How to Make Campground Chili With Your Dutch Oven

Oct 20, 2021 | Food & Camp Cooking

How to Make Campground Chili With Your Dutch Oven

Nothing says fall quite like a warm bowl of chili. We’ve got the Dutch oven recipes you need for your next campfire.

By Kerry Sainato

Photo: Kerry Sainato

Chili simmered over a fire in a Dutch oven is quintessential camping grub. It’s simple, hearty, and perfect for crisper evenings around the campfire. Chili is also an easily adaptable recipe; if you know the basic methodology, you can make a great pot with ingredients on hand.

What You’ll Need

You simply need a large Dutch oven. An 8- to 10-quart pot with a tight fitting lid is perfect for a large batch of chili that feeds up to eight people. 

Related 7 Dutch Oven Recipes to Make at the RV Campground

You can cook your chili over the propane flame of a camp stove, but for real chuckwagon authenticity, cook your chili over an open fire. To do so, make sure your campfire is equipped with an adjustable grate. Many campgrounds supply these, but you can be prepared with your own portable grate. Or invest in a Dutch oven tripod that allows you to hang your pot over an open flame using an adjustable chain.

Dutch oven over fire pit with cover on top
Photo: Kerry Sainato

How to Make Dutch Oven Chili 

Use this basic method for making dozens of chili variations. 

Brown Meat

  • Add a bit of oil to your Dutch oven and place the pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add meat to the pot and cook until browned. Crowding the pan will result in steaming instead of browning so brown in several batches to prevent this.
  • Remove from the pot in a large bowl. 

Sweat Aromatic Vegetables

  • Add aromatic vegetables to the pot with a big pinch of salt.
  • Cook until the vegetables are softened and onions are starting to turn translucent. 
  • Add the browned meat back to the pot.

Stir in Spices

  • Add spices and stir to combine. Cook to toast the spices for a minute or so.

Add Liquid and Simmer

  • Add liquid ingredients like broth, beer, and tomatoes. Stir.
  • Bring the chili to a simmer. 
  • Cover and cook until the meat is tender—45 minutes to several hours depending on the cut of meat you are using. Stir occasionally.

Final Add-ins

  • Stir in final additions like canned beans, corn, or fresh herbs. 

Serve

  • Garnish with your favorite toppings and serve.

Dutch Oven Chili Recipes

You can use the method above to make the variations listed below. These recipes are built to serve six to eight hungry campers, so adjust accordingly. 

Chili in a Dutch Oven on fire grate
Photo: Kerry Sainato

Classic Beef Chili

Simmer time: 1 hour

This is a classic beef and bean chili, but swap in your favorite ground meat and choice of canned beans to customize. Tweak the spice level to your taste by adjusting the amount of jalapeno peppers and cayenne pepper.

Brown Meat

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil like vegetable or light olive oil)
  • 3 pounds ground beef

Sweat Aromatic Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ large onion, diced small
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeds removed and diced small
  • 4 poblano peppers, seeds removed and diced small
  • 1 to 2 jalapeno peppers, seeds and membranes removed and diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in Spices

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • ½ tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional

Add Liquid and Simmer

  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups beef or chicken stock

Final Add-ins

  • Two 15-ounce cans of pinto beans, drained

Garnishes

  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Scallions, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped

For an easy way to brown ground meat, shape it into large patties and sear on each side for about 5 minutes, until each side is well browned. Then, break into small pieces before removing from the pan.

Green chili in a bowl on picnic table
Photo: Kerry Sainato

Pork Chili Verde

Simmer time: 2 to 3 hours

Chili verde is flavored with salsa verde—a green salsa made from tomatillos and spicy green peppers. This recipe uses cubed pork shoulder and takes about 2 to 3 hours to slow cook. 

Brown Meat

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil like vegetable or light olive oil)
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 1.5- to 2-inch chunks

Sweat Aromatic Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ large onion, diced small
  • 2 large green peppers, diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in Spices

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

Add Liquid and Simmer

  • 32 ounces of jarred salsa verde (or pre-made recipe) 

Garnishes

  • Sour cream
  • Lime wedges
  • Scallions, thinly sliced
  • Cilantro, roughly chopped
Person scooping chili out of bowl with a spoon with wooded background
Photo: Kerry Sainato

Chipotle Chicken Chili

Simmer time: 1 hour

This chili gets a smoky and spicy flavor from the canned chipotle peppers which are processed with a flavorful adobo sauce.  

Brown Meat

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil, like vegetable or light olive oil)
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Sweat Aromatic Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ large onion, diced small
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeds removed and diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in Spices

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers can)

Add Liquid and Simmer

  • One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 pint Mexican lager (or 16-ounce chicken stock)

Final Add-ins

  • Two 15-ounce cans small red kidney beans, drained

Garnishes

  • Shredded Jack cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Red onion, finely diced

Leftover chipotle peppers in adobo sauce last months in a refrigerated airtight container.

Chili in a bowl on a picnic table
Photo: Kerry Sainato

Turkey Taco Chili

Simmer time: 1 hour

Take a shortcut with this chili and use taco seasoning packets in lieu of a slew of spices. This chili is a nod to the tasty but not-so-authentic tacos of my childhood—the corn chip garnish is a must.

Brown Meat

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil like vegetable or light olive oil)
  • 3 pounds ground, dark meat turkey

Sweat Aromatic Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ large onion, diced small
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeds removed and diced small
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced small 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in Spices

  • 2.5 ounces taco seasoning, equal to about 2 standard-sized packets

Add Liquid and Simmer

  • One 15-ounce jar of salsa
  • 1 pint Mexican lager (or 16 ounces chicken stock)

Final Add-ins

  • Two 15-ounce cans pinto beans

Garnishes

  • Guacamole
  • Sour cream
  • Corn chips
Chili in a bowl next to a cutting board with diced veggies set on picnic table
Photo: Kerry Sainato

Vegan Bean and Barley Chili

Simmer time: 45 minutes 

In this meatless recipe, there’s no browning meat step. Add the barley with the liquid ingredients, stir, and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the barley is tender. Then, add the final additions. This chili is so hearty that even non-vegans are sure to be satisfied.

Sweat Aromatic Vegetables

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil (or other neutral oil, like vegetable or light olive oil)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ large onion, diced small
  • 2 large red bell peppers, seeds removed and diced small
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Stir in Spices

  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • ½ tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3 canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce (from the chipotle peppers can)

Add Liquid and Simmer

  • 1 cup pearled barley
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 pint Mexican lager 
  • One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes

Final Add-ins

  • Two 15-ounce cans kidney beans
  • 2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen

Garnishes

  • Cilantro
  • Scallions

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CampingChiliCooking and RecipesLifestyle

Kerry Sainato

Kerry bought a tiny teardrop trailer on a whim over four years ago and is now an enthusiastic RV traveler. She spends most of her camping nights in New England, but is working on plans for a year-long cross country journey with her husband. Kerry also owns and operates a cooking blog, cookwithkerry.com, and loves cooking over the open fire during her camping adventures.

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