Campfire Chili

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Want to go camping without leaving the house? It’s time for some Campfire Chili! This recipe is rich, smoky, and tastes like it’s been cooked over a campfire for hours. If you’re going camping, it’s easy to cook over a campfire too!

chili in a white bowl with a spoon.
A big bowl of hearty Campfire Chili
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Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Chili is a favorite comfort food for many folks. The rich flavor of this hearty recipe tastes great whether it’s cooked in a dutch oven on the stove or outdoors over a campfire.

Campfire Chili is so good, it’s actually won several awards at local chili cook-off competitions!

While you can certainly use dried beans, canned beans work great in this dish which makes prep much easier. Add navy beans, black beans, or whatever else you can find with the word ‘bean’ in it.

The secret ingredient is liquid smoke, (ad) which adds an amazing smoky flavor. Or you can use dried ancho peppers if available. To make things even better, top Campfire Chili with sour cream, sharp cheddar and cilantro. Serve it with a cake of southern cornbread and it’s a meal in a bowl!

dutch oven filled with campfire chili.
Cooks low and slow in a dutch oven

Ingredients

Every ingredient blends together perfectly! See recipe card for quantities.

  • ground beef (or turkey) – either works well in this recipe
  • chili seasoning – choose a packet for easy prep, or make your own
  • fire-roasted tomatoes – found in a can at most supermarkets
  • minced garlic – gives the chili great flavor
  • sweet onion – the perfect accompaniment
  • fresh cilantro – optional, but provides a nice kick
  • liquid smoke (or ancho peppers) – the secret ingredient
  • tomato sauce (or ketchup)- thickens the chili and adds richness
  • chili beans and black beans – can use other beans if desired

Instructions

Start by browning ground beef (or turkey) in a dutch oven. (ad) Next, add a packet of chili seasoning, a can of fire roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, cilantro, liquid smoke and tomato sauce or ketchup.

Fold in a can of chili beans and black beans, or whatever bean you like. Now, it’s ready to simmer.

You’ll love the way this recipe is created in one pot. If you’re in a hurry, you can make it in your Instant Pot, but I’m a lover of my cast iron dutch oven and low and slow cooking.

There’s something comforting about standing over the stove, stirring chili on the heat, and watching it all come together.

bowl of campfire chili with sour cream and cheese on top.
Top chili with cheese, sour cream and cilantro

Recipe FAQS

Is there a substitution for liquid smoke?

Although it’s not a perfect substitution, Worcestershire sauce has a similar flavor and can be used if you can’t find liquid smoke. Ancho peppers are also a natural way to flavor chili if you have access to them.

What are fire-roasted tomatoes?

Fire roasted tomatoes are diced tomatoes that have been roasted over high heat. They are found in a can with the diced tomatoes at the grocery store. If you can’t find the fire roasted version, using diced tomatoes will work just fine.

Can this chili be frozen?

Yes! Campfire chili freezes well when stored in an airtight container. You can freeze it after cooking for up to 3 months, or refrigerate leftovers for up to a week.

Can you cook this recipe over a campfire?

Absolutely! Dutch ovens made of cast iron are perfect for cooking over campfires. Be sure to mix all of the ingredients well before cooking over an open flame and stir frequently to prevent scorching. Cooking outdoors while camping makes everything taste better!

Campfire Chili is so hearty and satisfying, you’ll want to make it over and over again. If you love this recipe, be sure to try some of my other popular chowders and stews!

Recipe Card

bowl of campfire chili with sour cream and cheese on top.

Campfire Chili

It's time for some hearty Campfire Chili! This recipe is rich, smoky, and tastes like it's been cooked over a campfire for hours.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dinner, Dutch Oven, Main Entree
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 324kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef or turkey
  • 1 packet dry chili seasoning
  • 1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • ½ tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 small sweet onion diced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. liquid smoke or ancho peppers
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or ketchup
  • 1 15 oz can chili beans, undrained
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, undrained
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • fresh or dried cilantro for garnish

Instructions

  • Brown ground beef in a dutch oven or large pot.
  • Sprinkle packet of chili seasoning in with meat and stir well. 
  • Add fire-roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, cilantro, liquid smoke and ketchup or tomato sauce.
  • Fold in chili beans and black beans.  
  • Stir well and cover. Simmer for at least one hour over low heat, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Add a little water if chili becomes too thick. 
  • Top bowls of chili with grated cheddar, sour cream and chopped cilantro as a garnish.

Notes

  • Save the leftovers and make taco salad or smoky nachos the next day!
  • This chili can be frozen in an air-tight container for up to 3 months and enjoyed later.
  • Feel free to add hot sauce or fresh peppers to this chili if you like to spice it up! Ancho peppers also add a smoky flavor if they're available in your region. 

Nutrition

Calories: 324kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Sodium: 411mg | Potassium: 422mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 182mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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9 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Campfire chili… Delicious!!! Only thing missing… A real campfire under a beautiful night sky.

  2. 5 stars
    You’re not kidding when you call this “Campfire” Chili. It made me want to throw the tent up in the back yard! This Chili recipe is awesome and you are awesome for creating it. Also, you made a believer out of me with the fire roasted tomatoes. Thanks for sharing this really good recipe.

    1. Wow, Jo! I’m so glad you took the time to leave this review! I’m glad the chili turned out for you and you could taste the ‘campfire’ flavor! You made my day! 🙂

  3. Hello! Tomato sauce or tomato paste? Both are mentioned in your recipe. Just want to check before i buy the ingredients. thanks.

    1. Tomato sauce is best. Tomato paste is too rich. I’ll fix that right now. I usually use ketchup, but some people don’t like the added sugar.

  4. 5 stars
    No Need for a smoker with this classic campfire chili – I love to use old, sharp cheddar!

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