Classic Chili or Wisconsin Style Chili

This is our recipe for Classic Chili or Wisconsin Style Chili. It’s a recipe I have been making for many years. I always made a big pot of this delicious chili every year on Halloween. Nothing hits the spot better than a hot, steamy bowl of chili when you come in from the cold. Serve with lots of  buttered saltine crackers and a sprinkle of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Doesn’t get much better than that! This chili is perfect.

classic chili

Thank-you John Davis

In early December I was contacted by John Davis from public radio station located in La Crosse Wisconsin. John asked if I would be willing to talk about my recipe for Wisconsin-style chili. Shocked and tongue tied (first time for everything) I said yes. We talked over the phone and then set up a Zoom meeting, (another first) and John explain the types of questions he was going to ask, and so on and so forth.

On the day of our Zoom meeting I was slightly nervous. When the meeting began I realized that John was friendly and super easy to talk too. The meeting no sooner started and I could feel my motor-mouth start. When I get nervous I start excessively, yes I ramble on even more than normal. My hubby warned me not to ramble but I very seldom listen to him anyway, so on and on I went:) Thanks again John for this wonderful experience, another first for me:)

Long Story Short

To make this long story short, in my humble culinary opinion, Wisconsin Style Chili is a recipe that gets handed down through families. Each family might add their own “flair” to the basic recipe which is consists of tomato-based “stock”, if you will, ground beef, kidney beans, and elbow macaroni. John asked me, “Why  is Wisconsin style chili made with elbow macaroni?” Back in the day, when families were large, moms had to feed a family on a tight budget, and chili was often the answer. Also, way back when, there wasn’t a large variety of boxed pasta to choose from at the local Red Owl or Piggy Wiggly.

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Enough about talk about Chili! Instead, why not make up a large pot of Chili:) It certainly is cold enough outside!!
Here’s background for on-air:

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It also airs on WPR’s Ideas Network. Catch “Wisconsin Life” on Central Time at 4:40 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays. It’s also on the “The Morning Show” Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:35 a.m.

You can hear Wisconsin Public Radio across the state. Find your local station here or listen online.

classic chili

Recipe Has Changed Over Time

My sister Barb gave me this recipe many years ago. The recipe was very basic and since then I have tweaked this recipe several times. It’s still a very simple recipe but very delicious all the same. Bowls of chili are great to serve during or after football games, ice skating or after a day of snowmobiling. Bring a thermos along with you when you go hunting or ice fishing. This chili recipe will warm you up and hit the spot every time.

Wisconsin Style Chili

If you aren’t from the Upper Midwest you are probably wondering why this recipe is called Wisconsin Style Chili.  If you are from the Upper Midwest, you know why:) Here in the Upper Midwest, and definitely in my family, chili isn’t chili unless it has noodles or elbow macaroni added to it. Another Upper Midwest absolute must, the only beans added to chili are kidney beans. With that being said, here are a few other “rules”

A Few Rules

Classic Wisconsin Style is never served “over” the noodles, noodles are added to the chili. Grated cheddar cheese can be served on top of the chili, but this is a recent development (at least in my family). The only beans used are light or dark red kidney beans. Chili powder is usually the only seasoning added besides salt and pepper. Always add chopped onion and celery, maybe chopped green peppers. Ground beef is the meat of choice.

Optional Ingredients

The recipe below for  Classic Chili or Wisconsin Style Chili, that my sister Barb gave me 40 years ago. The ingredients that have an * after it, indicates that ingredient was added over the years. Never ever serve Wisconsin Style chili with oyster crackers. Saltines only! Give both recipes a try, the classic version and the spicier version. Let me know which one you like best:)

I guess it would be a fair statement to say, that this recipe with the added ingredients (* after it) breaks a few of the “rules.” Yes, That would be correct. But sometimes rules are meant to be broken! Another recipe that will hit the spot on a cold day, Easy Tortellini Lentil Soup


classic chili


Classic Chili or Wisconsin Style Chil

A delicious and hearty chili that is perfect on a cold evening.
5 from 1 vote
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  • 2 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 pound ground Italian sausage*
  • 4 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced*
  • 1 46 oz can tomato juice
  • 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes with diced green chilies*,
  • 1 4 oz can diced green chilies*
  • 2 10 3/4 oz cans condensed tomato soup, undiluted
  • 1 soup can water
  • 1 14 oz can beef broth*
  • 1 16 oz can kidney beans
  • 1 15 oz can black beans*,
  • 2 16 oz cans chili beans in chili sauce, hot or mild*
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes*
  • 3 bay leaves*
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 envelope chili seasoning mix, (McCormick)*
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups cavatappi noodles or noodles of your choice, cooked and drained
  • shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese*


  • In a large soup pot, brown ground beef, sausage, celery, onion, green pepper and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. Drain. Add tomato juice, diced tomatoes, diced tomatoes with green chilies, diced green chilies, tomato soup, water, beef broth, kidney beans, black beans, chili beans, chili powder, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, brown sugar, envelope chili seasoning mix, salt and pepper.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1 hour or longer.
  • Stir in noodles, cook, uncovered for 10 minutes or until heated through.
  • Before serving, discard bay leaves and top bowls of chili with shredded cheese.


My sister gave me this recipe many years ago. All ingredients with an * after it have been added to the original recipe over the years. 
Did you make this recipe?Tag @lynnturnips on Instagram with the hashtag #turnips2tangerines
Looking for more delicious recipes?? Try these…Warm Turkey Fiesta DipGreen and Gold Corn Dip and Grape Jelly Meatballs.