Slow Cooker Chili

February 2, 2019  ·  Published February 14, 2013

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Slow Cooker Chili is one of my all time most popular recipes, come fall and winter thousands of people make it every day! And for good reason, this is the best crockpot chili around! It’s incredibly flavorful, it’s packed with protein and perfectly hearty, plus it’s a dinner everyone can agree on.

Love this recipe? Be sure to try my highly rated White Chicken Chili too!

Best homemade Chili in a crockpot.

The Best Crockpot Chili Recipe Ever!

Chili is actually one of my favorite foods and I make it all the time. It’s a recipe everyone in the family loves and it’s just good for the soul, perfect comfort food.

This slow cooker method is my favorite for chili. The flavor of the crockpot chili is rich and robust, the texture of the beef is so tender, and it turns out perfect every time!

It’s just the way the ground beef in chili should be. Six hours of slow cooking creates the best chili ever!

And have I mentioned how easy this it is to make? It’s a total breeze, so this will likely become a recipe you won’t want to lose!

Watch How Easy it is!

 

 

Two servings of chili in white bowls set over a marble surface. Servings topped with cheddar, sour cream and green onions.

What Ingredients go into Crockpot Chili?

  • Olive oil: use for sauteeing. Vegetable oil will work too if that’s what you have on hand.
  • Ground beef: I recommend using 85% lean. It has a good ratio of fat for browning but not too much.
  • Yellow onion and garlic: aromatics that add lots of flavor. Use fresh garlic for best results.
  • Canned tomatoes with green chilies: if you can’t find the size listed then you can use 2 (14.5 oz) cans of tomatoes then add a 1 (4 oz) can of diced green chilies.
  • Tomato sauce: this gives it a nice tomato flavored base and makes it stew-like.
  • Beef broth: this thins it out, if you don’t want it soupy at all then you can omit it. If you want it more soup add a little more.
  • Spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, sugar, coriander, S&P): the key to great chili. This recipe isn’t skimpy with them.
  • Cocoa powder: this secret ingredient adds depth. Don’t worry it’s not going to taste like chocolate.
  • Dark and light kidney beans: if you don’t have both shades just use two dark.

Ingredients needed to make chili shown here.

How do You Make Slow Cooker Chili?

This chili is so easy to make, the slow cooker does most of the work! Here’s how you’ll prepare it:

  • Saute aromatics, add to slow cooker: Heat olive oil in a large and deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.
    Add onion and saute 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Pour onions into a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker.

Showing the steps to making chili. Adding sautéed onions to crockpot for chili.

  • Brown beef: Return skillet to medium-high eat, add beef and cook stirring occasionally until beef has browned.
  • Drain fat, add beef to slow cooker: Drain most of fat from beef, leaving about 2 Tbsp in with beef (this is optional, I think it ads flavor but you can drain it all if you’d prefer). Pour browned beef into slow cooker.

Adding browned beef to slow cooker to make chili.

  • Add liquids and seasonings: Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cocoa powder, sugar, coriander and season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cook low and slow: Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 5 – 6 hours.

Adding tomatoes, tomato sauce, and spices to slow cooker for chili.

  • Stir in beans: Add in dark and light red kidney beans and allow to heat through, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve warm with desired toppings.

Adding kidney beans to chili after is has cooked on low heat 5 - 6 hours.

Can I Make This Chili in an Instant Pot?

Here’s the instant pot method for this Chili recipe HERE.

Can I Make This Chili on the Stovetop?

If you don’t have a slow cooker this can also be made on the stove top. Brown the onion, brown the beef, add the other ingredients except the beans then simmer 2 – 3 hours over low heat. Then stir in beans.

What Should I Serve with Crockpot Chili?

Serve with a side of cornbread or serve in baked potatoes.

How to Freeze Chili

This chili freezes really well and reheats really well. I actually almost always have some in my freezer.

It’s great for meal prep! I freeze small batches for my kids school lunch then pack it in a thermos for them. Or I’ll sometimes make a double batch (using two slow cookers) then freeze a batch for dinner the next week.

