Sue Polinsky’s No Tomato Chili Recipe

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When it comes to chili, I’m not picky, really. I’ve met very few chili recipes that I haven’t enjoyed.

I also know that chili recipes can be highly prized and contentious.

.Some feel it isn’t chili if it contains: or that it isn’t chili if it doesn’t contain . I’m just happy you share your chili recipes with me or have me over for chili. Either works.

The following no-tomato chili recipe is from my dear friend Sue Polinsky. The recipe originated from The Impoverished Student’s Cookbook with, as Sue puts it, “many significant embellishments by. . . [Sue]”

2022 update I’ve made this many times over the past 11 years and have added some measurements to help those that prefer not to cook by feel. Please remember these are just rough guidelines. Adjust the seasonings based on your preferences and tastes. We won’t be offended.

The original instructions were written by Sue Polinsky, but they have been updated by Heather as of 2022. The technique is Sue’s. I’ve added the printable card below (scroll just a little more to get to it).


Yield: 6 Quarts

Sue Polinsky's No Tomato Chili

Sue Polinsky's No Tomato Chili
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Additional Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes


  • 3 pounds ground beef
  • 1 pound stew beef (or use an additional pound of ground beef)
  • 2 medium white onions, diced
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced (you can use more)
  • 2 pounds dried pinto beans that have been cooked
  • 2 tablespoons black pepper (roughly)
  • 5 ounces chili powder (roughly)
  • 3 tablespoons cumin (roughly)
  • 2 tablespoons oregano (roughly)
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley (roughly)
  • A scant amount of ground red pepper (a few shakes)
  • approximately 1/2 cup, don't measure apple cider or white vinegar, see instructions
  • salt to taste


  1. Begin browning your beef in a large pot over medium heat. If you use stew beef, keep that set aside until the ground meat has been drained.
  2. While the beef is browning, dice your onions, and mince your garlic
  3. Drain most of the fat, but not all, from the beef and discard it. You need some fat for flavor
  4. Add the stew beef, onions, and seasoning to the pot, and stir until the onions are translucent and the outside of the stew beef is no longer pink.
  5. You will rely on your sense of smell to determine the correct amount of vinegar to add. Get close to the beef without splattering yourself, and slowly pour vinegar into the pot, until you can just smell it.
  6. Stir until combined.
  7. Add your cooked beans to the pot using a slotted spoon. Leaving their cooking liquid behind. Once all of the beans have been transferred, stir again carefully to not mash the beans.
  8. Add just enough of the bean's liquid to your chili until it is slightly thinner than the consistency you prefer.
  9. Taste and adjust your seasonings, adding salt if necessary. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer for 2 - 3 hours to allow the flavors to develop.


You will need a heavy-bottomed pot, at least 6 quarts in size.

Garnish with your favorite chili toppings:

  • shredded cheese
  • sour cream
  • cilantro
  • jalapenos
  • cornbread

Like this recipe? Save it on Pinterest, please.

Like chili flavor? Try these recipes:

*Chili Powder Photo Credit: Sue Polinsky

No Tomato Chili Image
chili powder
No Tomato Chili Recipe

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5 thoughts on “Sue Polinsky’s No Tomato Chili Recipe”

  1. Am happy that you like our chili! I’ve gotten 2 marriage proposals from it (I think I’ll keep the guy I’ve had for 39 years) and once, he warmed it up for an office party – using a crockpot in his office – and the entire floor came in to complain that he was making them unreasonably hungry at 10 a.m. The purpose of this chili was indeed for “poor students” and the original recipe is more than 50 years old. Over the years, we’ve changed a lot of it, including oregano & parsley. We go overboard on garlic (it’s a family thing) and I just don’t cook with much salt. The trick is black pepper (not red pepper, use sparingly). Good black pepper – a lot of it – is what gives this the taste we like.

    I’m not kidding about “stick your nose in the pot” until you can smell the vinegar. It’s in the original and it’s dead-on accurate.

    This freezes exceptionally well and we usually serve it over rice, on hot dogs and anywhere else you can use chili.


    @suepolinsky @polinskyphi @danitosupreme @laurenpolinsky @kristendaukas @acjandler @johnrobinson @heathersolos

    • Sue this looks so good! After reading this yesterday, I ordered the students cookbook from Reed College in Portland OR – they still publish and sell it!

      We do chili over rice too – nummy!

  2. I have a copy of the Impoverished Students’ Cookbook and love it. If you can get hold of a copy, do so. It’s well written (should be, since the guy who wrote it was getting his Ph.D. in philosophy at the time) and great reading, if you want to know what college life was like fifty years ago. (It doesn’t sound all that different.) I have tried a couple of the recipes with success. He tends to give you the concept of cooking a casserole or other entree and then turns the reader loose to try it for themselves. I know this recipe but haven’t tried it yet, but I can assure you that now I will! Thanks for the encouragement!

    • The mock beef wellington got us through law school along with the tuna casserole. That was the week we had $8 for food. Pasta IS involved! @Dr Alice

  3. Thank you for this recipe! My friend is allergic to tomatoes. It is super sad as it didn’t truly come to light till she was in her 20’s and now in her 30’s she can’t eat a lot of tomato based food. Chili is one of the many things she misses! I am going to try this recipe asap! Thank you sooo much!


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