It’s Time For a Chili Makeover! A Real Food Recipe

Mmmmm chili. The ultimate comfort food. If you’re going to makeover a recipe, this is the one to start with.

Get rid of your can openers and get into Real Food.

Why are we ‘making over’ recipes? Read here to find out.

Chili can be a staple in so many meals, so it’s a great place to start. For our purposes, this meal is safe for anyone on the GAPS diet or who follow a Paleo or Primal lifestyle.


Our healing journey will help you eliminate harmful foods, including the top allergens if you haven’t already restricted or removed them. Having a few versatile foods free of no-nos a great way to make the journey smoother.

A Real Food Chili Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours

Yield: 6-8 servings

There is nothing like a comforting pot of chili. When it comes from a real food recipe, it also nourishes and heals and shows you the true meaning of comfort food.

This recipe omits any processed food and follows a traditional foods, GAPS diet, Primal, and Paleo format.


  • 3 pounds 100% grass-fed ground beef
  • 3 1/2 cups of homemade beef or chicken broth (can sub water)
  • 3 large onions, diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon unrefined salt
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle powder OR 1/4 cup diced chipotle peppers
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon OR 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 16 ounces (2 cups) diced tomatoes, including juice
  • 2 Tablespoons safe cooking fat (coconut oil or animal fat like duck fat, beef tallow, or lard)
  • optional: 1/2 cup of diced green chiles
  • *make organic ingredients a priority whenever possible


  1. Brown ground beef and break it up into small pieces while cooking for a more consistent final texture. Remove from the pot.
  2. Add diced onions, salt, and 2 T fat to the drippings and cook on medium low until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and spices and cook for another minute on medium.
  4. Stir in tomatoes and chiles and cook on medium for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to deepen flavor.
  5. Add browned beef and broth to the pot and stir to combine.
  6. Simmer until desired consistency. I cook it for 3 hours the first day, put it into the refrigerator overnight, then cook it for another hour the following day for the ultimate melding of flavors.

This post is part of Keep It Real Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Gluten-Free Fridays, Grateful GAPS Holiday Foods


Jennifer Nervo is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, Reiki Master Practitioner & teacher, and Aromatherapist. Her focus is on digestive, nervous, and immune system dysfunction and the fields of functional nutrition & psychoneuroimmunology. She works with all conditions and diseases including environmental and food allergies, autoimmune diseases, multiple chemical sensitivity, diabetes, eczema, anxiety, weight loss as a symptom of dis-ease, and gut-brain disorders like autism.

When she’s not herding her small troupe of monkeys or seeing clients, her free time is packed with researching and perfecting new wellness techniques (her not-so-secret passion). Jennifer is currently a group leader for the newest class of Nutritional Therapy Practitioners out of Ann Arbor, MI, studying for the national board exam in holistic nutrition, and running a combined distance and brick and mortar practice in metro Detroit. She’s also a homeschooling suburbanite, foodie, and mama to two littles and a schnoodle.

20 thoughts on “It’s Time For a Chili Makeover! A Real Food Recipe”

  • I’m sure this is a naive question, but where are the beans in this recipe?

    My husband and I have discovered that real food works best for us mostly by accident (surprise, surprise!). About six months ago, we became foster parents to three girls, one of which is officially ADHD– raised on SAD to an extreme (don’t get me started…)
    So I’m working at converting their taste buds and digestive systems to accept real food, with a focus on minimizing the ADHD symptoms. The community of bloggers sharing about their journeys has been invaluable!!!

    That said, I own a copy of Nourishing Traditions, but found it a bit overwhelming (a gift from a family member)– then we moved, and I still haven’t found it… Would you do me a favor and give me a brief overview on why beans are excluded, and is it possible to use them (fermented or something?– I’m assuming canned is out of the question…)

    • Janet,

      Don’t worry about asking questions that may seem naive. There’s so much to ‘re’learn about food that it takes a long time to cram it all in!

      You are WONDERFUL for taking those girls in and healing them. We are looking to adopt a second child (Katie is biological) and hope to do the same thing with him or her. There are too many children out there who need a good family. Don’t worry about converting them right away. Take some stress off of yourself and your family by taking it one step at a time. You can also check out my post on getting reluctant family members to eat their veggies:

      Beans, like grains, have high amounts of anti-nutrients and are hard for most people to digest. Because they require a lot of preparation to neutralize most of the phytic acid and lectins, we just stay away from them. I have enough to do without taking extra time trying to make non-optimal foods safe for us to eat. 🙂 If you do eat beans, stick with lentils as a first choice and small beans as a second. Soak and sprout them (or soak split lentils), then ferment them (like in Indian dosas) to neutralize as much of the anti-nutrients as possible. This is a more traditional preparation and is especially important during healing. Soaking by itself doesn’t actually remove many anti-nutrients even though it’s a common method of “traditionally” preparing seeds today.

      After the gut has healed and there are no more food sensitivity symptoms, it’s okay to have them unsprouted and unfermented occasionally. See why I prefer to just not to eat them? 🙂

      • Definitely too much work! Even before we got the kids, I was making most of our food (80%-90%) of our food from “scratch”. I am allergic to preservatives (probably not a true allergy– more like I didn’t like the negative effects that junk had on my body– but socially easier to just call it an allergy), so virtually none of our food comes from a branded box– no hamburger helper or sugary cereals for example. But I’ve generally gone with “buy whatever is cheapest”, not realizing the need for higher quality meats (grass-fed), butter, milk (raw), and particularly grains.

        Some of the major changes we’ve already implemented is sprouted grain breads, free-range chicken, cooking solely with coconut or olive oil, drinking raw cow’s, or pasteurized goat milk (can’t get it raw in CA).

        Some of my next upgrades I want to do is to switch to using only grass-fed butter, and pastured eggs, but as they cost about 3xs as much as the brand I have been buying, it is hard to find room in the food budget right now (We work for a school, so I don’t work during the summer, and our food budget has already grown so much going from two to five people!)

        Needless to say, your “baby-steps” series has been invaluable so far– we had already switched to sea salt (mostly because it tasted better– so scientific!). I’ve started the detox baths with great success– all three girls have something they struggle with on their skin, plus it creates a nice bed-time ritual. I’m only using epsom salt for now, but I want to get magnisum sulfate instead– again, baby steps.

        All of this to say, your blog has been a tremendous resource for me and my family!!! Thank you so much for all the time and effort you have put in to get all of this on paper (um… paper… or something like that 🙂 )

        • Thank you for such kind words! It really means a lot to be able to pay it forward. Blogs have been an invaluable source of information in my real food journey.

          You are definitely well on your way. The biggest hurdle for most people is cooking all of their meals, so you only have to work on substituting ingredients (and getting your princesses to eat it!). I think that’s a great place to be at. If you need a good gummy fruit substitute, I am obsessed with Mommypotamus’ gummy stars right now She’s a genius! I go a little lighter on the honey and add different liquids to make them medicinal. You can make them with kombucha, white tea, rose hips tea, acerola cherry powder (I put most of these on my resources page), or any number of juices. The options are endless!!

  • Thank you for putting an easy recipe that is real food! I have been reading about the benefits of real food for almost a year now but not able to put it into real practice. I have a very limited budget and I have to travel a good distance to buy anything worth getting. I was reading some of your baby steps and I was like hey I can do this! Thank you so much! Your blog will probably be a regular go to now!

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