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The world's best Campfire Chili.





There is chili, and there is chili, but there is nothing like chili cooked over a campfire.

Regardless of what you classify as chili (i.e. some say you cannot have any tomatoes), the chili I prefer has a little bit of everything. I am a firm believer in no two chilis can be quite the same, so you should experiment a bit as to what you like. And there is nothing wrong with simply cleaning out the 'fridge on chili day. I have tried everything from beer to brown sugar in my chili.

The chili I now prefer is mild, only a bit on the spicy side. Afterall, camping is a family activity, and your kids may not like spicy-hot chili, so leave the macho stuff for the men's night out. If you follow the ingredients below, this is not a spicy-hot chili. It doesn't need a lot of heat as the flavor stands on it's own.



The only thing that might make this a spicy-hot chili is if you use a spicy chili powder or spicy version of the Chorizo. If you desire spicy-hot, add spicy versions of these ingredients - or your favorite heat source.

OK, so here goes... this is my Campfire Chili.



  • 12oz El Popular Chorizo - original or mild (or spicy if you prefer).
  • 1lb. Cheap cut of beef. Stew beef or a cheap cut of steak (for a chewy texture).
  • Good sized white or yellow onion - chopped.
  • One 28oz or two 14oz cans of diced tomatoes. Buy them already diced so you will have less work to do.
  • Two cans of pinto beans. I buy the store brand variety.
  • One small can of tomato paste.
  • One can of Campbell's Tomato Soup; low sodium if you prefer.
  • Optional; one packet of chili mix; one small can of green chili (in the Mexican food aisle).


Chorizo is a Mexican sausage, and is the secret ingredient if there ever was one. DO NOT SUBSTITUTE OR SKIP THIS INGREDIENT. This chili will simply not be the same without the Chorizo. And I highly recommend "El Popular Chorizo", as there are a wide variety of tastes and textures of the different Chorizo sausages that are available.




There are no secrets here. I usually start by cubing the beef to maybe 1/8" squares, but it is preferable to ground beef as it results in a slight chewey texture, something a bit unique. OK, if you insist, you can use ground beef, but you may like this approach better, and you won't be greasing up your recreational vehicle's interior... not to mention not having to dispose of hamburger grease.

Brown the beef cubes (or ground beef if you must), then add both Chorizo sausage sticks. Or if your pan is not large enough, just throw the Chorizo directly into the pot. If you are going to use chili mix, add it now. But I have found the Chorizo provides all of the spice flavoring you need, so try it without the chili mix.

The Tomato soup may seem a bit unusual, but we were out of tomato paste one day and my wife suggested using Tomato soup. We figured, why not. And to our delight, the soup gave the chili an exciting but unusual tangy flavor. Try it.

After the meat has browned, throw in the chopped onion, the beans and the tomatoes. One note: Do not drain any of the vegetables; just throw in the juice and all. If you do this, you will not need to add any water, and you won't have to dispose of the juices. Add the tomato paste, and green chili if you are using it, and any other ingredients you might want at this time.

And it's not Campfire Chili unless it is cooked over a fire, so to ensure the Campfire Chili is authentic, use a Dutch Oven - or kitchen pot if you don't have one - and place on a bed of campfire coals until done.

Simmering works best, so wait for the fire to burn down enough for a low to medium heat. Also, stir frequently or you may burn the contents at the bottom of the pot.

Whether it is the infusion of smokey flavor or just the perception that it is better, there is just something that adds to the flavor of the Chili when cooked over a campfire.

A couple of slip-joint or Channel-lock pliers comes in handy to remove the chili pot from the fire when it's done.




We like to serve chili with a garnish of crackers, sour cream, and shreeded cheese, but these are optional, depending on how much room you have in your RV's fridge. If you have kids, substitute Fritos for crackers.



How-to Video.






Last reviewed and/or updated June 15, 2017