Ultimate guide to chilli-con-carne - Championship chilli recipe!

Ultimate guide to chilli-con-carne - Championship chilli recipe!

For a few years, all pre-pandemic, I attended a few UK Chilli Cook-off competitions. An annual competition where competitors meet for 4 hours to try and create the best chilli (chilli-con-carne, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be meat based!) and a panel of four judges score the chillis to decide the winner, with the winners going through to the UK finals. The competitions, both regionals and finals are normally hosted as part of a food festival - so usually in a field under a marquee, with no power source and just hoping for good weather. They were always great fun, but for one reason or another the UK Chilli Cook-Off Association seems to have paused, or at least reduced the amount of regional competitions they run. I keep hoping that they will re-instate them and I can get involved, but for now it seems they only do one a year, and that’s down in Dorset, which is a little far for me.

Anyway, back in 2017 I managed to get on the winner’s podium in the Gower Chilli Festival cook-off regional competition, which earned me a spot in the UK finals (which luckliy was relatively close to where I lived). So the following September I ended up competing in the UK finals of the Chilli cook off. The finals are basically the same format, but just a higher level of competition as they are all regional winners, thankfully the sun came out and it was another great day out. Unfortunately, I just missed out on a spot on the podium in the finals (and a prize!) taking 4th place (there were 12 teams competing who had qualified through winning regionals).

UK Chilli Cook-off Score card

Anyway, this is more-or-less my championship-chilli recipe. A lot of this can be tweaked - the meat can be exchanged for most other slow-cook cuts of meat, the actual competition recipe uses beef short ribs, that I sear to get a nice crust, before roughly chopping and chucking in to braise.


Chilli powder - For competitions, I would blend chilli powders often De Arbol, Mulato and New Mexico Red, but for regular family chilli powder, run of the mill supermarket chilli powder will work fine Meat - as mentioned for the competition I used beef short ribs, pork cheeks and chorizo. This is a scaled down recipe, and the meat can really be interchanged for any hard-working, slow-twitch muscles. 500g chopped pork shoulder & 70g chopped chorizo would work well for a serving of 4 - but you can choose the meat as you please.

  • 4 people
  • 30 minutes
  • 3 hours


  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a couple chillis (red/green/jalapeno, as you like) - optional
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon Angus & Oink Moo-mami (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chilli powder (see notes)
  • 1 tin 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • 1 sheet gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 500 grams chopped pork shoulder (see notes)
  • 75 grams diced cooking chorizo


  1. If cooking outside, get the fire going and nice and hot - we are going to be cooking at about 180-200 degrees centigrade
  2. In a large pot, add a drizzle of oil and start cooking the onion and carrots until soft and translucent, probably about ten minutes (depending how hot the fire is - it often takes a bit to really get going)
  3. Add the garlic, chillis (if using), pork (e.g. chorizo or bacon) and tomato puree and cook for a further minute
  4. Mix in the spices and oregano and cook a minute longer
  5. Add the main meat you are cooking with and brown in the pan (don't stir it too much to allow it to brown nicely)
  6. Mix the sheet of gelatin (if using) with the 400 ml vegetable stock, stir so it dissolves and then add the liquid to the pot and stir
  7. Allow to come to the boil and reach a rolling simmer (you can either do this over direct heat, no lid - akin to using a gas hob, or you can close the lid and leave it to cook at about 180-200 degrees, akin to sticking in the oven)
  8. After an hour or so, add the tomatoes and cider vinegar
  9. Continue to cook, stir occasionally, for another two hours or so. If it gets too thick, then add some more boiling water
  10. When its done, the meat should be tender, and you will probably be able to pull it apart with forks (like pulled pork), which can help create a nice textured chilli, with some pulled meat and some chunks left whole.
  11. Serve with rice, nachos, fajitas or whatever!

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