With just a hint of sweetness to counter the heat, this homemade sweet and spicy chili recipe is bursting with flavor. It’s thick and hearty, too, packed with beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, beef and ground sausage.
I’ve been making this sweet and spicy chili recipe for close to 20 years, and it’s one of our favorite year-round comfort foods. But it’s especially good on a cold winter day or when you’re watching football.
I adapted this dish from an award-winning chili recipe I clipped from the newspaper and taped into my tattered church cookbook. I’ve never actually made the original on which my homemade chili recipe is based. I tweaked it from the beginning, amping up the flavor and heat with more spices, garlic and spicy Italian sausage and balancing out the veggie-to-meat ratio.
It is so good! And it might even be better on the second day, after the flavors have had more chance to meld. When we make this sweet spicy chili, we usually have enough for dinner two nights and lunch another day. And sometimes there’s just enough chili leftover to use as a topping for nachos, baked potatoes or macaroni noodles.
The combination of sausage and beef is one of the secrets of this recipe. While a lot of homemade chili recipes just call for ground beef, this sweet and spicy chili recipe uses Italian sausage. I usually use hot Italian sausage, but I have used mild and sweet when the spicy wasn’t available at my grocery store.
The chili also has a just touch of sugar, to offset the heat. You can taste the spicy sweet combo in every bite.
Ingredients for Sweet and Spicy Chili
- Ground Beef – I usually use lean ground beef
- Italian Sausage – For a spicy kick, use spicy Italian sausage
- Chili Powder – Different varieties of chili powder are spicier than others. The chili powder you find at most grocery stores is relatively mild, but you can find spicier versions made with hotter peppers at specialty stores
- Sugar – A little bit of white granulated sugar helps offset some of the heat and gives the chili a nice flavor
- Light Red Kidney Beans – These are lighter in color than their dark red counterparts, and the skins are less tough
- Peppers – I use a mix of red, green and yellow peppers. You can also add a diced jalapeno for more spice
- Onion – This recipe uses a white or yellow onion, plus green onions
- Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce – You’ll need two cans of diced tomatoes, plus a can of tomato sauce
- Spice Blend – In addition to fresh, minced garlic, you’ll need garlic powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt and pepper
- Vinegar – Finish the recipe with a splash of white vinegar for acidity
How to Make Sweet and Spicy Chili
I blend chili powder, garlic, other spices and a bit of sugar into the sausage and ground beef before browning.
Please note that you’ll need to measure out the spices separately. You’ll add some of the spices directly to the meat, and the remainder are added to the chili pot after you’ve added the tomatoes, beans and peppers.
Use a large Dutch oven to brown the meat and spices. Drain off any excess grease.
Once the meat has browned, I add light red kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, peppers, chopped onion and the remaining spices to the mix. (I prefer to use diced tomatoes, but stewed or sliced work just as well. I’ve even used a can of diced and a can of crushed tomatoes when that’s all I had in the pantry.
Let the sweet spicy chili simmer, covered, for at least 30 minutes, but preferably longer to let the flavor develop.
Serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, sliced green onions and fresh jalapeño, if you prefer a spicier chili. Add a dollop of sour cream, if you like.
Can I make this sweet and spicy chili in a slow cooker?
If you want to make this recipe in the slow cooker, you can certainly do so. Use the saute feature on your slow cooker to cook the seasoned meat.
Or if yours doesn’t have a saute feature, brown the meat on the stovetop and Just transfer the browned meat to your Crock-Pot, add the remaining ingredients and cook on LOW for 6 hours.
How do you add sweetness to chili?
Add a touch of sugar to add sweetness to chili to balance the heat. This recipe calls for 1/4 cup of sugar.
What can I add to chili to make it spicy
You have a lot of different options for adding spice to a pot of chili.
Chili powder will add some heat or spice. Most chili powder sold at the grocery store is fairly mild, because it is made from a blend of spices and mild ground peppers. But you can find specific varieties of chili powder that pack more heath.
Look for chipotle chili powder for a smoky, spicy flavor. New Mexico hatch chili powder is a flavorful and spicy.
Chili powder made from habanero, Scotch bonnet or ghost peppers will make your chili much spicier.
You can also add fresh hot peppers to make chili spicier. Using spicy Italian sausage will also make chili spicier.
How do you cut the spicy in chili?
If you prefer your chili less spicy, reduce the amount of chili powder in the recipe and omit any spicy fresh peppers, such as jalapenos.
In this sweet spicy chili recipe, you can substitute mild or sweet ground sausage for the spicy sausage.
If you find that the chili is too spicy after you’ve made it, there are a few things you can do:
- Add sour cream to cut the spice
- Add another can of tomatoes or sauce to dilute the spice
- Serve over noodles, rice or potatoes
- Increase the amount of vinegar or sugar
More Soups & Stews You’ll Love
- Quick & Eas Weight Watchers Soup Recipes
- Brunswick Stew
- Quick & Easy Tortellini Soup
- Hearty Beef Stew
- One Pot Tuscan Chicken Stew
- Blacked Eye Pea Soup with Collards & Ham
- Hearty Minestrone Soup
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb Italian sausage hot, mild or sweet, your choice
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 4 Tablespoon chili powder
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes
- 2 14-ounce cans light red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
- 1 yellow pepper chopped
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 1 green pepper chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
- 1 bunch fresh green onions sliced
Combine the ground beef and Italian sausage into a bowl. Add minced garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and a dash of freshly ground pepper and salt.
Using your clean hands or a wooden spoon, mix the spices into the meat until fully incorporated. Brown the spiced hamburger and sausage over medium heat in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot.
Once meat is browned, add the drained kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, peppers, yellow onion and remaining spices.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer covered for at least 30 minutes, but preferably longer to let the flavor develop.
Just before serving, add 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, and stir.
Garnish with green onions, sour cream, shredded cheese and jalapeno peppers, if preferred. Serve with tortilla chips.
You can prepare this homemade chili recipe in a slow cooker. After browning the meat in the stove, transfer to a slow cooker and add the remaining ingredients. Cook on LOW for 6 hours.
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