Large batch of chili in a Slow Cooker.

What Can I Make with Leftover Chili?

When I have left over chili I love to serve it over Navajo Tacos. Just strain the liquid using a slotted spoon to serve.

Tips for the Best Crockpot Chili:

  • Don’t skip sautéing onions before adding to slow cooker. If you do you’ll end up with crunchy onions in the chili.
  • Use good quality ground beef. I like to use 85% lean Angus beef. Avoid the beef in the tubes is this is poor quality beef.
  • For even more flavor you can bloom the spices before adding them to the chili. To do this just saute them with the onions during the last 1 minute.
  • If you have time cook beef in two batches. Cooking 1 pound of beef at a time allows more room for it to brown rather than just steam. And of course browning adds incredible flavor.
  • Avoid cooking on high heat. Cooking this low and slow allows time for those flavors to develop and meld together, and it makes the beef more tender.
  • Wait to add the beans until the end. Canned beans are already cooked so if you add them in the beginning they end up way too mushy.

Possible Variations:

  • Add a diced red or green bell pepper along with the veggies when sautéing.
  • If you like spicy chili add a seeded jalapeno or two along with the veggies.
  • Serve with grated cheddar, sour cream, diced avocados, tortilla chips or saltine crackers.
  • Leave to cool completely before storing in the fridge or freezer. Always use airtight containers.

Overhead image of bowl of chili topped with cheddar, sour cream and green onions.

More Delicious Chili Recipes to Try!

Slow Cooker Chili

4.91 from 281 votes

One of my most popular recipes and for good reason! This is the best chili I've ever tasted! Slow cooking it allows for the flavors to meld and the most tender beef. Try it tonight and see why everyone loves this! Recipe makes about 12 cups.

Servings: 8 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 6 hours 10 minutes
Total Time 6 hours 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes with green chilies*
  • 3 (8 oz) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15 oz) can light red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

Optionally serve with:

    Instructions

    1. Heat olive oil in a large and deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. 
    2. Add onion and saute 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Pour onions into a 6 or 7 quart slow cooker.

    3. Return skillet to medium-high eat, add beef and cook stirring occasionally until beef has browned.

    4. Drain most of fat from beef, leaving about 2 Tbsp in with beef (this is optional, I think it ads flavor but you can drain it all if you'd prefer). Pour browned beef into slow cooker.
    5. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cocoa powder, sugar, coriander and season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

    6. Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 5 - 6 hours.
    7. Stir in dark and light red kidney beans and allow to heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm with desired toppings.

    Recipe Notes

    • Look for tomatoes with "mild" green chilies. You can also use 2 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes and 1 (4 oz) can green chilies, drained.
    • If you want beef to brown better then sear in two batches. Only crumble and stir occasionally.
    • To add even more depth of flavor you can bloom the spices by sautéing them with the aromatics, add them during the last minute of sautéing the onions. 
    • If you want to thin the chili at the end you can add in another 1/2 cup beef broth. If you like a really thick chili you can omit the beef broth altogether.
    • Other topping ideas include sour cream, chopped red or green onions, roasted peppers, or hot sauce.
    • If desired serve with baked potatoes, cornbread, biscuits, saltine crackers or tortilla chips.
    Nutrition Facts
    Slow Cooker Chili
    Amount Per Serving
    Calories 415 Calories from Fat 126
    % Daily Value*
    Fat 14g22%
    Saturated Fat 5g31%
    Cholesterol 73mg24%
    Sodium 595mg26%
    Potassium 1410mg40%
    Carbohydrates 38g13%
    Fiber 11g46%
    Sugar 8g9%
    Protein 32g64%
    Vitamin A 1375IU28%
    Vitamin C 19.7mg24%
    Calcium 110mg11%
    Iron 8.5mg47%
    * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
    Course: Soup
    Cuisine: Tex-Mex
    Keyword: Slow Cooker Chili
    Author: Jaclyn
    Post originally published February 10, 2013. Photos updated February 2, 2019, text and recipe notes last updated December 15, 2019.

