Family friendly chilli con carne

Despite the current testing times, one thing we are enjoying is eating more as a family. Pre lock down we were lucky if we managed 2 family meals a week; work, sport commitments and life in general meant not everyone was always around at meal times. Now, of course, everyone is here 24/7 and hungry most of the time! Finding tasty, uncomplicated, family meals that everyone enjoys is not always easy. My go to recipe is some kind of chicken traybake; chicken thighs, vegetables and rice or potatoes in the oven to forget about it while it cooks. At the beginning of lockdown, I struggled to find chicken, particularly thighs but I had some mince in the freezer and so the family chilli was born. 

This Chilli is mild enough that our four-year-old loves it but also has enough flavour that the adults can enjoy it too, obviously you can add more chilli if you prefer it with more of a kick. My team are not that keen on kidney beans, they don’t like the texture, so I’ve used mixed beans. I had a tin in the cupboard as I add them to stews, they have a good mix of beans and textures and I’ve had no complaints! I also add lentils to the chilli, it helps thicken the sauce, and makes the chilli go further but you can just leave these out if preferred. Once cooked you can’t even tell they are in there so it’s a good way to get low fat plant based protein, fibre and iron into your diet. 

Family Friendly Chilli Con Carne

Serves approx. 4/6


1 Large Onion – finely chopped
2 Cloves of Garlic crushed
500g Mince
150g Red Split Lentils
1 ½ tsp Paprika
1 ½ tsp Mild Chilli Flakes or Powder
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Marjoram
1 tsp Sugar
4 tbsp Tomato Puree
400g Passata
400g Beef Stock – you may need to add a little more water as the dish is simmering.
400g Can of Mixed Beans

Serving Options 

Boiled Rice
Cauliflower Rice
Iceberg Lettuce
Grated Cheese
Sour Cream


    1. Heat a splash of oil in a pan on a medium heat, add the onions and fry gently, stirring frequently until they are opaque in colour, this should take about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, continuing to stir. 
    2. Turn up the heat and add the mince, this needs to cook until browned, this should take about 5 minutes. Try breaking the mince up with your spoon as it cooks so you are left with browned mince sized pieces. 
    3. Add the paprika, cumin, marjoram, chilli powder or flakes and tomato puree and give the mince a good stir for a minute or two.
    4. Next add the lentils, beef stock, sugar and Passata; stir well and bring to the boil, turning the heat up if necessary. Once boiled, reduce the heat, place the lid on and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally so the mixture doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan and add more water if needed. The mixture should be like a thick sauce. 
    5. Add the can of mixed beans and carry on gently simmering for 10 minutes. 
  • Serve with any of the suggestions above. 

We love to put all the side dishes in the middle of the table for everyone to help themselves, this encourages the children to load up their bowls with a bit of everything. They love the chilli with the sour cream, cheese, iceberg lettuce and of course nachos! 


You can make this dish ahead of time to step four and then leave to cool before placing in the fridge overnight. The beans can then be added and the dish gently reheated for 10/15 minutes. If anything by making the dish ahead of time and leaving overnight it allows the flavours of the spices to develop.

This dish also freezes really well; you can double the quantity and freeze half for another day. 

Kirsty Wilson Close

Instagram  kirsty_in_the_kitchen

Food Styling, Food Writing, Food Lover

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