Chihuahua Beer Chili Recipe

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This easy Chihuahua Beer Chili comes together quickly on the stove or in a slow cooker. Flavorful from enchilada sauce, beer, and spices, it is the perfect bowl of red.

bowl of chili with green napkin

When I’m going to feed a crowd, I often lean on chili. It’s hearty and filling and easy to serve. It can be made vegetarian or loaded up with meat.

Chili is super affordable, and can easily be stretched to feed last-minute additions to your party. And it can be customized to suit each diner. Just dish up bowls of red and offer a selection of toppings, like shredded cheeses, salsas and hot sauces, chopped onion, tomato, and cilantro, sour cream, guac, and chips. Offer a basket of bread and butter on the side, and you’re good to go.

Chili makes everyone happy. And this, Chihuahua Beer Chili Recipe is one of our longtime favorites.

Why is it called Chihuahua chili?

This chili is actually named because it’s made with beer, specifically Chihuahua cerveza. Of course, you can add any beer you would like. 

Fun fact: I developed this recipe back in 1998, back when the internet operated on turtle speed. Friends were thrilled to enter it as their submission into a chili cook-off contest because they could boast that it contained chihuahua. Their competition was using such wild ingredients as rattle snake, alligator, and ostrich!

Please note that no dogs were harmed in the creation of this recipe. 😉

bottle of chihuahua beer for chili

Do I need to add beer to this chili? 

While beer adds great flavor to stews, chilis, and pot roast, you do not have to include beer in this recipe.. You can substitute the beer with water or broth if you prefer.

Can I freeze this chihuahua beer chili? 

Absolutely you can freeze this recipe! And I recommend that you do. It’s a great thing to freeze and then have on hand for those easy summer weeknight meals.

Chili is one of those dishes that actually benefit from time spent in the freezer as the flavors meld and intensify.

Cook up big batches and freeze the chili in single- or family-size containers. It freezes super well. It goes great over hot dogs, wrapped in burritos, or spooned atop fries.

Making your own chili to freeze will allow you to replace canned chili completely.

Is it chile, chili, or chilli?

Chile is the name of the spicy pepper used in Mexican, South American, Indian, African, and Thai cuisines. In the UK, it’s written as chilli.

Chili, as in chili sauce, chili powder, and chili con carne is a mixture of chiles and other ingredients, like this recipe for beer chili.

ingredients for chili laid out on the table

What ingredients go in this beer chili recipe?

Traditional chili is a mixture of meat (diced or ground beef) and chiles or chili powder. In some parts of the southwest United States, it’s frowned upon to add beans, tomatoes, or other ingredients.

However, I live in California where anything goes, so my homemade chili has beans.

If you prefer to make this chili vegetarian, omit the ground beef. If you want to make it gluten-free, omit the beer.

What ingredients do I need to make this beer chili recipe?

Like I said, this Chihuahua chili may not be traditional but it’s definitely delicious. Here is what you need to gather before prepping it:

  • oil
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomato sauce
  • enchilada sauce
  • beer – Chihuahua beer if you’re making this true to the recipe, but any beer will work (or water or broth)
  • ground beef or turkey
  • beans – I used a combination of pinto beans and black beans
  • spices – I used a combination of chili powder and cumin.

And of course don’t forget the toppings:

  • sour cream
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • chopped cilantro
  • chopped onion
  • fritos

bowl of chili with toppings on side

How do I make beer chili?

This recipe comes together very quickly.

  1. Gather all your ingredients. Chop the onions and garlic. Measure out the spices. Open the cans. Rinse and drain the beans.
  2. Heat the oil in a sturdy pot. Add the onions and cook until they start to go clear.
  3. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up into chunks with your spoon. Stir in the garlic.
  4. Add the beans, tomato sauce, enchilada sauce, and spices. Stir in the beer.
  5. Simmer for about an hour, partially covered. If you prefer, after sautéing the onions, meat, and garlic, you can combine all ingredients in a slow cooker. Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours or on HIGH for about 4.
  6. Serve the chili with the toppings.

step by step photos of how to prep the chili

How to make this good and cheap:

By their very nature, bean dishes are very budget-friendly. However, here are some of the strategies you can use to make this recipe even more economical:

  • Stock up on ingredients when they are on sale. When you see a good price on tomato sauce, beans, or your favorite meats, buy a few extra to stash for later. You know you’ll use them.
  • Cook your own beans. It’s a lot cheaper to cook dry beans than to buy canned. Recently I’ve started using my electric pressure cooker for beans and it just may be a game changer.
  • Buy spices in bulk. I regularly buy larger containers of spices I use frequently, like pepper, sea salt, garlic powder, and chili powder. I store excess dried herbs and ground spices in the freezer if I know it will be awhile before I go through the large container.

