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Smoked Over the Top Chili

Our Smoked Over the Top Chili is full of tomatoes, onions, and beans, and gets its unique name from having a seasoned ground beef meatball cooked right over the top of the chili pot right in your pellet grill. 

Traeger Smoked Over the Top Chili

Traeger Over the Top Smoked Chili Recipe

This recipe has been making the rounds on Facebook for quite a while. The method itself was rumored to be started over in a Big Green Egg group, but it has taken on quite a life of its own in the few years since. 

I can’t believe it took us so long to try!

I took my Brisket Chili recipe and turned it into this Over the Top version, and added in a couple of different rubs to the mix.

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Traeger Smoked Over the Top Chili

Over the Top Chili shopping list

Want to know if you have to hit the store? Check out the list below!

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Traeger Smoked Over the Top Chili

How to make Over the Top Chili

Over the top chili is actually easier to make than regular chili, and is much more hands off. With this unique method, a giant seasoned ground beef meatball is smoked over the top of the chili pot with the chili base in it.

If you have a grill with a top shelf, you can position the meatball on the top shelf above the pot. Mine doesn’t, so we just used a baking rack on top of our Dutch oven for that part. Make sure to spray it with cooking spray first!

Here’s the run-down on the process so you know a bit about what you are getting into, but make sure to read the recipe card at the bottom of the post for the FULL instructions.

  1. Saute the onions and chilis in the Dutch oven until they are softened.
  2. Add the rest of the chili base ingredients to the pot and heat to a simmer.
  3. Form the meatball. Place on a rack on top of the Dutch oven.
  4. Place the whole shebang onto your pellet grill that’s set to 275°.
  5. Smoke at 275° for 45-60 minutes. Turn up the heat to 325° and cook until the meatball reaches 145-150°. Stir it periodically and watch that the chili base doesn’t reduce too much or burn. Add a little more water, if necessary.
  6. Put the meat into the chili base and break it up.
  7. Cook another 20 minutes or so, and serve hot.

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Traeger Smoked Over the Top Chili

Substitutions and Add-ins

As with the vast majority of my recipes, ad-libbing is basically required. No recipe is going to be perfect for EVERYONE since we are all so unique and have very different preferences, so I always encourage people to make it their own and adjust according to their own tastes.

Some easy substitutions and that can be made are listed below.

  • Throw in some more vegetables, like bell peppers, celery, etc.
  • Love garlic? Toss some in with the onions!
  • Make it spicier! Hot sauce would make this even better!
  • Use your own chili spice mix.
  • Leave out the beans or add in more.
  • Think coffee or chocolate make chili amazing? Toss some in, if you are brave.
  • Roast some peppers like Anaheim, poblano, or jalapenos, and add them to the mix!

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Smoked Over the Top Chili Recipe

What can you serve with Smoked Over the Top Chili?

My favorite thing to serve with chili is Griddle Corn Cakes. We serve those with whipped honey butter and it is basically my favorite thing, ever.

If you have a special love for jalapenos, you might want to try our Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Muffins too!

I also have a pretty cool Instant Pot Cornbread recipe too.

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Smoked Over the Top Chili Recipe

What cocktails are best with chili?

With anything spicy, I like to get the shaker out and whip up a margarita. Even though that is traditionally served with Mexican dishes, it works really well with chili too.

My Classic Margarita is traditional, bright, and perfect. Use fresh limes and good tequila for the best results!

Like something a little fruity? I have a Raspberry Margarita and Blackberry Margarita too.

Try our Over the Top Sloppy Joes too!

Smoked Over the Top Chili Recipe

How can you get extra smoke into your chili?

If you LOVE chili and want to really maximize the smoke flavor you can also pre-smoke the onion and chilies before tossing them in the pot instead of sauteing them.

I think this was the perfect level of smoke for the dish though!

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Ive been smoking for a while and i just won 1st place in the chili cook off at my kids’ school. Smoked with hickory chunks and everyone came back for seconds. The first time I made chili in my life was 9 days ago. I know its not that competitive, but I’m still proud, and almost 300 people liked my chili the most out of 30 people.

Tweaked this recipe a little and added garlic with the onions, smoked the chilies first before adding them (anaheim, peblono, jalapenos), and used extra beans.

