Firehouse Chili

Anytime I make chili, I fall into my normal routine. Even when I want to change up the recipe, I’m so used to getting out the usual suspects that I end up making the same pot of chili, every single time.

But a few weeks ago, I was asked to join in a project to show some love to our local firemen for Valentine’s Day, courtesy of Johnsonville Sausage, and that day of cooking chili may have me changing up my chili routine more often. 

firehouse chili 2

First of all, why had I never used sausage in chili before? I always use either all beef or a mix of beef, buffalo, or venison. After smelling this cook all day in the crock pot (and doing a little taste testing for quality assurance), I can guarantee you it won’t be the last time I use sausage in my chili.

I browned the meat and cooked the onions in a giant Le Creuset pot, but to make it easier to deliver, I let it cook on low all day and put it in a crock pot. 

So, once everything was ready, just a few days before Valentine’s Day, I grabbed the crock pot and headed over to my local firehouse to deliver a huge pot of chili (and the crock pot!) so the deserving firemen could have a hot meal at their meeting that night. 

I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did!

firehouse chili 3

Growing up, my favorite way to eat chili was over a bowl of rice and topped with cheese or fritos, but now, I love having a big hunk of cornbread on the side or tortilla chips for scooping. No matter how you like your chili, I hope you’ll try this one. It’s a new winter staple here, for sure.

firehouse chili 1

Firehouse Chili
Makes: 10-12 servings


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 medium peppers, cored, deseeded, and diced (spicy or not – use your favorites! I love using red peppers and poblanos)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground Italian sausage
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper (or less, if you like it less spicy)
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cans (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed


  1. In a large pot, heat the oil on medium heat and add the diced onion and peppers.
  2. Let the veggies cook for 3-5 minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.
  3. Crumble the sausage and beef into the pot and cook, stirring to break up the meat while it browns. Let the meat cook for 6-7 minutes until the juices are running clear and the meat is browned.
  4. Stir the tomato paste into the meat and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. You’ll be able to smell the tomato paste cooking into the meat and vegetables.
  5. Add the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne to the pot and stir the seasonings into the meat. Let this cook for another 3-4 minutes until you can smell the spices.
  6. Scoop the meat and spice mixture into a crockpot. Pour in the crushed tomatoes, beef broth, kidney and pinto beans into the chili. Let the chili cook on low for 4-5 hours so the flavors can deepen.

A huge thank to you our local Narrows Volunteer Fire Department (I hope we never need your help at our home!), and to Johnsonville for the opportunity to feed the firehouse. I’m so happy I was able to share a hot meal with this group

narrows trucks (source)

*Disclaimer – This post was sponsored by Johnsonville.  The recipe is mine, but thoughts and opinions are my own.


  1. How cool that you got to cook at a Firehouse!!! Love cocoa in chili!!

  2. Yum. This is a good switch-up. I always make the same recipe over and over again, too.

  3. Mmmmm, I have never used cocoa in chili before. Definitely a must-try! I feel a hankering for chili coming on for the weekend! :)

  4. how cool you got to feed the firefighters! this chili looks great, and sausage + cocoa has me craving a batch. perhaps this weekend :)

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