The Very Best Dutch Oven Chili

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Today I’m sharing my dutch oven chili recipe that makes a delicious camping dinner, especially in these colder months! Chili is the perfect meal to cook in a dutch oven while camping. It’s easy, delicious, and can feed a large group.

dutch oven chili

My dad loves chili and is very critical about any chili he eats. In fact, he used to have a special chili recipe that a friend gave him many years ago, and unfortunately, it got lost.

This was before the days of the notes app on cell phones, and instead, it was written on a piece of paper. I’ve always loved to cook, and as a teenager, I would follow that chili recipe every time, and then one day, no one could find the recipe.

cooking chili in a dutch oven over the fire

So here I am, many years later, developing my own chili recipe and trying to recall what made that recipe extra delicious.

Thanks to some tips from my Dad, like adding a can of diced green chilies, and my own take, like leaving out the beans, I landed on a chili recipe that has my dad’s seal of approval!

Whether you make this at home, or while camping, it’s going to be delicious.

two servings of chili

Camp Cooking Gear:

dutch oven hanging over a fire

Dutch Oven

This chili is cooked in a dutch oven over a flame, and trust me, cooking in a dutch oven takes this chili to a whole new level! There’s just something about cooking in a dutch oven over a fire that always makes food taste better. For this recipe, it’s best to use a 12-inch dutch oven. In the video and photos, I was using a 10-inch. While that does work if it’s all you have, a 12-inch is definitely better.

cooking chili outdoors

Cooking Tripod

The tripod is used to hang your dutch oven over the flame. It comes with a chain, making it easy to raise or lower the dutch oven as needed to get the temperature right.

adding chocolate to dutch oven chili

How to Cook Chili with a Dutch Oven

The tricky part of cooking with a dutch oven over the fire is getting the heat right. It’s not like turning the nob down on a stove.

Initially, when cooking this dutch oven chili, you want the heat to be high to brown the meat and develop some flavor there.

browning meat in a dutch oven
cooking meat, peppers, and onions

Then, once you’ve added all the other ingredients, you want to simmer the chili for at least an hour. At this step, you can either spread the fire out a bit so that it’s not as hot, raise the dutch oven higher, or do a combination of both these things.

This is part of the fun of dutch oven cooking! The longer you can let this chili simmer, the better it will get.

meat and veggies in a dutch oven
adding spices and garlic to a dutch oven

The Best Dutch Oven Chili

It doesn't get any better than chili made in the dutch oven over a campfire! This is the best chili recipe that's sure to be a hit on your next camping trip.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:15 mins
Cook Time:1 hr 30 mins
Total Time:1 hr 45 mins

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef, elk, or venison
  • 1 tbsp butter or oil
  • 1 large white onion diced
  • 1 green bell pepper diced
  • 1 orange or red bell pepper diced
  • 4 large cloves of garlic minced
  • 14 oz can crushed tomatoes no salt added
  • 14 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4 oz can mild diced green chili
  • 1-1.5 cups beef broth
  • 2 oz dark chocolate about 1/2 a bar

Spice Mix

  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 3/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper add more or less depending on how hot you like your chili

Toppings (optional)

  • cheddar cheese shredded
  • green onions chopped
  • jalapeños thinly sliced
  • avocado cubed
  • sour cream
  • lime juice

Instructions

At Home:

  • Mix all the spices for the spice mix and store them in an airtight container or resealable bag. This way you don't need to pack a bunch of individual spices to camp.

At Camp:

  • Before you begin, make sure all your ingredients are organized and everything is chopped and ready to go.
  • Hang your dutch oven over the flame and begin to heat it. Add the butter or oil to the dutch oven followed by the ground meat. It should sizzle when it hits the pan.
  • Cook the meat, mixing frequently until it is browned, then add in the diced onions and peppers. Mix frequently and cook until the onions begin to turn translucent.
  • Add the garlic and spices. Mix well and cook for a minute or two. Make sure your fire isn't too hot that you burn the spices.
  • Next, add the can of crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, green chilies, and beef broth. Mix well.
  • Lastly, add in the chocolate and mix until it's completely melted into the chili.
  • Bring the chili to a simmer and then cover with the dutch oven lid. Simmer for at least 1 hour, mixing every once in a while. The longer you cook this, the better, so if you can, let it go longer!
  • After cooking, remove the dutch oven from the flame, give it a good stir, and serve the chili in bowls. Add all the toppings you desire!

Notes

It’s important that your heat isn’t too high when you let the chili simmer. If the chili is boiling and a lot of steam is escaping, you need to turn the heat down by either spreading your fire out or by lifting the dutch oven higher on the tripod chain. Whatever you do, be careful as you’re working around the fire! The dutch oven is really heavy and hot! 
Servings: 6 servings

Dutch Oven Chili Variations

There are plenty of ways to change up this chili to make it your own. While I do believe the recipe as written is the best, feel free to experiment!

How to make this dutch oven chili vegetarian:

To make a vegetarian chili, simply leave out the meat, and add a can of kidney beans instead. You also could do a can of kidney beans and a can of black beans if you really like beans!

Lastly, swap out the beef broth for vegetable broth.

dutch oven chili in a blue bowl

Make it spicier:

As written, this chili is a mild spiciness. We add some cayenne pepper for a little heat, but feel free to add more if you like it spicier!

Another way to add some spice is by mixing in a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Simply dice the peppers before mixing them with the sauce into the chili. Be warned, this will make the chili spicy and the chipotle peppers become a dominant flavor. Personally, this isn’t my favorite, but if you like it, go for it!

If you want to add some spice without majorly taking away from the other flavors, then stick with the cayenne pepper.

Other ways to bring some heat are by adding red chili flakes to individual servings or topping your chili with thinly sliced fresh jalapenos.

eating chili outside

Toppings for Dutch Oven Chili

For me, the toppings are everything! The contrast of a dollop of sour cream in a hot bowl of chili is absolutely delicious. I also love diced avocado, fresh cilantro, green onions, and of course sharp cheddar cheese. See all the topping possibilities in the written recipe.

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Then check out my complete Dutch Oven Cooking Course! This self-paced course will teach you exactly how to cook and bake in your dutch oven outdoors.

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dutch oven chili topped with sour cream, cheese, and green onions

More Dutch Oven Camping Recipes:

Check out some of the other dutch oven recipes on the blog:

Enjoy this dutch oven chili. If you try this recipe, please come back and leave me a review and comment below!

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