It’s a simple fact: chili and beer are meant to be together, whether you’re sipping a cold one on the side or putting some in the chili itself. Ideally, both! And since there’s a beer chili out there for nearly every type of ale or lager, you can match what you want to drink with what you’re cooking. The best beer chili recipe, then, largely depends on your personal preferences.
Most beer chili recipes call for either pale ales or darker stouts and porters. Sometimes they don’t really specify beyond “a bottle of beer,” but honestly, you can play pretty fast and loose with recommendations anyway. The best beer for chili is the one you like to drink! Lighter, overall less complex lagers can add a nice lift to your chili (and certainly serve as a refreshing way to wash it down), but more flavorful ales will make a bigger impact, taste-wise.
white chicken chili or pork chile verde) are particularly well matched with brighter, hoppy, acidic beers like IPA or even pilsners, while richer, darker, beefier chilis are best with roasty stouts and porters; the more robust the chili, the bigger the beer you can get away with, including imperial chocolate porters and cinnamon-spiced stouts.In general, lighter chilis (think
Somewhere in the middle, nutty brown ales and malty red ales can enhance either style of chili. Play around with wildcards like chili pepper-infused brews too. Even fall’s ubiquitous pumpkin beers can have a place in chili if you want them to.
And beer-adjacent hard cider adds a sweeter note that works in autumnal pumpkin and squash chili. Basically, if you want to drink it, you can add it to your chili (with some exceptions—for instance, there aren’t any readily available sour lambic or barleywine chili recipes, probably for good reason, although you never know what you might like until you try it)!
In any case, just know that the less time your chili simmers, the stronger the beer component will be, in both taste and alcohol presence. Add your beer to the broth after any browning of meat, sauteing of vegetables, and draining of fat is done with, and simmer for at least an hour to help it mellow out and meld with all the other flavors.
Related Reading: The Best Secret Ingredients for Award-Winning Chili
Like other beer-infused treats, these all happen to be perfect for tailgating, but equally welcome on any cozy Sunday night—and some are quick enough for weekdays (even long-simmered ones can bubble away in your slow cooker while you’re at work). Just figure out what you’re in the mood to drink, then make one of these beer chilis with a spare bottle and save plenty for sipping alongside.
Beer Chili Recipes
Saisons are not one of the more common beer choices for chili, but their complex flavor profile—yeasty, fruity, dry, spicy, and often a little funky—could prove intriguing, and in concert with the spices and aromatics in this turkey chili, they won’t be too strange if you’re not used to the style. Still, you could always sub in a medium-bodied wheat beer or amber ale if you’re uncertain. Get the Saison Turkey Chili recipe.
Great Divide Colette Farmhouse Ale, $10.99+ on Drizly
This is the saison used in the recipe, but try your favorite farmhouse brew too.
As with other types of beer, there are lots of variations in IPA styles, but they tend to be fairly hoppy and at least somewhat bitter, a great complement to spicy chili (although a beer that’s super resinous or dank might overwhelm). This chili blends the beer with several types of peppers and chili powders, bacon, ground beef, beef chuck, and Italian sausage, among many other things. If that sounds a bit too labor-intensive, here’s an easy IPA chili you can whip up on a weeknight. But if you want something legitimately award-winning, you’ve got to put in a little more work. Get the Eddie’s Award-Winning IPA Chili recipe.
Stout in all its delicious forms is fun to experiment with in chili recipes, especially the darker, heartier versions that bubble up in fall and winter. Rich chocolate stout is sweet but not overly so, chipotle stout is a dream with chorizo chili, and coffee stout is toasty and a little bitter, making it a perfect match with luscious short ribs and black beans. Get the Short Rib Black Bean Coffee Stout Chili recipe.
Porters come in a plethora of variations too, and are just as great in stick-to-your-ribs chilis, even if they don’t actually include meat. Using a smoked porter in chili is a smart move, but a standard chocolatey bottle works wonders too, as in this slow cooker butternut squash chili. Its inherent sweetness is amplified by the beer and cut with jalapeño and spices for a balanced bowl. Get the Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Chili with Porter recipe.
If you can acquire a bottle of jalapeño-infused pale ale, it only makes sense to use it in a chili—however, a regular pale ale will also work beautifully (in chicken chili too). Get the Jalapeño Pale Ale Chili recipe.
Birdsong Brewing Jalapeño Pale Ale, $2.69+ on Drizly
Makes sense to spike a pot of chili with a spicy beer.
The nutty flavors of a brown ale echo and amplify those of browned beef (but you can also try it in an Instant Pot duck chili if you’re craving a more unconventional bowl). Here, the beer also helps give a quick-simmered chili more depth and nuance. Get the Easy Weeknight Newcastle Brown Ale Chili recipe.
Toasty, malty doppelbocks (or double bocks) are another good choice for emphasizing caramelized, meaty flavors in chili—this one eschews the beans, although the inclusion of tomatoes technically bars it from being authentically Texan. It’s still tasty, especially with a dollop of sour cream on top and a cold beer on the side. Get the Doppelbock Texas Red Chili recipe.
‘Tis the season for pumpkin beers, and if you’re a fan, you’ll be happy to know they can be incorporated into chili too. This beefy chili also uses pumpkin puree and cinnamon, but don’t worry, it tastes nothing like dessert. Check out a vegetarian pumpkin chili (with pumpkin beer) if you don’t do meat, and in either case, consider topping your bowl with cheesy pumpkin beer biscuits. Get the Pumpkin Beer Chili recipe.
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Related Video: The Difference Between Ale and Lager