Cooking with Kids, Easy, Meats, One Pot

Teaching my kids to cook: four-ingredient chili

Fulfilling my pledge to teach my children to cook this summer, I grabbed the youngest (the only one I could find at the time), and said, “let’s cook chili!” He was game. Doing something without his older brother and sister to boss him around sounded appealing, so off we went into the kitchen to make our family’s signature four-ingredient chili. It’s fast, simple and homey, and we eat it year-round, even in stifling 90-plus degree weather.

Lessons in Chili

The speed and ease of this one-pot dish makes it the perfect thing to cook with an eight-year-old who’d rather be playing super heroes or tracking box turtles. Plus, he likes it, so he was motivated to help me complete it in time for dinner. It gave me an opportunity to show him how an onion is diced, and together, with my hands on his, I taught him to cut one the way Chef Instructor David Tiner once showed me while I was interviewing him at the Louisiana Culinary Institute. My son added the onions to the pot with the ground beef, and then broke up the meat with a wooden spoon.


I drained off the fat, and he added the tomatoes, beans and spices, and tasted it for seasoning. Stealing pinches of shredded cheese kept him occupied between steps, and our chili turned out great.

Four-Ingredient Chili

(I know! There are seven ingredients listed below, but three of them are dry spices which are likely in your cabinet.)

Serves 4-6

1 ½ pounds ground sirloin
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
1 15 oz. can kidney or pinto beans, drained
2 ½ teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt

Over medium heat, add sirloin to a Dutch oven, and break apart. Immediately add onions and cook together until meat is evenly browned. The rendered fat will help cook the onions nicely. Once the meat is browned, drain fat and return meat to pot. Add tomatoes to a food processor and puree quickly until mostly smooth. (You can buy pureed tomatoes, but I like this better. It’s a quirk of mine.) Add tomatoes and beans to meat, stirring to combine. Add dry seasonings and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve with shredded cheese, avocado, corn, diced onions, sour cream, cilantro, Saltines, corn chips or other garnishes.

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