Is there something that you’ve made over and over again, only to one day realise that there was a far superior version hanging out there, waiting on the sidelines to be discovered? Allow me to introduce you to brisket chili, friends – the chili recipe to end all chili recipes.

I think it’s safe to say that most of us north of the Mexican border think of chili con carne as a simmered concoction of minced beef, red kidney beans, tomatoes, some veg (usually onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper), Mexican chili powder (which isn’t really Mexican at all), topped with sour cream and grated cheddar. Now, I want you to rid all of that from your mind. Throw it away. You don’t need it anymore. You don’t need chili with little nubs of overcooked minced meat bobbing around in a non-descript bath of tomatoey vegetables. Because now you have brisket chili – lovely, smoky, spicy, silky brisket chili – and by Jove, there is no turning back.

Beef brisket

Brisket Chili (serves 6) – adapted from Jamie Oliver

Note: the chili needs to simmer for a good 4-4.5 hours, so make sure to plan accordingly.

  • 1.5 kg best-quality beef brisket
  • 250g grams cooked Romano beans (or 1 x 19oz can)
  • 1 large cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 heaped Tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 yellow peppers
  • 1 x 28oz can chopped tomatoes
  • about 1/2 L beef stock
  • 2-3 red chipotle chiles in adobo, chopped
  • 1-2 chile peppers (jalapeño or habañero), de-seeded and chopped
  • 2 red onions, finely sliced
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • coarse salt and black pepper
  • olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • ½ bunch coriander, chopped
  • Soft tortillas, Greek-style yoghurt, avocado* and/or green salad, to serve

*you can also make a quick guacamole to serve on top, by mashing up a couple of ripe avocados, and adding some finely grated red onion, the juice of a lime and some chopped coriander, along with a pinch of salt. **the chili freezes really well, so don’t bother cutting down the recipe if you’re less than 6 people. Make a whole batch and freeze the rest.


Place the beef on a board and score one side. Combine the cumin, paprika and oregano and rub into the cuts in the beef. Season well with coarse salt and black pepper, drizzle over a little olive oil and brown the brisket well in a large pot or Dutch oven over a high heat.

021 Brisket with spicesOnce the outside is browned, remove the brisket from the pot and set aside. There should still be some residual oils at the bottom of the pot, which you’ll use to sautée the onion, etc, so keep it. But discard any bits of seasoning that looks like it’ll burn if cooked further (I use a slotted spoon to fish them out).

Reduce the heat to medium high and add the onion and garlic, sautéeing them in the leftover pan fats until translucent. Place the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, beef stock, beans and tomato paste into the pot and bring to the boil. Then add the chiles and the brisket to the pot; cover and leave to simmer for 4–4½ hours.

Gently pull the beef apart using 2 forks. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick; add a little vinegar to brighten up the flavour, add the coriander and adjust the seasoning. Serve with avocado (or guacamole), tortillas, yoghurt and/or a green salad.

Brisket chili Brisket chili with avocado