We tried Steve Downes’ ‘Master Chief Chili’ and it is just as stoic as its namesake

Maybe the Human Civil War was actually fought over the spices needed to improve this bland recipe.

Screenshot by Gamepur

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Recently, Master Chief’s voice actor from Halo Infinite (and the rest of the Halo franchise), Steve Downes, decided to share an innocent tweet with his fans and the world; his favorite chili recipe, affectionately dubbed “Master Chief Chili.” According to Downes, this chili recipe came highly requested by fans — however, upon a cursory Twitter search, the requests for this recipe were nowhere to be found. Regardless, as someone who writes about video games and went to culinary school, I felt the need to at least take a crack at it. So, I opened my phone and took a look at the recipe setting gaming Twitter ablaze.

When I read the recipe, I noticed a few things were missing. I thought I must have passed over what I was looking for, so I reread the recipe. Somehow, this time, I noticed more things that made me think that maybe Mr. Downes’ definition of “chili” was a lot different than mine. I read a third, fourth, and several more times; it got worse every time, only giving me more questions and not a whole lot of answers. I’ve heard of regional variations, I thought, but this is getting ridiculous. 

I went to the grocery store and picked up the necessary ingredients that weren’t already in my apartment. Once I braved the outside world and returned to my gaming cave, I got to work on cooking. I reread the recipe, tied my apron, and got to work. 

For posterity purposes (and in case the tweet embed gets a little funky for any reason), I will post Downe’s original recipe here:

  • Ground beef, two pounds
  • One 28 ounce can of tomatoes
  • Two 8 ounce cans of tomato sauce
  • One 15 ounce can of kidney beans
  • One large potato, diced
  • One large onion, grated

    Combine ground beef and grated onion, brown in pot. Add tomatoes and sauce with a little water, salt and pepper. Simmer 2 hours. Add beans and potatoes and simmer 2 more hours. Let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Skim excess grease from the top.

Already, I can tell I’m not going to follow this recipe to the letter. There’s a few things I’m willing to budge on here, but ultimately this recipe is going to look pretty different by the time I’m done with it. First off, I learned to make chili from some family in Texas — beans absolutely do not go into chili in Texas. I understand the choice to try and make it more filling, and after having moved around a lot, I’ve had some good bowls of chili with beans in it. So we’ll use the beans. The can of tomatoes is good and necessary; I would’ve specified San Marzano tomatoes, but that’s mostly just because they’re my preference for any tomato-based dish. I omitted the cans of tomato sauce, opting instead for a couple tablespoons of tomato paste that I already had — the liquid that the sauce would’ve provided will come later from some other ingredients. Also, I’ve never put potatoes in my chili, but I’m willing to try it for the Chief.

I also don’t have the amount of time or patience to make chili on the stove for hours and let it refrigerate overnight. Sorry, Chief, but I doubt you’d have the time to make it the way you have written either, judging by everything going on in Halo Infinite. 

Here we go, armed with way more spices than the Chief ever had. (Photo by Gamepur)

Adapting this recipe even further into a pressure cooker recipe won’t change the flavor that much and will make this chili cook a lot faster, so it’s time to break out my pressure cooker and get to the actual cooking. First step; saute the beef and onion, adding spices this time. I’ll post my personal chili mix down below with the rest of the recipe, but the absolute base spices we need here are chili powder, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, a pinch of cumin, and a small amount of oregano. Once that’s done, add in the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Stir and mash up the tomatoes a little, let the tomatoes bubble. One the tomato mixture bubbles, add in the (drained) can of beans. Chief doesn’t note to drain out the bean juice, but let’s go ahead and do so. Mix in the beans and let everything bubble up for a few minutes, stirring the whole time. Once the stirring is done, we can take a look at what we have. You should add the potatoes in here as well.

Master Chief Chili, with the bare minimum amount of spices added. (Photo by Gamepur)

Even with the spices we added into the recipe, this still isn’t anything close to what I would call chili. This is a beef stew, at best. Good thing I grabbed the thing that makes chili, well, chili. My preference for peppers in my chili is usually about four habaneros and two jalapeños, diced up and stirred into the chili. Obviously, you can choose to put whatever peppers you would like in here — basically any hot pepper will do, from chile de arbol to ghost peppers. Adjust to your spice preference for the dish! Chili is a wonderfully versatile dish when it comes to spice level, but there has to be some kind of chili pepper in it to be called chili.

Just in case peppers are completely eradicated by 2560, here’s a picture. (Photo by Gamepur)

We’ve got the peppers chopped and added in, so let’s add some liquid so we’re not just eating a really thick tomato sauce with meat and peppers in it. Pour in two cups of beef stock and about half to a whole bottle of your choice of amber beer. (The beer is optional! It just adds depth to the overall flavor of the chili, but if you’re not able to get your hands on it or just plain don’t want to use it, you can replace it with a little more stock. The alcohol will be completely removed during the cooking process.)

The beer, while optional, adds a ton of flavor to your finished product. Hopefully the UNSC will let you requisition some. (Photo by Gamepur)

Give everything one final stir, close the lid, and start cooking in the pressure cooker of your choice. In my pressure cooker, I generally let chili cook for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on how fast I want to eat. If you’re doing this in a slow cooker, I would recommend doing it on low for six or seven hours or on high for three to four. If the chili comes out a little thin when you open the lid, you can put it in a stock pot and cook it on high until it thickens or, if your pressure cooker has the option like mine, you can just heat and thicken it in the cooker using the saute/boil option.

Once you’ve achieved the level of thickness you prefer, serve this new and improved Master Chief Chili to your friends and loved ones in a bowl with some sour cream and shredded cheese. If you like, you can even throw some tortilla chips, crackers, or bread on the side.

This chili will raise troop morale way more than whatever the other recipe was for sure. (Photo by Gamepur)

My full ingredient list for the “New and Improved Master Chief Chili” is here:

  • Ground beef, two pounds
  • One 28 ounce can of tomatoes
  • Two tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste
  • One 15 ounce can of kidney beans
  • One large potato, diced
  • One large onion, diced
  • 2-4 habanero peppers and 1-3 jalapeño peppers, diced (or substitute your choice of chili pepper)
  • Two cups of beef stock
  • One cup (eight ounces) of any amber beer; I use Shiner Bock (optional)
  • Chili mix
    • a small pinch of cumin and two teaspoons each of black pepper, turmeric, rosemary, oregano and paprika.
    • two tablespoons each of cayenne pepper, chili powder, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder.
    • Stir together. Add half while meat is cooking, half after adding in tomatoes.