Smoked Brisket Chili

Smoked Brisket Chili

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This smoked brisket chili is loaded with smoky beef, a medley of chiles, onion, and beans, smothered in a silky tomato chili sauce. A great crock-pot recipe!

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I promise if you try this smoked brisket chili recipe, it will be some of THE BEST CHILI you have ever eaten!

The smoky brisket is combined with ground chuck, a medley of four different kinds of chiles, onions, and beans slow-cooked in a silky rich tomato chili sauce. This chili is everything a chili should be: thick, hearty, chunky, saucy with full-throttled flavor and a nice subtle spice. 

spoonful of smoked brisket chili

Chili is a way of braising meat to break it down in a fair amount of liquid so that it turns a thin broth into a silky, thick and hearty stew with amazing flavor. Normally you would simmer a chili for hours to help break down the meat, but the meat for this chili is already cooked. The slow cooking and simmer help to break down the vegetables used to give it flavor.

So what sets this smoked brisket chili apart from other chili recipes? Allow me to break down the ingredients for you to help you better understand how this chili is made.

THE MEAT

This may come to you as a shock, but sometimes we have leftover smoked beef brisket stored in our freezer. I know, it is hard to believe, but it does happen. There’s only so much two people can eat when you smoke a whole brisket. 

David and I always freeze leftover smoked brisket in whole pieces rather than sliced to prevent it from becoming freezer burned. We’ve created some amazing meals from leftover brisket, like Smoked Beef Brisket Sandwiches, Skillet Mac and Cheese and Smoked Beef Brisket Enchiladas and now we have discovered smoked beef brisket makes THE BEST CHILI!

sliced brisket

Acidic ingredients such as tomatoes can slow down and even prevent the meat from becoming tender. That is why smoked beef brisket is perfect for making chili because it is smoky tender and juicy just waiting to take a dip in some type of sauce.

Along with the brisket we like to use ground chuck. Ground beef is the least expensive type of beef. When used in combination with the brisket, it can give you that meaty bite you look for without breaking your pocketbook just to break it down into stew. By using ground beef you don’t have to worry so much about tenderizing the meat either. 

For this recipe, I use 1 pound of smoked brisket, cut into bite-sized pieces and 1 pound of ground chuck hamburger meat.

Substitutions for Brisket and/or Beef:

If you don’t have smoked brisket and you’re not smoking one yourself, seared chuck-eye steaks cut into bite-size pieces work well in this chili. In fact, I shared a similar chili recipe many moons ago. That recipe was originally made with chuck-eye steak. 

A Healthier Alternative: 

Another option is to use chicken or turkey. For a healthier option, you could use 1 pound shredded grilled or rotisserie chicken and 1 pound ground chicken or turkey instead of beef. I’ve never tried it, but I couldn’t imagine eating this chili since we often have smoked brisket on hand.

THE CHILES

There are four different types of chiles in this smoked brisket chili: Poblano, Jalapeno, New Mexico and chipotle chile peppers. Each of these Hatch Chiles brings its own color, texture, acidity, flavor, and heat. Together, they bring a rich complexity to this chili.

poblano fire roasting on stove

#1 Poblano Peppers:

Poblano peppers are mild green peppers. Unlike many other varieties of chiles, they are rarely used raw. Instead, poblanos are roasted to bring out their true flavor. Poblanos become sweet after the stem and seeds are removed and they are roasted. This chile provides a rich flavor to the chili along with a little bit of sweetness with a very faint back heat. 

[CLICK HERE] to learn more about Poblano Peppers.

jalapenos in a bowl

#2 Jalapeno Peppers:

When it comes to heat, jalapeno peppers fall somewhere between poblanos and habaneros with a front-of-mouth heat feel. Their spiciness can vary among individual peppers. However, they become more like a bell pepper when you remove the seeds and veins. This adds a fresh, bright flavor to the chili.

new mexico chiles in hot water

#3 Dried New Mexico Chiles:

These smooth pods have uniquely rich, earthy, with a slightly acidic flavor with a cherry-like undertone. These beautiful chiles provide a beautiful deep red color with a sweet mild taste when the seeds and stems are removed. Dried chiles give a deep rich base to this pot of chili.

re-hydrated chipotle pepper ready to use

#4 Chipotle Peppers:

Chipotle peppers are fully-ripened red jalapeños that have been smoked to dry them out as a form of preservation. These chile peppers are typically sold in an adobo sauce. Like New Mexico chiles, chipotle peppers have a rich earthy flavor with an underlying sweetness. However, they are different because of their rich smoky flavor from the smoking process used to preserve them. Chipotle peppers add a very distinct smoky bite with a kick of spice.