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    1,009 Comments

    • Katie Honeycutt

      WOW! This was the BEST chili recipe I’ve found. This will be my new go to recipe. Thank you for sharing it!

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        I’m so glad you think it’s the best you’ve found Katie :)! Thanks for your comment!

    • Christi

      Hi, Thanks for a great recipe. I have been craving Chili for the longest but when I make it it doesn’t taste quiet right. I can toss this together before work and dinner will be done. I will be making it this coming fall. Thank you so much!

    • Christie

      Hi, when do I add the beans in? At the end? Also, is this okay to be in the crockpot for 8 hours rather than 6? Thanks!

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        You add the beans in after it has cooked the 6 hours. It would be fine to do the 8 hours, my Mom said she cooked hers about that long and it was a little more dry so you will likely want to add in 1 cup of beef broth or chicken broth. Hope you enjoy!

        • D

          Trying for first. See if the my Wife and boys like it. Thanks for the note about the beans, wasn’t totally sure when to add but it seemed like at the end made sense so they’re not overcooked.

          Thank you!

    • Martina

      Have made this twice since finding recipe it is very good my family love it

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        Just a plain tomato sauce. I used the kind that has salt (NOT a no salt added version).

        • Jeanette

          Could you expand a bit more on “tomato sauce” please? In lots of places in the world, tomato sauce is what you call “ketchup” in the States. Are you meaning a jar of tomato-based pasta sauce?

          • Jaclyn

            Jaclyn Bell

            It is a tomato puree that is lightly seasoned with a few seasonings like onion and garlic powder. If you can find puree that would be the next best thing or tomato paste mixed with about 2 parts water to equal the same amount of sauce called for.

          • Suzan

            My husband and I, did try it with the sugar.He said lets try it make it just how the recipe is so we did, and we did not care for it, so I just make this without the sugar.I do add 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder, which my American neighbor told me to try and that was good,and carrot and celery. Thanks anyway for the advice. :)

        • Suzan

          I’m sure she means that tomato sauce that comes out of the can and not the bottle.

    • Four Ingredient Crock Pot Cola Chicken (Plus 10 More Delicious Crock Pot Recipes!)

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    • Angela @ Another Bite Please

      i love slow cooker meals…I make one usually once a week since I work late on Tuesday and love that hubby can have meal ready for the kiddos….and he loves chili so this would be perfect…and serving over a potato sounds so good!

        • Suzan

          WHY IN GOD’S NAME Would you ever add sugar and make it sweet ? No way dose sugar ever belongs is tomato base recipe.To acidity add salt but not sugar.

          • Shellina

            Suzan why are you making such a big deal about a tsp of sugar. I add brown sugar to my tomato meat sauce that I use for pasta or lasagnas all the time … and everyone that has my lasagnas says its the best they have ever had. Don’t knock it till you try it and its only a tsp … if you don’t like it don’t use it … simple as that.

            Jaclyn … I have saved & pinned 5 or 6 of your soup recipes & I can’t wait to try them & will try out your chill recipe … sound delish :) <3

            • Alessandra

              I have made this chili at least 5 times. My family loves it. The sugar is necessary in my opinion and every time I make a recipe with a lots of tomatoes I will always add sugar. I makes all the difference.

            • Trent

              Sugar doesn’t belong in tomato sauces used for Italian cooking. My grandmother would kill me if I ever did that. Whoever said brown sugar lasagna tastes good is either weak or has a pallete that’s been ruined by fast food.

          • Tiffany

            There are lots of tomato base recipes thay call for sugar! This recipe is my families go to chili recipe! It’s amazing and there is never any left overs!!!

          • Sarah

            Suzan, you need to spell check before you start bashing someone’s recipe ingredients. This recipe looks amazing and I will be making it today for sure! Have a nice day, sounds like you really need one.

            • Suzan VanWilgen

              Sarah Well for one English is not my first language and another point is I was not bashing any one what ever that means I was making a comment alike you all were. I made this and was good I just left the sugar out.

