Does your camping experience call for a little bit of spicing-up with some good old-fashioned chili? We’re sharing our personal favorite chili recipe that can be recreated at your campsite and will taste as good as any Terlingua chili cook-off recipe is known for.

What you’ll need

ingredients for Camp Chili

This recipe is somewhat similar to a real-life story of a guy who took Shiggin’ to a whole new level. It actually happened in 2003 at the Terlingua cook-off in Texas. Most chili chefs are known for their shiggin’ skills, which is phishing for chili secrets, yet Don Eastep took this one step further and took samples from every chili cook at the competition. He had enough that he finally mixed together and then presented this as his own chili to the judges.

The funny part is that Don won the contest with the first prize before one of the other chili cooks caught onto his plan. It seems that Don had quickly grabbed his t-shirt and trophy and went to the parking lot to hide. When they found him, they asked if he had cooked chili and he told them he had not. A similar incident happened in 2019 with Maggie Vespa, who is an anchorwoman at KGW8 TV at an office chili cook-off which she won as well.

But oddly enough, the similarities of these two incidents both did the same thing by combining chili beans that already come in cans. This is where you’ll have lots of comments that are claiming this chili is the best-tasting chili you’ve ever had. Here’s what you’ll need.

Best Camp Chili RecipeĀ 

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 large onion (or 2 small onions)
  • 1 bottle stewed tomatoes (chopped)
  • 4 or 5 different brands of chili (2 cans of each)
  • Vegetable oil (2 tablespoons)

You’ll also need a large cooking pot (2-3 quart pot), a long cooking spoon, a cutting board, and a knife. Optional items will include a can opener if your chili cans if it doesn’t come with a pop-top opening. You’ll also need serving bowls and spoons for your camping group. You might also like to make some cornbread that will compliment your chili. Fresh baked is easy enough if you have a skillet. We’ll give you a bonus recipe at the end of this chili recipe.

Making your chili

camo chili pot on fire

Start with firing up your grill and get the fire to turn into coals. The real secret will be to keep your fire going long enough to simmer your chili for the next two hours. Using a cutting board, slice up a large onion into inch pieces. You can add this onion and 2-tablespoons of oil into your cooking pot. Let your onions get slightly glassy before you add your ground beef into the pot.

To get the best taste, you can add a 50/50 mixture of beef and pork, but you can use either or depend on your taste. If your group is vegan or vegetarian, you can substitute this for veggie patties. We recommend that you select a patty that won’t break down in the mix so you still get little meat chunks. You’ll also need to chop these patties into small dice-sized cubes. These can be added to your pot with the onions.

Your meat and onions are allowed to cook until your ground beef turns nice and brown. This is when you add your stewed tomatoes. These must be chopped into small pieces before they go into the pot, but will eventually turn into a thicker sauce while it cooks. Now you add all of your different brands of chili. It doesn’t matter what kind you buy as long as they are all different brands. If they’re on sale, this is an extra bonus.

As a tip: take a picture of these brands so you can remember which brands you bought if you make this chili recipe again. The reason that you buy different brands is to have a wide variety of flavors. Mix it up with sweet or spicy, chunky and meaty, or whatever inspires you to be very creative.

Let your chili simmer

chili simmer in Dutch oven

Give your chili mixture a good stir before adding a lid and letting it simmer for an hour. Check on your chili every 15 minutes and give it a good stir each time. This allows steam to escape and lets the chili get thicker. For the last hour, remove the lid and let the remaining steam boil away. Continually stir the chili every 15 minutes and make sure it’s not burning on the bottom. If your fire is just burning coals, it won’t be hot enough to make your chili get burnt.

The last 25 minutes is when you can start making your cornbread. This is super easy to make and doesn’t require much prep time. Here’s what you’ll need:

Camp Cornbread

  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 cup milk
  • teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons honey (any brand)
  • tablespoon vegetable oil

Making your cornbread

cornbread in basket

Take a large bowl and add your cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt that are whisked together with a fork so it will mix easier. This is when you add the honey, milk, and egg into the bowl and mix it with your fork until it’s a syrupy liquid. Take a skillet and add your half teaspoon of oil, coating the inside while it warms up. Choose a spot on your grill top to place your skillet and add your cornbread slurry.

Place a lid over the skillet for 15 minutes and then take it off the heat for 5 minutes. Be sure to remove the lid (or aluminum foil) so the cornbread can cool off sooner. This needs to be sliced up into small pieces and served with your chili. There should be enough chili to serve up to 10 camp guests, so if you need to make more cornbread, have your griddle and cornbread batter ready.

What does this chili recipe taste like?

One thing that the Terlingua chili cook-off cheater and the TV anchorwoman have in common is that combined flavors often make a better taste than one specific flavor profile. It’s this combination of flavor that only gets better the longer the chili simmers. If you have enough for leftovers the next day, this chili will taste even better! Give it a try!

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