You can read more about how we made our own chipotle peppers [HERE]

rinsed pinto beans

WHY I USE BEANS

There seems to be a bit of controversy as to whether or not you should add beans to chili. I for one love beans in chili! I use pinto beans in this recipe and here’s why…

For starters, I am not from Texas. Folks from this carnivorous part of the country are opposed to beans in their chili. All that’s fine and dandy, but to me, beans provide great texture! They also hold up well when braised and they cook in a uniform fashion.

Really what it literally boils down to is your own personal preference. If you don’t like beans in chili, leave them out!

However, if you love beans and prefer to have them in your chili, black beans, and kidney beans are other great options for chili, but avoid small white beans, because they just can’t handle on the braising and will fall apart.

TOMATOES

Tomatoes add texture, flavor, and acidity to the chili. Although fresh is always best, fresh tomatoes aren’t always so great at the store and when they are out of season. I use a good canned tomato such as whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes and crush them by hand before adding them directly to the crock-pot.

THE SPICES

Cumin:

Cumin is used mainly where highly spiced foods are preferred. It is a strong, aromatic and nutty spice that enhances the savory flavors of the meat and accentuates the sweetness of the vegetables and beans. It adds to the overall complexity of this chili.

It’s best to buy the seeds whole to toast and grind yourself. This is also a great way to maximize the flavor. However, to me, cumin seems to hold up fairly well after it is ground, so I go either way. I normally buy organic ground cumin from the store.

Mexican Oregano:

I have fallen head over hills in love with Mexican Oregano and highly recommend it. Mexican oregano has similar citrusy undertones like the “regular” oregano you are used, but it will taste a little more grassy or earthy. You can also smell a difference when taking a whiff between the two.

Mexican oregano is better suited for Mexican cuisine because it can stand up to bold flavors. This, in turn, elevates the flavor profile of this smoked brisket chili.

Please, don’t use powders!

Always use fresh garlic and onions when making chili. And don’t use “chili powder” either. Fresh ingredients ALWAYS add flavor that dried spices cannot match.

ingredients to make recipe

AN ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

It may sound odd, but adding some of your morning java to the chili is actually a great way to round out the flavors. Coffee is commonly used because it has a bitter flavor that can enhance anything sweet and savory. Coffee provides a unique earthy aroma and flavor that combines really well with the spices to give the chili even more depth and complexity.

Normally, I just reserve some extra brewed black coffee from our morning brew. However, I have seen where you can grind up some coffee beans and add them directly to the chili. I haven’t tried it, so I cannot say whether or not I recommend it. For now, let’s just stick to brewed coffee.

HOW TO MAKE SMOKED BRISKET CHILI

Prepare the Dried Chiles: 

Safety first! When handling chiles put on a pair of rubber gloves.
Learn more about dried chiles [HERE]

This may seem like a lengthy process, but it goes by fast and it gives you time to chop up the veggies and brown the meat. 

Feel free to do this ahead of time and store the chile sauce in the fridge for a day or two before you need it.

Step #1 (You can skip this step if you like spicy food!)

If you do not like spicy food, open up the dried chili lengthwise with kitchen scissors, then remove the stems, seeds and any light-colored veins inside the chiles. This step will remove most of the heat from the fruit (yes, chiles are fruit). 

Step #2 

Preheat a stainless steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chiles and toast for 30 to 40 seconds on each side.

Step #3

In a medium saucepan, heat enough hot water to cover the chiles. When the chiles have toasted, place them into a container or bowl to soak for 30 minutes. 

Make sure the chiles are submerged completely in the hot water. If they float use a clean heavy object to hold them down into the hot water. This will ensure that both sides of the chili become pliable.

