating on the chili all weekend and to our mouths it tastes pretty amazing. I have a feeling I will be sticking with this recipe for a while, though the next time I make it for just myself and hubby, I plan on cutting the red pepper by at least half.



3 thoughts on “Ad Hoc Chili

  1. You had me until you got to the brown sugar and maple syrup. Those ingredients do not belong in chili, at least not at my house. The cookoff sounds fun, though. Our church had a chili cookoff a couple of months ago and I won the Spiciest Chili contest. We like it to have lots of kick at our house. 🙂 Peace, Linda

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