Heat up the grill and whip up a batch of Smoked Chili, loaded with smoked ground beef and sausage, tomatoes, peppers, onions and bold spices. All the classic chili flavors you love, hit with the essence of smoke. Serve with a slice of Jiffy Corn Casserole.
We’ve included two sets of instructions: the traditional way to make smoked chili and the popular “over the top chili”.
As written, this is a no bean chili, however it’s easy to incorporate a batch of your favorite chili beans. We’ve included the directions in the recipe card below.
Smoked Chili Recipe
This smoked chili recipe can be made via the traditional grill method or over the top style! What is over the top chili? It’s chili in which the ground meat is cooked over the pot of chili. The pot catches all the delicious fat and flavors the meat puts out.
How to Make Over the Top Chili
To make Over the Top Chili, the ingredients stay the same, but the meat is cooked above the pot of chili instead of on the side of it.
If you are using a grill with a top shelf, just position the meatball(s) of ground meat over the pot before shutting the lid. If your grill doesn’t have a top shelf, just spray a cooling rack with cooking spray and place it on top of the dutch oven.
Throw out your chili seasoning packet and use this blend of herbs and spices, to customize your chili seasonings. Here’s the spices you’ll need:
- Chili Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Smoked Paprika
- Onion Powder
- Chipotle Powder
- Red Pepper Flakes
- Black Pepper
- Optional: Cayenne
One of the best parts about chili is the toppings! Here are a few of our favorite chili topping options:
- Sour Cream
- Shredded Cheese
- Pickled Red Onions
- Pickled Peppers
- Pickled Banana Peppers
- Avocado Slices
- Lime Wedge
- Hot Sauce
Best Beans For Chili
Passionate about avoiding chili without beans? We get it. From polls, we’ve learned it’s a 50/50 split answer when it comes to adding them or omitting them from chili. Half prefers beanless chili and the other half wants it loaded up!
Setting Up The Smoker
Making smoked chili is one of the easiest smoker recipes to master, along with smoked meatloaf. You can use a gas grill, charcoal grill or electric grill. Consult the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the full instructions. Here’s a quick overview:
- Gas Grill – To make chili on the grill with propane, you’ll cook it at 250-275°F. Create smoke by using a smoker box filled with wood chips/chunks. Or you can omit the smoke all-together if you’re not into a delicious smoky flavor.
- Charcoal – To make chili on the grill with charcoal, pre-heat the coals and dump them in the middle of the smoker. Open the vents, as needed, to maintain the temperate between 250-275° F. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals, right before cooking.
- Pellet/Electric Smoker (Traeger Chili) – To make chili on an electric smoker, pre-heat the smoker to 250°. Follow the manufacture’s instructions to get an even smoke.
Dutch Oven Chili
When making smoked chili, we use a large 5-quart dutch oven (the exact model is on Amazon) and it’s loaded to the rim. A 6-quart grill-friendly pot is ideal, but a 5 quart will work. Anything smaller and the contents won’t fit.
- Energy Source – The chili will be on the heat for hours so make sure you stock up on your selected energy source: charcoal, pellets, propane, gas, etc.
- Smoking Wood (Only Needed If Smoking) – Chunks, chips or pellets.
- Dutch Oven – Use a 5 quart or larger cast iron dutch oven or alternate grill-friendly pot.
- Smoker Box – You’ll need one to impart the delicious smoky flavor if using a gas grill. We’ve used this one from Amazon in the past. This isn’t necessary if you prefer to make chili on the grill vs smoked chili.
Venison can be tricky in chili as it’s very lean and can dry out. We personally haven’t tested it with venison, so can’t provide exact cook time edits. Just keep your eye on it and remove from the grill as soon as it hits about 120° F.
Use 1 lb of ground chorizo in place of the ground sausage.
Ground Chicken Chili
Replace the ground beef with ground bison. If you’re looking to make it a “chicken” only chili, replace the sausage with it as well.
Have leftover brisket? Make leftover brisket chili! Use brisket in place of all 3 lbs of ground meat. If you’re going this route, go big or go home. No need to mix in any other ground meat when making smoked brisket chili.
Chili Dog Chili
If you’re looking for a great chili recipe to use to make chili dogs, this is a great option. The thickness and texture is primed to sit atop a hot dog bun. No edits to the recipe are necessary to utilize it in this fashion.
Chili Cheese Fries
- Use 3 lbs of any ground meat combination you want. We’re partial to ground beef and hot sausage, but use what you like or have on hand.
- Opt for a 80/20% or 85/15% mix of ground beef. You don’t want too much fat or too little.
- To make extra hot chili, add in a 1 tsp. of cayenne pepper and go up from there, to taste.
- To make mild chili, reduce the red pepper flakes to 1/2 tbsp or omit all together.
- To store leftover chili, just let the chili cool before transferring it to an air tight container, for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
- To freeze, let the chili cool before transferring to a Ziplock bag. Chili can be kept in the freezer for up to 6 months, however 2 months is the max for the best texture and flavor.
Side Dish Ideas
Smoked chili is the PERFECT warm recipe to serve come cold weather or game day. While it’s a meal on it’s own, you could also serve smoked chili with a slice of corn bread or garlic bread. A cool green salad would also pair well.
Smoked Chili (Includes Over the Top Chili Instructions)
- 3 tbsp Chili Powder, Divided
- 2 tbsp Garlic Powder, Divided
- 2 tbsp Smoked Paprika, Divided
- 2 tbsp Cumin
- 2 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes (*Note 1)
- 1 tbsp Onion Powder
- 1 tbsp Chipotle Powder
- 1 tsp Black Pepper
- Salt, To Taste
- 2 lb Ground Beef (*Note 2)
- 1 lb Ground Sausage (*Note 2)
- 1 tbsp Olive Oil
- 1 large Onion, Diced
- 2 large Bell Peppers, Diced
- 6 oz Tomato Paste
- 3 14.5 oz Canned Diced Tomatoes
- 32 oz Beef Broth
- 1 Chicken Boullion Cube
Prep The Smoker (Pellet or Electric):
- Load the smoker with the pellet of your choice and pre-heat to 250°F.
Prep The Smoker (Gas or Charcoal):
- Gas Grill- turn half the burners (on the same side of the grill) to medium-low while the other burners are off. Play around with the burner settings to get it as close to 250°F as possible. Use a smoker box to add chips/chunks of wood for smoking.Charcoal- Pre-heat the coals until just ashed over. Dump them on the far side (either left or right) of your grill and open the vents to 25%. Play around with the vent opening to get it as close to 250°F as possible. Create smoke by placing wood chunks directly on the pre-heated coals, right before cooking.
Make The Chili:
- Add the ground meat to a large bowl and add 1 tbsp of chili powder, garlic powder and paprika. Use your hands to work the spices through the meat, being careful not to over-mix. Form a large, tight meat patty and set aside.
- Form a large, tight meat patty with the sausage. Transfer both meat patties to the pre-heated grill and let cook for about 60 minutes.
- Add the dutch oven to the grill, next to the meat, and add the olive oil, onions and peppers. Stir and let smoke until the internal temperature of either of the meat patties, hits 140-150°F.
- Transfer both meat patties to the dutch oven and use a spatula to break the meat into crumbles. Let smoke for another 30 minutes.
- Add the rest of the spices, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, beef broth and bouillon cube to the dutch oven and stir to combine.*If you want beans in your chili, add a can or two now.
- Close the lid and let smoke for up to 3 more hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. The longer it cooks, the heavier the smoke flavor will be.
- Remove from the grill and season with extra salt, to taste. Serve in individual bowls and top with your favorite toppings.