            • Suzan Vanwilgen

              Sarah your telling me I need to use spell check what did I miss spell ? If anything you should of told me to check for my sentience structure, that is where I went wrong I don’t see misspelled words. By the way yes the chili was really good and have made it a few times since my last post, but I did omit the sugar.I’don’t think any one needs the extra sugar,and I just think it gives it a sweet taste. I also have made this for a community fundraiser,and it was a hit.

            • Juanita

              what does someone’s spelling have to do with what they’re saying. this is incredibly rude. maybe the person speaks another language or possibly is someone with special needs. you don’t know and there’s no reason to attack someone’s speech. shame on you.

            • Kris

              @Juanita.

              Umm, when someone is communicating through the written word, then it has everything to do with what they are saying… I’m not professing that we need grammar Nazis trolling message boards, because we don’t, but your statement taken at face value is absolutely false.

          • Amy

            Suzan, the best Italian meat sauce I have ever had was made by a little old Italian lady and her secret weapon: sugar.

            • Eli

              There is a huge difference in sugar content among some foods like potatoes and tomatoes. Some potatoes, for example taste very sweet, while others have almost no sweetness whatsoever. The same is true of tomatoes, and canned tomatoes as well. Some varieties of tomatoes benefit from a pinch of sugar for reasons others have already stated, while others do not. Maybe taste your tomatoes first to see if they could benefit from a pinch of suggah.

          • Mari

            The sugar is to counterbalance the acidity. It does not make it sweet! That’s why it’s only a tsp.

            • Betty

              Exactly Mari, I hate acidity taste of tomatoes wasn’t totally satisfied with my chilli or spaghetti till and old Italian family member told me her secret. Just a Lil sugar. Tastes so good and everyone always wants my recipe.. try it you’ll like it.

          • Teresa

            Suzan, being from the South we always added sugar to anything that had a tomato base. Hint: sprinkle a little sugar in your chicken salad and it will make all the difference in the world.

            • Suzan Vanwilgen

              Teresa I know you will probably take this wrong, but just your from the south doesn’t mean your way is always the right way like mine is not always the right way.My Italian aunt by marriage,always used salt or baking soda. I’m sorry but I don’t like sugar in my chicken salad I have had it that way.

            • Lauren

              This is too funny. I’m making this chili tonight in my pressure cooker. But I have to respond to the grammer that everyone is talking to Suzan about. Suzan, you use “should of” in a response. It should be “should have”. Everyone remember that Suzan is allowed to speak her opinion. Now lets get to the business of tasting this great chili, and if you don’t like sugar in it, simply leave it out. Have a great day all and be kind to someone today.

            • Nydia

              What the heck is this people? An English class? We’re here about the chili recipe, not the spelling. Grow up. No need for this.. and by the way, I agree with all those who use sugar. ( Brown or white… Whatever is clever). Sugar is the trick to many recipes. Happy cooking peeps. God bless you all.

          • Rashid

            Suzan i guess you are not of American decent which means that you do not observe the same traditions as most Americans. But that’s ok though. You make your chili how you like it but I will also say that you should be a little more open to trying new things and see how you like it. And then after that lets see how you feel about it. I particularly love my chili with sugar in it because it just makes it taste so much better by countering the salty flavor. I really hope you would it. I think you would be please. Just my two cents.

            • Romy Kettlewell

              Rashid, the use of sugar in tomato sauce didn’t originate in America, it originated in Italy. Southern Italians use sugar in their marinaras, unless it’s a seafood marinara.

            • Jake

              Rashid, Most Americans aren’t of American descent and their traditions are more varied than the colors of the rainbow.

          • Jessica

            I add sugar to chiming before I read this recipe and to spaghetti sauce and meat loaf.its really good.

            • Sheri

              Me too! You wouldn’t want to know how much sugar I put in my chili and spaghetti sauces! Lol… I have to put it in my bowl only though. . Otherwise i j put a spoonful in and add more to my own.

          • Dorothy hodgens

            Adding a little sugar helps lessen the acid of the tomatoes. A little sugar goes a long way.

          • Kimmy

            If you don’t have anything nice to say, just shut your big mouth because no one wants to hear or read it.