Step #4

After 30 minutes, remove the chiles from the soaking water. If you didn’t remove the stems initially then remove them now. Add the chiles and all, or as many of the seeds you prefer, plus about 1 cup of the soaking water to a container and blend with an immersion blender or a blender

chile sauce with sieve

Step #5

Strain the chile sauce to remove any large bits of skin or seeds that did not grind up in the blender.

Use a spoon to help push the liquid through the sieve. It may seem like it won’t go through, but it will. Just keep stirring!

You should have about ½ to 1 cup of red chile sauce. 

Roast the Poblanos:

Step #1

As I mentioned, poblano peppers are roasted or fried to bring out their true flavor. There are different ways to do this. I usually place the pepper over a gas burner on the stove. However, you can broil them in the oven.

Whether you boil them, roast them directly on the grill or directly over a gas burner on the stove, this can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.

Step #2

Carefully place the peppers in a bowl covered in plastic wrap or you can place them in a plastic bag, close it tightly and let them sweat for 10 to 20 minutes.

Step #3

Once cool, peel the skin gently, starting at the charred sections where the skin is loose, preferably under a thin stream of cold water. You can also use a damp paper towel to wipe them off when you are done rinsing. Remember that the flesh will now be tender enough to tear easily. An important point to keep in mind is what you intend on using the chili for.

Step #4

Cut the top of the roasted pepper off to remove the stem. Slice it wide open so that it can be laid out flat and scrape out all of the seeds and cut out and discard the ribs. Cut the soft roasted shell into ¼ to ½ inch thick strips, then dice them.

You can learn more about fire roasting poblanos HERE or learn how to roast them in your oven HERE.

Brown the Ground Beef and Onions: (see note)

Meanwhile, pour the olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula. Season the meat with the cumin. Cook until the beef is brown: about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain excess grease if necessary.

chili ingredients in crock-pot

Combine The Ingredients & Slow Cook The Chili:

What I love most about this chili recipe is that even though there is a little bit of prep work involved, it cooks in the crock-pot beautifully with very little monitoring needed, versus a stove where I would have to watch it every minute to ensure it didn’t scorch.  

When all of the ingredients are ready to go, simply stir all of the ingredients into a slow cooker. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste, then place the lid on the crock-pot and cook on high heat for 4 to 6 hours or on low heat for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally.

smoked brisket chili in bowl

Serving & Toppings for Smoked Brisket Chili:

After all that slow cooking the whole house will smell delicious. Give the chili a taste and add more salt and fresh cracked pepper, if needed. 

Serve this chili warm with tortilla chips and your choice of toppings. Toppings we love with this chili are: 

  • Shredded Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Chopped Scallions
  • Chopped Cilantro
smoked brisket chili in bowl with mountain view
chili on tortilla chip with mountain view

I hope you will try this recipe and love it just as much as we do. 

We would love your feedback! If you do, please comment and give us a star rating below. 

Enjoy!

Smoked Brisket Chili

This smoked brisket chili is loaded with smoky beef, a medley of chiles, onion, and beans, smothered in a silky tomato chili sauce. A great crock-pot recipe!
Safety first! When handling chiles put on a pair of rubber gloves!!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword beef, brisket, chiles, Chili, crock-pot, slow cooker, smoked
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 8 hours
Total Time 9 hours
Servings 8
Calories 368kcal

Ingredients

  • 4 New Mexico dried chiles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil extra-virgin
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 teaspoons cumin divided
  • 1 pound ground chuck
  • 1 medium jalapeno seeded and diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 small poblano chili peppers roasted, seeded, deveined and diced (or one large)
  • 1 pound beef brisket smoked cut into bite-size pieces, (see notes)
  • 1 large chipotle pepper chopped + teaspoon of adobo sauce
  • 28 ounce whole tomatoes canned
  • 10.75 ounces tomato puree canned (or crushed tomatoes)
  • 15.5 ounces kidney beans canned, drained and rinsed
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • ¼ cup coffee brewed (can be leftover from your morning java)
  • Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Suggested Toppings:

  • Shredded Extra-Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Chopped Scallions
  • Chopped Cilantro

