Devil’s Dare Chili

THERE IS NOTHING better on a cold January weekend than a belly-warming bowl of chili. But not everyone can handle the same levels of heat. So when I make chili for my annual winter chili and ale fest for a bunch of guys from the neighborhood, I make a really big vat of it. After the initial base preparation, I separate the chili into three or four different crock pots to simmer for an afternoon with the “heat” ingredients divided among them to make one “kid-friendly” batch, and at least one true “Devil’s Dare” pot.  In my book, a true Devil’s Dare version of the chili includes Ghost Pepper. But the beauty of this recipe is that you can really hedge your bets and try various heat levels. If you’re not interested in having more than one variety, you can easily halve this recipe and choose a single path. But here’s how I do it:


Devil’s Dare Chili

Prep Time: About an hour
Cook Time: 4-5 hours



  • 7 lbs hamburger
  • 6 pieces bacon
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 Large Sweet Vidalia Onions
  • 6 green onions
  • 4 Green Chili Peppers
  • 3 Poblano Peppers
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Pepper
  • 8-10 Garden Tomatoes
  • 2-3 medium Roma Tomatoes
  • 2 Mild Chili Beans in Sauce (40-oz cans)
  • 2 Dark Red Kidney Beans (15-oz cans)
  • 2 Light Red Kidney Beans (15-oz cans)
  • 1 Hot Chili Beans in Sauce (15-oz cans)
  • 1 Crushed Tomato Sauce (26 oz can)
  • 1 Puree Tomatoes (26 oz can)
  • 1 can Ro-Tel Diced Tomatoes and Green Chilies
  • 5 Tablespoons Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Mild New Mexican Red Chili Powder
  • 3 Tablespoons Paprika
  • 3 Tablespoons Sugar
  • Corn Meal (add 1 tbsp per pot to thicken at end of cooking if needed)
  • 1 Tablespoon Mexican Oregano


  • 3 Jalapeno Peppers
  • 1 Serrano Pepper
  • 1 Fingerhot Pepper
  • 3 Habanero Peppers
  • 2 Ghost Peppers
  • 1 Tablespoon mild New Mexican Red Chili Powder
  • 2 Teaspoon hot Red Chili Powder

I typically start making my chili just before noon because it takes me a couple hours to get everything browned, chopped, sauteed and simmering – and then after the base cooks on the stove a couple hours, I separate it into three-four crock pots and create the different “hot” mixes which will then simmer in the crocks for another 2-4 hours.


  1. On the stove, fry up the strips of bacon until mostly crisp. In a separate frying pan or electric skillet (which is what I use) brown the hamburger meat.
  2. As the hamburger browns and bacon fries, chop up the onions, garlic and peppers into two bowls.
  3. Remove the bacon from the pan and set aside to cool.
  4. Sautee the onions and garlic in the bacon grease until the onion is starting to turn golden brown.
  5. Drain the grease from the hamburger meat and then mix in the sauteed onions to the meat.
  6. You could simply add the peppers to this mix, however, I typically brown them a little at this stage with any leftover bacon grease or a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil.
  7. Dice the tomatoes, and add these and the diced poblano and red/yellow/green bell peppers to the hamburger and onion mix. I find it convenient to use a large electric skillet to brown the hamburger in and then mix everything in, but you could combine the ingredients in a large soup pot as well.
  8. Dice up the green onions and add these and the seasonings (salt, pepper, oregano, sugar, paprika).
  9. Mix in the Ro-Tel and the crushed and pureed tomato sauces, and then the mild chili beans and dark and light kidney beans. I typically pour in most of the liquid in the cans with the beans, with the intent to boil it down over the afternoon.
  10. Once all your ingredients but the hot peppers and hot chili beans are mixed together, I pour it all into two large pots. I used to put it all into one giant soup pot, but you run the risk of burning the bottom with that method, since it’s harder to keep it well stirred.
  11. Add the hot chili beans to one of the two pots.
  12. Dice up 2 Green Chili Peppers (Hatch chilis are the best), 2 Jalapenos, 1 Fingerhot and 1 Serrano and add to the pot with the “hot” chili beans – this pot is now your “medium hot” base.
  13. Add 1 tablespoon mild New Mexican Red Chili powder to the medium hot pot.
  14. Cover both pots and simmer on the stove for a couple hours, stirring frequently.
  15. After simmering for a couple hours, divide the base chili pots into 3-4 Crock Pots. I like to use four, to create a mild, medium, hot and “Devil’s Dare” selection of Chili. (If you have too much “mild” mix, just mix some in to the “medium” pot).
  16. To make the “Hot” pot, use the “Medium” base and add 2 more diced green Chile Peppers, 2 diced Habaneros, and 1 teaspoon Hot Red Chili Powder.
  17. To the Devil’s Dare pot, add 2 diced green Chili peppers, 1 diced Jalapeno, 1 diced Habanero, 2 diced Ghost Peppers and 1 teaspoon Hot Red Chili Powder.
  18. EXTRAS: I smoke pork roasts a lot in the summer and frequently will freeze some of the leftovers. You can make a really flavorful mild chili by adding some diced smoked pork to it. Diced zucchini can also add a little texture. I often use that in the mild pot.
  19. Cook your divided chili in the Crock Pots on the High setting for another two hours or so. When it gets near serving time, siphon off the liquid on the top of each pot, so that you don’t end up serving “watery” chili. It also eliminates some of the oil and fat from the mix.
  20. Stir and grab the serving bowls!

Serve with Sour Cream, Oyster Crackers and grated cheese (I prefer Mexican Chihauha/Quesadilla cheese, but you can use Mozzarella or Colby Jack as well) to top it off. Some people like to add grated raw onion as well.

Make sure you have plenty of cold beer and ice water to wash it down!



About John Everson

John Everson is a Bram Stoker Award-winning horror author with more than 100 published short stories and 14 novels of horror and dark fantasy currently in print. His first novel, Covenant, won the Bram Stoker Award for a First Novel in 2005. His sixth novel, NightWhere, was a Bram Stoker Finalist in 2013. Its sequel, The Night Mother, was released in June 2023.

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