food,  recipes

The Great Chili Debate

The Wisconsin state capitol shows its Packer pride

My foodie friend, Amy, and I have a debate that resurfaces every winter. She’s from Texas and believes with the zeal of a Bible-thumper that chili should be burn-your-mouth hot and consist of large chunks of steak-like stew meat. Beans, to her, are sacrilege, as are any kind of carbs in the chili. I grew up in Green Bay, where chili is made with ground beef, flavored with spices of the type that sell for $0.99 at the grocery store, and served with macaroni noodes. Where I’m from, chili is also relatively mild, to suit the Northern palate, though I always put Tabasco on the table for those who want to spice things up.

I’m pretty sure the Food Network would shudder at my hometown’s version of chili, but I’ve developed a certain nostalgia for it. With the Packers in the Super Bowl this year, I took the liberty of cooking up a big pot of Green Bay-style chili and serving it to Amy recently. When she tried it, she said, “It’s good. But where I come from, they would call this pasta sauce.” That may be, but I guarantee that, come Sunday, lots of Green Bay fans will be serving up big pots of chili made with recipes similar to the one below.


  • 2 pounds ground chuck
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 green bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cayenne
  • 3 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 6 14-oz cans of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of macaroni noodles, cooked (for topping)
  • 1 bunch of green onions, chopped (for topping)
  • 1 pound shredded Wisconsin cheddar cheese (for topping)

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic over medium heat. Stir and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the ground chuck and brown it. Drain the grease from the pot with a slotted spoon. Add the chopped bell peppers and saute until tender. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices, spices, beans, and tomato paste. Heat on medium heat for 20-30 minutes, then reduce to a simmer. Allow the chili to simmer, uncovered, for an hour or more. It will be soupy in consistency. If you like it thicker, you can allow it to cook down for longer, or add less diced tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve chili in bowls and allow guests to top it with macaroni noodles, green onions and shredded cheese as desired. GO PACK GO!


  • mrs case

    i dont like stew meat in ym chili. i prefer ground beef. i guess im somewhere in the middle in terms of spice. and we grew up eating it over white rice. 🙂 although, steak n shake has chili spaghetti on their menu and it sounds divine!

  • Kerry-Green Bay mom

    The Green Bay chili is classic Wisconsin–the chili that you get at Chili Johns in GB or Real Chili on Marquette campus in Milwaukee. It is also Parents’ Club chili-the kind you cook at home, pour it into a 5 gallon ice cream bucket & bring it to the school fundraiser. Comfort food…yum.yum.

    I have a fond memories of Real Chili and sharing late hour conversatons with my best friend Kim.

  • barbara

    Susan, Your recipe is more like mine, but I’m from Ohio so that may explain it. I always make crushed red pepper and Tabasco available for those who feel the need. I prefer to serve mine with sour cream and cheddar and I save the noodles for leftover chili-mac.
    Now I’m going to have to make chili tonight because you made me hungry for it.

  • Amy the Texan

    It’s so sad that a whole city in Wisconsin has been duped into believing that spaghetti sauce + a little chili powder + a can of beans = chili. And now you’re spreading your Green Bay heresy around on the interwebs! What’s next? Barbecuing in your slow cooker? Baked chicken fried steak? (Two confessions though: 1) I’ve had lots of “chili” in Texas that wasn’t nearly this good. 2) My granny served her chili over rice. But that was a holdover from the depression so it’s ok.)