This campfire chili recipe is a comforting one-pot meal made in your Dutch oven over the fire. It's made with ground beef, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and kidney beans, and is perfect for enjoying in the great outdoors.
When I think about Dutch oven camping recipes, chili is usually what pops into my brain first, and it makes a frequent appearance on our camping menu plans. I love that it's satisfying and nourishing while still definitely ticking off the "comfort food" box. Plus, it makes plenty, and the leftovers are even better the next day.
Why This Recipe is Great for Camping
- It's prepared in one pot over the fire so you've got minimal clean up and don't need any special equipment.
- It can be customized to suit your tastes. Make this beef chili as spicy or mild as you like.
- It makes a big batch and will store well in your cooler or RV fridge for several days.
- This camping chili recipe is hearty and satisfying and will keep you full for all your outdoor adventures.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Ground beef--I recommend using lean ground beef for this chili. It will give off a little bit of fat that will be great for sautéing your vegetables, and it will add plenty of flavor to the dish, but it won't be swimming in fat, either.
- Chili powder--Use a chili powder that you're familiar with. If you're opening a new jar, taste a little to make sure that you're comfortable with the heat level. If you're unsure, start with less chili powder, and add as you go, until it reaches a heat level you like.
- Beer--No fancy beer required here. Use whatever you've got in your cooler. If you're avoiding alcohol, you can use an alcohol-free beer, or substitute beef broth.
- Fire-roasted tomatoes--These are tomatoes that have been roasted over an open flame before canning, which gives them a smoky, sweet flavor. You'll find them in most large grocery stores with the rest of the canned tomatoes, or you can order them online.
- Kidney beans--Make sure to drain and rinse your beans before adding them to the chili. You can even do this at home, then stash them in a resealable bag or container in your cooler.
How to Cook Chili Over a Campfire
- Brown the beef in oil a large cast iron Dutch oven over the fire.
- Stir in the chopped onions, peppers, and garlic, and cook until softened.
- Mix in the spices and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in the beer and tomatoes.
- Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
- Uncover, stir in the beans, and cook until the beans are warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Yes. Chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. After cooking it, let it cool completely, then transfer to a freezer safe container. Thaw overnight in your fridge or cooler before reheating. If you make it before heading out on your trip, it works great as an ice block for the cooler!
Definitely. If you're making it on your camp stove, you can use a large pot instead of the Dutch oven.
Tips and Troubleshooting
- Get ahead by chopping up your onion and peppers and draining and rinsing your beans before heading out to camp.
- Leftover chili is a very good thing and a big pot of campfire chili can get you through several camping meals. Spoon it on top of hot dogs or smokies, pile it on campfire nachos, or mix it into pasta.
- This recipe is suitable for dairy-free diets. To make it gluten-free, use a gluten-free beer, or substitute beef stock.
Storage and Reheating
Store your leftover chili in a sealed container in your fridge or cooler for up to 4 days. Reheat it in a pot over low heat on your camp stove or over the fire until warmed through.
What to Serve with Camping Chili
This chili is a hearty meal all by itself and can be topped with any of your favorite fixings, including shredded cheese, sour cream, green onions, and hot sauce. Serve it with cornbread or campfire garlic bread.
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Dutch Oven Campfire Chili
- Cast iron Dutch oven with lid
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 2 pounds ground beef
- Salt and pepper
- 1 medium (5 oz) onion chopped
- 1 medium (5 oz) sweet bell pepper diced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 cup beer
- One (28-oz) can fire-roasted tomatoes
- One (15-oz) can red kidney beans drained and rinsed
- Shredded cheese, sour cream, and green onions for serving (optional)
- Prepare a campfire and let it burn until the coals are hot (some low flame is ok). Set a large Dutch oven over the fire. Alternatively, if you have a cooking tripod for campfire cooking, you can use that.
- Add the oil and let it heat for 1 minute.
- Dump the ground beef into the pot and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently to break up the meat, until the meat is browned all over, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the onion, pepper, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent and the pepper is starting to soften, about 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle in the spices and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
- Pour in the beer and add the entire can of tomatoes, juices and all. Mix it well to combine everything and let the chili come to a simmer. Cover the Dutch oven and let it cook for 1 hour, replenishing the fire as needed to maintain hot coals.
- Remove the lid and stir in the kidney beans. Let it cook until the beans are warmed through, about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed.
- Remove from the heat and serve, topped with all your favorite fixings, if desired.
- Get ahead--Chop up your onion and peppers and drain and rinse your beans before heading out to camp.
- Storage and reheating--Store leftover chili in a sealed container in your fridge or cooler for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat over low heat until warmed through.
- Using leftovers--Spoon it on top of hot dogs or smokies, pile it on campfire nachos, or mix it into pasta.
- Dietary--This recipe is suitable for dairy-free diets. To make it gluten-free, use a gluten-free beer, or substitute beef stock.