Chicago Italian Beef Chili

Posted on Sep 24 2015 - 7:34pm by Megan

Chicago Italian Beef Chili

We’ve covered Texas chili. We’ve covered Cincinnati chili. We’ve even briefly discussed how turkey chilis are sometimes labeled as “California chili”. To my knowledge, and based on my mad Google skills, there doesn’t appear to be anything called Chicago Chili. Well, there is a guy named Ed who made one, but it’s not really a thing: Does sound tasty though!

There are a few ways I could have morphed a classic Chicago dish into a chili recipe. The somewhat obvious route (as least obvious to me- a Chicago suburbanite) would be to play on the Chicago hot dogs, or the chili dogs. However, a steamy bowl of hot-dog flavored stew just didn’t scream “Oh yum!” to me, so I left that possibility alone.

Next on the list of classic Chicago foods was deep dish pizza. I have not totally dismissed the thought of a pizza chili, but I don’t think I would necessarily pigeonhole a pizza chili recipe into just a Chicago-style motif.

Deep dish pizza

Next on the list came the desserts of the Windy City: brownies (native to the Chicago World’s Fair thanks to the Palmer family), cheddar and caramel popcorn mixed together (caramel-cheddar chili…hmmmm, might be worth revisiting), and cheesecake.  No real inspiration here.

I actually gave up on the idea of a Chicago inspired dish and starting thinking of other themes for this recipe. Typically, I like to draw inspiration from other stewed dishes, or ethnic slow-cooking cuisine. Google-ing pot roast, or slow cooker recipes can usually lead me down a viable chili path (for real, I have MAD Google skills!). This time was no different. I came across a slow cooker Italian Beef recipe. HOLY COW! ITALIAN BEEF! THAT’S FROM CHICAGO! Jackpot :)


With peppers, sweet or hot, cheese, dipped, wet… there are many ways to enjoy the Italian beef sandwich. And now, you can have it in a bowl! A few key flavors really gave this dish the Chicago-style beef feel: a topping of hot giardiniera, some melty mozzarella, and the distinct flavor of green bell peppers and onions stewed in beef juice. Serving this alongside some thick bread will truly nail down the Italian beef experience in chili form.

Italian Beef

So here is my recipe for Chicago Italian Beef Chili. I don’t claim that this will make Chicago Style Chili a thing any more so than Ed’s recipe. But hey, it’s worth a try and if we all get some delish food out of the experiment, then why the heck nat*!

*“not” in a Chicago accent. I’m sure Ed would have gotten it…

Side note:

There is a distinct way that you are supposed to eat a dipped beef (Italian beef sandwich dunked in beef drippings). It was developed by Al’s Italian Beef and involves leaning away from the sandwich as you take a bite so beefy juice doesn’t squirt all over your clothes:


Simplify your dining experience and just eat it in chili form with a spoon :)


The Recipe:

Cut a 3- 3 ½ pound sirloin tip roast into large chunks, approximately ¾ lb each. Place the beef in a large pot along with 6 cloves of garlic (peeled and smashed), 1 medium white onion cut into large chunks (about 8 big pieces), 1 t black pepper, 1 t dried rosemary, 2 t crushed red pepper flakes, 2 t salt, 2 t dried oregano, ½ t ground cloves, 2 green bell peppers cut into large chunks, and 3 cups of water.  Bring the ingredients up to a simmer, then cover the pot, reduce heat to the lowest setting, and let the beef cook for about 3 hours, or until the meat begins to fall apart easily.

Remove the beef from the pot and shred it into a bowl. Pour the rest of the contents of the pot into a large bowl to cool- once cool, transfer contents into a blender jar and puree until smooth.

shredded beef and brothblend the broth









Recombine the blended ingredients with the shredded beef in the pot and heat through.

To Serve:

Ladle the chili into an oven safe bowl and top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Heat under the broiler until the cheese is melted and starts to brown. Top with spicy giardiniera relish and serve with hearty bread for dipping.


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