What tools do I need to make beer chili?

This recipe really couldn’t be easier than it is, but having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs.

Here are the tools that I use for this recipe:

bowl of chili with toppings and fritos

If you prepare this recipe, be sure to take a picture and hashtag it #GOODCHEAPEATS. I can't wait to see what you cook up!
0 from 0 votes
Chihuahua Chili
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr
This easy Chihuahua Chili comes together quickly on the stove or in a slow cooker. Flavorful from enchilada sauce, beer, and spices, it is the perfect bowl of red.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chili
Servings: 8 to 12 servings
Calories: 449 kcal
Author: Jessica Fisher
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup enchilada sauce we like Las Palmas
  • 12 ounce bottle of beer possibly Chihuahua, hence the name; If you’d like, you can omit the beer. Just add water or broth if the chili is too thick without the beer.
  • 2 29- ounce cans pinto beans drained
  • 2 15- ounce cans black beans drained
  • 1 pound ground beef browned and drained
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • Toppings: sour cream grated cheddar cheese, chopped cilantro
  1. In large pot, heat oil. Saute onion until translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes more.
  3. Add tomatoes, enchilada sauce, beer, beans, cumin and chili powder. Bring to boil.
  4. Simmer, partially covered, until slightly thickened and flavors have mingled, about 1 hour on the stovetop. (You can cook this all day in the crockpot.).
  5. Serve with toppings.
  6. If freezing, divide into dinner portions suitable for your family. Cool, label and freeze.To serve: Defrost and reheat. Serve with cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped cilantro. Shepherd’s bread with butter is a great accompaniment.
Recipe Notes
  • Nutrition facts are for 8 servings, and do not include toppings.
Nutrition Facts
Chihuahua Chili
Amount Per Serving
Calories 449 Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Fat 11g17%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Cholesterol 35mg12%
Sodium 641mg28%
Potassium 1237mg35%
Carbohydrates 56g19%
Fiber 18g75%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 30g60%
Vitamin A 771IU15%
Vitamin C 9mg11%
Calcium 115mg12%
Iron 6mg33%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Chihuahua Beer Chili | Good Cheap Eats

Chihuahua Chili | Good Cheap Eats

Originally published June 25, 2009.

About Jessica Fisher

I believe anyone can prepare delicious meals—no matter their budget.

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  1. Amanda says

    I love how simple this chili is to make. However, not a fan of cumin. Would it ruin the recipe to leave it out, or have you any ideas for a suitable substitution?

    • Jessica says

      Yes, you can leave it out. The enchilada sauce has enough flavor. You should be good.

  2. Mary says

    If I make this in the crockpot should I still do the following or just dump it all in the crockpot? “In large pot, heat oil. Saute onion until transluscent, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 2 minutes more. Add tomatoes, enchilada sauce, beer, beans, cumin and chili powder. Bring to boil.”

    • Jessica says

      @Mary, I like the flavor that sauteing adds to the onions, so yes, I would saute the onions and garlic and then toss everything in the crockpot.

  3. Lisa says

    Everyone in my home loves this recipe. 🙂

    Do you have any guessimate as to how many one-cup servings this recipe makes? I need to know for dietary reasons (so I know how much I’m eating, etc.)

    Thank you for your help.

    • Jessica says

      I think last time I made it, it was 12 to 16 cups. Sorry I’m not more help!

  4. Shonda says

    I’m wondering if I could use a 15 bean mixture that I have made for beans. I have so many of them, but don’t know what to make with them.

    • Jessica says

      @Shonda, I think most beans would taste great in this chili.

  5. Shonda says

    OK. I’ll try it sometime and let you know.

  6. S Bowe says

    Any idea what size crockpot you’d need for this recipe?

  7. JOANNE says

    Hi Jessica,

    Do you really use(total) 88 ounces of beans?

    • Yes. It’s a large batch of chili that will serve 8 to 12. It freezes beautifully. Since the large cans of beans are so much cheaper than the smaller ones, it’s super affordable to make a big batch and freeze it if you won’t use it all in one sitting.

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