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Grandma’s Classic Chili

Chili has so very many fun varieties! Can we ever get enough of this easy, perfectly comforting, fall soup? But what is the “classic” chili recipe? For me, classic chili means this recipe of chili con carne that I’ve fashioned after memories of my Grandma Trotter’s Christmas Eve chili. Yes, it has beans. And I’ve added corn.

Don’t ya know, Grandma is often the Gold Standard for cooking and baking. You can find her recipe for Glazed Butter Cookies on my blog (handed down from Great Grandma), as well as her good taste reflected in my creations like Cranberry BBQ Baked Beans and Classic Lasagna without pre-boiled noodles.

Spoon in a bowl of classic chili topped with cheddar cheese.

And I’ll let you in on the secret ingredient (besides love and Christmas magic) in my Grandma’s wonderful classic chili recipe – Campbell’s tomato soup! If you haven’t tried this as your soup base for chili, I may have just blown your mind!

Yes, my Grandma, and probably yours, was not afraid of using canned ingredients. As a matter-of-fact, this recipe uses a lot of them. And while this might not be the kind of soup your grandma from the 18th century would have made (if she were making chili!), my grandma from the 1970’s loved convenience. And if you have a homesteading grandma or become one in the future, you may rewrite this recipe to include your home-canned tomato soup or fresh garden tomatoes. But like Grandma Trotter, I appreciate good food with minimal effort. Although in all honesty, I can be unlike Grandma and get a little carried away in the kitchen. I own that.

The point is, if you’re looking for deliciously, amazing chili you can slap together fast, then Grandma’s Classic Chili is the recipe for you.

I think this recipe is nicely balanced between the meat, the beans, and the spice level. It doesn’t heavily lean in any direction. Keep in mind, this is a Mid-Western chili where the mid-European heritage tends toward blander, less spicy, foods. So don’t be hesitant for fear of associated chili “heat”, and if you like a kick, start with the basic recipe and add your own fire power.

Oh, and I’ve added corn. Just because I like it.

Top view into a pool of dark chili studded with beans, corn, meat and peppers.

This recipe makes a small batch to serve 3-5 people. But of course, it is very easily doubled. When I double it for company, I take advantage of having two cans of beans and I select two different varieties. Sometimes this is just one can of light red kidney beans and a can of dark red. Most often I use dark red kidney beans and a can of black beans. Which Grandma would have never used.

Classic chili con carne in a bowl topped with shredded cheese in the upper left.

Grandma's Classic Chili

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

The canned tomato soup in this easy chili con carne brings a rich flavor and texture to this warm, classic chili that is ready in 30 minutes.


  • ½ lb ground beef
  • ½ onion, diced
  • ½ green pepper, diced
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 Tbs. chili powder, or to taste
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup frozen corn


  1. Brown ground beef with onion and green pepper in a soup pot. Drain and return to pan.
  2. Add beans and tomato soup and tomato. Stir and add seasonings. Add a soup can of water, if
    desired. Heat to boiling. Add corn, if using.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.


This recipe is easily doubled. I like to use two different bean varieties, usually kidney and black beans, when I double it.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1 and 1/8 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 334Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 874mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 8gSugar: 8gProtein: 24g

At my house, this classic chili is served with shredded cheddar cheese and cornbread with honey. Which rounds out to a perfectly warm and delightful, cozy dinner.

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