Home Cooking for the Holidays: Christmas Eve Chili from Shari

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As we culminate our journey through the “Home Cooking for the Holidays” series, it brings me immense joy to share a piece of my culinary heart with you. Enter the warmth and robust flavors of my Christmas Eve Chili. This recipe, initially a treasure handed down by my mother (and my grandmother before that) and a longstanding tradition on our Christmas Eves, has evolved over the years into my own signature blend of comfort and spice. Join me as we explore the transformation of this family classic and the continuation of a heartwarming tradition that I proudly serve each Christmas Eve. From my kitchen to yours, let the aroma of this festive chili usher in the spirit of the season.


  • Large pot with lid
  • 1 package of ground beef (around 1.5 pounds)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • One 14.5oz can of petite diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • One 15oz can of low sodium dark red kidney beans (drained but not rinsed)
  • 1 can of condensed tomato soup (do not add water)
  • Two 8oz cans of tomato sauce (one is to use, the other is a backup)
  • One 6oz can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup of cheap sweeter red wine (I use a $6ish bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from the grocery store)
  • 1 tablespoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of dried basil (to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 tablespoons of chili powder (to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of packed brown sugar (to taste, if your wine is less sweet, you’ll need more sugar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • Several shakes of Louisiana Hot Sauce (to taste)
  • A pinch of Salt and Pepper (to taste)


  1. In a large pot, brown the ground beef most of the way (a little pink is fine) breaking it up into smaller pieces as it cooks. Remove the beef from the pan using a slotted spoon leaving the grease.

  2. Cook the onion, celery, and green pepper in the pot with the beef fat until the onions turn clear.

  3. Add in the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.

  4. Add the beef back into the pot. Add the petite diced tomatoes including the liquid from the can. Add the kidney beans, condensed tomato soup (do not add water), one can of tomato sauce, tomato paste, red wine, smoked paprika, basil, bay leaves, chili powder, brown sugar, cumin, hot sauce, and salt and pepper to the pot. Give it a good stir.

  5. Reduce heat on the stove to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 1.5 hours.

  6. Check the thickness of the chili, add a little of your backup tomato sauce if it gets too thick (most of the time I don’t need it, when I do its never the full can). Give the chili a taste and add more seasoning as desired. (I always find myself adding more chili powder and hot sauce especially). For the salt, I do not get any of the cans low sodium (except the kidney beans) so I do not need to add that much. Recover and simmer for another 30 minutes.

  7. Let the chili cool for a bit before serving. Serve with shredded cheese on top. (Optional: serve it in a bread bowl to make it extra special.)

NOTE: I have made a slow cooker version of this before. Throw all the ingredients in at once (except the hot sauce and cumin). Cook on low for 7 hours or high for 3-4 hours. Add in your hot sauce and cumin to taste at the end. Allow to cool a bit and serve. (I made a mistake by adding in the spicy ingredients to slow cook all day, that made it too hot for some people in my family).

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