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By: Sara Liberow

Chili for a Crowd


A few years ago, my siblings and I started this little tradition where once a week we get our families together for dinner. It’s simple: we each take turns hosting and making a big pot of something that feeds a crowd, and the kids all get to hang out in their pjs together. It’s the highlight of the week for everyone. I highly recommend you try it if you have family nearby. 


This is a go-to “family dinner” idea that even the pickiest of eaters gobble up – mainly due to the fact that it’s a “build your own bowl” kind of interactive experience, and dipping chips is involved. I love making it because It’s a set-it-and-forget-it kind of dish, perfect for a chilly evening (yes, I went there with that pun) or a Superbowl party and takes just a few minutes to pull together. 


Three Bean Smokey Chili 

This recipe makes enough to feed a crowd of six adults and six kiddos. If you’re just making it for a small family, freeze half and thank yourself later. 


1 family pack of ground beef (approximately 3 lb.)

3 tbsp. chili powder, divided

1 large onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 – 2 jalapenos (depending on how spicy you like it), diced

1/2 6-oz can tomato paste (approximately 5 tbsp.)

1 14-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 14-oz.  can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 14 oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes

5 chipotle chiles in adobo from a can, chopped (freeze the rest for another batch!)

6 oz. beer (about a half a bottle)

1 tbs. maple syrup

1 dried ancho chile* 


*Ancho chiles are a fantastic addition to your pantry. They give off a mild, sweet heat with rich smoky flavors and raisin undertones. I love throwing them into soups, chilis, and even cholent!




Season ground beef with salt and some chili powder. In a large Dutch oven pot, over medium-high heat, brown the seasoned meat. To ensure maximum browning, you’ll want to work in batches, and refrain from moving it around – just throw it in, and let it develop a nice sear. Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside (you’ll add it back in later).


Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil that was left in the pan over medium-low heat. Add the red pepper and jalapeno until everything is soft and golden. 


Make some space in the pot by moving everything to the edges and add the rest of the spices in, toasting them for about a minute.


Stir in the tomato paste, all of the beans, diced tomatoes, chipotle peppers (along with whatever sauce was on them), diced tomatoes, maple syrup, and beer. Add in the dried ancho chile pepper, bring to a simmer. 


Cook on low flame for a minimum of 30 minutes. Serve over roasted sweet potato boats or with tortilla chips, along with assorted toppings and sides (suggestions below).


If you want to turn this into an interactive experience or a buffet station, here are some suggestions for toppings and sides.



Parve sour cream

Corn on the cob

Sliced jalapeno

Lime wedges


Sliced radish

Rainbow slaw (recipe here)

Quick pickled shallots (recipe here)

Tortilla chips


Roasted sweet potato boats


Rainbow Slaw

I like to make this bright, crunchy slaw to balance out the heaviness in the chili (as opposed to a more traditional mayonnaise dressing).


1 bag of white or purple cabbage, shredded

A handful of radishes, sliced thinly

1 small purple onion, sliced thinly

Corn, sliced off the cob

1 cup of cilantro, chopped


Lime Dressing:

Juice of 1 lime

⅓ cup oil

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. mustard



In a medium serving bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients together. Add the cabbage, radishes, onion, corn, and cilantro directly to the bowl, and combine with the dressing.


Quick Pickled Shallots

These are great to have on hand for salads, grain bowls, and sandwiches. No pots or heat are involved in this method, and you’ll get just as good an addictive briny flavor as the traditional pickling method.


¼ cup apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. kosher salt

5 shallots, thinly sliced

1 bay leaf


Fill a small jar about halfway with apple cider vinegar. Add the kosher salt, then close and shake the jar until the salt is mostly dissolved. Add the shallots and bay leaf. Let it sit out for at least an hour, and then refrigerate.


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