Instructions

Prepare the Dried Chiles:

  • (You can skip this step if you like spicy food!)
    If you do not like spicy food, open up the dried chili lengthwise with kitchen scissors, then remove the stems, seeds and any light-colored veins inside the chiles. This step will remove most of the heat. 
  • Preheat a stainless steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chiles and toast for 30 to 40 seconds on each side.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat enough hot water to cover the chiles. When the chiles have toasted, place them into a container or bowl to soak for 30 minutes. 
    Make sure the chiles are submerged completely in the hot water. If they float use a clean heavy object to hold them down into the hot water. This will ensure that both sides of the chili become pliable.
  • After 30 minutes, remove the chiles from the soaking water. If you didn’t remove the stems initially then remove them now. Add the chiles and all, or as many of the seeds you prefer, plus about 1 cup of the soaking water to a container and blend with an immersion blender or a blender
  • Strain the chile sauce to remove any large bits of skin or seeds that did not grind up in the blender.
    Use a spoon to help push the liquid through the sieve. It may seem like it won’t go through, but it will. Just keep stirring!
    You should have about ½ to 1 cup of red chile sauce.

Roast the Poblanos: (see notes)

  • Broil them, roast them directly on the grill or directly over a gas burner on the stove. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Carefully place the peppers in a bowl covered in plastic wrap or you can place them in a plastic bag, close it tightly and let them sweat for 10 to 20 minutes.
  • Once cool, peel the skin gently, starting at the charred sections where the skin is loose, preferably under a thin stream of cold water. You can also use a damp paper towel to wipe them off when you are done rinsing. Remember that the flesh will now be tender enough to tear easily. An important point to keep in mind is what you intend on using the chili for.
  • Cut the top of the roasted pepper off to remove the stem.
    Slice it wide open so that it can be laid out flat and scrape out all of the seeds and cut out and discard the ribs.
    Cut the soft roasted shell into ¼ – ½ inch thick strips, then dice them.

Brown the Ground Beef and Onions: (see note)

  • Pour the olive oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the ground beef to the skillet, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula. Season the meat with the cumin. Cook until the beef is brown: about 6 to 7 minutes. Drain excess grease if necessary.

Combine The Ingredients & Slow Cook The Chili:

  • When all of the ingredients are ready to go, simply stir all of the ingredients into a slow cooker. Season with salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste, then place the lid on the crock-pot and cook on HIGH HEAT for 4 to 6 hours OR on LOW HEAT for 6 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally.

Serving & Toppings for Smoked Brisket Chili:

  • After all that slow cooking the whole house will smell delicious. Give the chili a taste and add more salt and fresh cracked pepper, if needed. 
    Serve this chili warm with tortilla chips and your choice of toppings.

Notes

Poblano Peppers: Poblano peppers are roasted or fried to bring out their true flavor. There are different ways to do this. I usually place the pepper over a gas burner on the stove. However, you can broil them in the oven. You can learn more about fire roasting poblanos HERE or learn how to roast them in your oven HERE.
Substitutions for Brisket and/or Beef: If you don’t have smoked brisket and you’re not smoking one yourself, seared chuck-eye steaks cut into bite-size pieces work well in this chili. In fact, I shared a similar chili recipe many moons ago. That recipe was originally made with chuck-eye steak. 
A Healthier Alternative: Another option is to use chicken or turkey. For a healthier option, you could use 1 pound shredded grilled or rotisserie chicken and 1 pound ground chicken or turkey instead of beef. I’ve never tried it, but I couldn’t imagine eating this chili since we often have smoked brisket on hand.
Using Steak Instead of Brisket? After the hamburger is done, cut the steak into cubes. Seer steak in the same skillet (be careful not to overcrowd the pan) over medium-high heat. The steak doesn’t need to cook through, but it needs to seer as much as possible, to seal in the juices of the meat. Remove seared steak cubes from the heat.
Nutrition: Calories are based on chili ingredients only and do not include toppings.

Nutrition

Calories: 368kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 28g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 75mg | Sodium: 134mg | Potassium: 1053mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1224IU | Vitamin C: 37mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 6mg
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