Brandon Cutler – chili cookoff champion

This was phenomenal! I used Sam Adams lager in place of the water and added extra hatch chiles. I smoked the onion & peppers before hand as well. It was SPICY but so so delicious.

Marina – on pinterest

Smoked Over the Top Chili Recipe
Yield: 12 servings

Traeger Smoked Over the Top Chili Recipe

Smoked Over the Top Chili Recipe

Delicious smoked over the top chili is one for the "keeper" file! Smoked seasoned ground beef is crumbled and put into a rich chili base

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 20 minutes



  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced chilies or peppers, like hatch or jalapeño or bell peppers (I used hatch chilies that were located in a bag in the refrigerated section)
  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 15oz can stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel (whichever flavor is your favorite)
  • 28 oz can water
  • 1-2 cans chili beans (optional)
  • 1 package chili seasoning mix (or your own, but I like the one in the pics by Carroll Shelby.)
  • SPG to taste


  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon hatch chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon SPG
  • Generous amounts of Jalapeño Lime Pilsner rub (optional)


  1. In a large Dutch oven on the stovetop, heat over medium heat until hot. Add onions and chilies and cook until soft. 
  2. Add in all the tomatoes, the water, and the chili seasoning mix and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat until simmering. 
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the meat ingredients, holding off on the rub, form into a large ball, sprinkle all sides with the jalapeño lime Pilsner rub (if using) and place the whole things on a rack above the chili. 
  4. Place onto your preheated pellet grill at 275 degrees. Cook for 45-60 minutes stirring the chili periodically. 
  5. Turn the grill up to 325-350 and continue cooking until the meat is 145-150 degrees. 
  6. Place the meat into the chili and break it apart. 
  7. Cook another 20 minutes, stirring well, and serve hot.

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Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 327Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 76mgSodium: 752mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 4gSugar: 8gProtein: 27g

Nutrition data provided here is only an estimate.

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Nicole Johnson

Nicole Johnson, a self-taught expert in grilling and outdoor cooking, launched Or Whatever You Do in 2010. Her blog, renowned for its comprehensive and creative outdoor cooking recipes, has garnered a vast audience of millions. Nicole's hands-on experience and passion for grilling shine through her work. Her husband, Jeremiah Johnson, also plays a pivotal role in recipe development, adding his culinary flair to the mix. Together, they form a dynamic duo, offering a rich and varied outdoor cooking experience to their followers.


Friday 3rd of November 2023

What type of pellets would you recommend? I didn't see that here

Nicole Johnson

Friday 3rd of November 2023

I recommend whatever is currently in your hopper. ;) We typically run the Competition Blend or a fruit wood like Apple or Cherry, or something like maple. But really - anything will work.

Josh S

Tuesday 31st of October 2023

Just won 1st place in my company’s Halloween chili cook-off with this recipe. The only thing I added was about a tablespoon of fish sauce for some umami flavor. This was really really good!

Nicole Johnson

Wednesday 1st of November 2023

That's amazing!! I'm hearing lots of these stories this year and it is so exciting! Congrats on your win! Love that umami addition!!


Tuesday 10th of October 2023

When you say 1 tbs of SPG, do you mean individually or 1 tbs of each? That sure seems like a lot.


Wednesday 11th of October 2023

@Nicole Johnson, Thank you!

Nicole Johnson

Tuesday 10th of October 2023

Nope! 1 tablespoon total of an SPG blend. If you don't have an SPG blend, you can mix salt, pepper, and garlic powder in whatever amounts you'd like to equal 1 tablespoon.


Saturday 12th of November 2022

What is SPG?

Nicole Johnson

Saturday 12th of November 2022

Salt, Pepper, Garlic. There are tons of blends out there. You can also make your own according to your own preferences. I'd start out with a 1:1:1 mix and adjust from there.


Sunday 16th of January 2022

So your recipe is different at the top than it is at the bottom. Different times and temps for each. What is correct?

Nicole Johnson

Sunday 16th of January 2022

Well, the good news is that either set of instructions would get you to the same place, which is a delicious bowl of chili. I corrected the post though to make them match up because that was confusing (and unintentional). Thanks for letting me know!

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