            If you want to criticize, you do it in a positive way. Don’t be rude.

          • Kiran

            It doesn’t make it even remotely sweet. If anything adds sweetness it is the cocoa powder. I make this ALL the time. I make the recipe exactly as is, just less chilli powder. And my parents LOVE it. This recipe is absolutely wonderful.

          • Em

            One of the biggest reasons LaRosas Pizza is famous is for their “sweet” pizza sauce, which includes sugar!

            Cincinnati resident over here but I felt it was appropriate! Nothing wrong with a little sugar! Plus its her recipe! Follow it or not but she can do how how likes with it, and it seems many people agree!

          • Shannon

            My great grandma used sugar for spaghetti.. she was Italian and I have yet to find a better tasting spaghetti..

          • Gundocwife1993

            My mom ALWAYS put the very same amount of sugar and cocoa in her chili and it was amazing!!! Don’t knock it till you try it!! The sweet and acidic create a beautiful balance.

          • Chad

            I always add sugar to any meat sauce. If not it is very unbalanced. Learn to cook properly before making negative comments on any recipe please.

          • Brooke

            Sugar actually cuts the acidity from the tomatoes. It is used in most meat sauce recipes.

          • Romy Kettlewell

            “belong in a tomato-based recipe.” And sentience is being able to percieve and react, it’s not a sentence. But yes, sugar does enhance tomato flavor. It also helps to bring out the flavor of the onions and garlic. I also add bell peppers to my chili.

          • Alecia

            While grandmas have been doing so for as long as they can remember as well as their children and grandchildren, there’s actually a reason behind it. Sugar, when heated, reacts in many different ways depending on what you’re using. In this instant, the tomatoes which are highly acidic. When sugar and acid are combined, the sugar cuts through the acidic molecules making them less harsh. Which is why in many salad dressings etc it has sugar in the ingredients as to reduce the harshness of vinegar on our pallettes as well as our stomachs. So chill.

          • Lovely

            Adding sugar to any bean based soup is an old southern style recipe that actually helps cut gas that the beans cause. Its a secret trick, no one will ever know that sugar has been added.

          • Loki

            I know this convo is from long ago lol! But I add in VH honey garlic sauce, medium strong, into this and other beef tomato combos. It’s brown sugar, honey and garlic soy sauce and my Dutch parents have used it forever- probably since 1970- and it’s still sold in walmart.

          • Gori

            That’s one thing that is a must in tomato based recipes, sugar. To control the acidity and it gives a subtle flavor too that is very flavorful to the palette. But of course, each to their own.

          • B

            She doesn’t like the “dose” of sugar… just quoting her WHAT DOSE SUGAR.. blah blah

            • Jean Leyshon

              Can anyone tell me what the three cans of tomato sauce are, im not American, in Britain we call ketchup, sauce, so i just want to get it right.

          • Johanna Itani

            sugar balances the acidity and you can not even taste a sweetness it is for a balance to the acid in the sauce, lots of ppl use a bit of sugar in their sauces

          • Sara

            Suzan, I put a little sugar in my spaghetti ALL the time.. the sugar will actually absorb the tomatoes acidity.. not add to it. Helps those who are not fans of very acidic meals.. like everyone says.. don’t knock it til you try it!

          • Syd

            My husband’s family recipe for spaghetti sauce calls for about 1/8 th cup of raisins to cut the acid. Works great !

          • Mama38

            Sugar adds the right amount of perfect sweetness, in some Filipino recipes, they use sugar and a sweet seasoning for some of their recipes. You know what they say, opinions vary.

          • Nikki

            Everybody does there own thing. Not really a right way. My mom had always put sugar in hers (a recipe passed down for years) and I love it! Everyone has different things they like

          • Chef phil

            You add sugar to fight against the bitterness off the tomato puree. Go to chef school for a day and you will learn.

      • Sally

        I learned a long time ago that adding just a smidgen of sugar in any recipe w tomatoes make it taste so very good!

      • Dawn

        Looks fabulous!!! Making this tomorrow and putting over baked potatoe sounds great!!!