Easy Slow Cooker Chili

Published February 2, 2019. Updated January 17, 2024

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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, because 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. (Not to mention it’s perfect for feeding a crowd—the best Super Bowl party food!)

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 fall 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; a perfect comfort food. Everyone needs a go-to easy chili recipe for fall! This easy slow cooker chili uses simple ingredients that you can adjust based on how you like your chili (spicy chili? sweet chili? meaty chili?) or your family’s dietary needs.

This slow cooker method is my favorite for easy chili—low effort and high reward. 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! All it takes is a few minutes of prep work earlier in the day, and you’re ready to enjoy a delicious bowl of chili for dinner or to serve to a crowd for your Super Bowl Party!

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 prefer more of a soup texture, add a little more broth.
  • 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 for 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute for 30 seconds longer. Pour onions into a 6 or 7-quart slow cooker (I have several and prefer this one HERE).

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 Easy Chili in an Instant Pot?

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

Can I Make This Easy Chili on the Stovetop?

If you don’t have a slow cooker this can also be made on the stovetop. Brown the onion, brown the beef, add the other ingredients except the beans then simmer for 2-3 hours over low heat. Then stir in beans just before you’re ready to eat.

What Should I Serve with Crockpot Chili?

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

We also serve this Super Bowl Chili for basically every game day!

How to Freeze Chili

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

It’s great for meal prep! I freeze small batches for my kid’s school lunch, then pack it in a thermos for them. Or I’ll sometimes make a double batch (using two slow cookers) and 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 leftover 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 the 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, as 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 Easy Slow Cooker Chili 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.
  • Always use airtight containers.

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

More Delicious Chili Recipes to Try!

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Best homemade Chili in a crockpot.
4.92 from 511 votes

Slow Cooker Chili

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
Prep15 minutes
Cook6 hours 10 minutes
Ready in: 6 hours 25 minutes

Equipment

  • slow cooker (I use this Crock-Pot 6-quart Cook and Carry)

Ingredients

Optionally serve with:

    Instructions

    • 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 (I like this one HERE).
    • Return skillet to medium-high eat, add beef and cook stirring occasionally until beef has browned.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 5 - 6 hours.
    • Stir in dark and light red kidney beans and allow to heat through, about 2 minutes. Serve warm with desired toppings.

    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.
    Nutrition values are estimates only. See full disclaimer here.
    Post originally published February 10, 2013. Photos updated February 2, 2019, text and recipe notes last updated October 10, 2023.

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    1,629 Comments

    • Mandi

      Can I get all this ready the night before and leave in fridge all mixed together overnight and then cook in crockpot while I’m at work the next day??

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        The problem is that according to the FDA it’s not food safe to warm soup in a slow cooker from cold. It should be fine if you heat it until warm on the stove then continue to cook from there in the crockpot. But what I’d recommend is just cooking it through a day ahead then reheating on the stove the next day and serving, chili is a great make ahead dish.

        • Andrea Potts

          I was planning the same. Can you prepare the meat prior? Like sauté the veggies and brown the meat night before. Then in the morning, put it all together in a slow cooker?

    • Ruth

      Love Chili…if this recipe is too large, easy to make half of recipe or freeze some. It freezes well.. you can make on top of the stove as well. Stove top method….Just fry the beef( 1lb) and drain…then use a kettle with a heavy bottom, dutch oven type and saute your onion (5min),then add garlic and spices in the pot (1min) and and toast a bit.. I also add some red pepper flakes (about 1/4 tsp, more you like it spicy) and then add cooked gr. meat to pot and proceeds recipe above. I just use regular chopped tomatoes..even better…whole canned tomatoes and cut the tomatoes w/ a scissor into smaller pieces. I do this right in the can! My favorite is l large can of whole tomatoes, cut up w/ scissor a bit and l large can of crushed tomatoes. You can also use 4 cans (14 0z) chopped .tomatoes. This chili is great if you make it one day ahead so the spices bloom. I like to get more veggies in the mix…so I add 1 stalks of celery chopped and on medium green pepper chopped with the onions…and saute a bit., until tender right in the pot..You can also add corn…After you get it all together…simmer it for 45 min to an hour, or more on top of the stove….some like it hot, and some not! So I put a grinder of hot pepper flakes…for those who like it hot…with the other toppings …cheese, cilantro, sour cream and crackers or chips…Corn bread is great also!

    • Tim Streets

      I’ve used this recipe everytime I make chili for a few years now. It’s great to use as a base and easy to make additions if needed. For instance I use this to make a meat chili and veggie chili. For the veggie chili I add corn and zucchini and just omit the hamburger.

      It always pleases a household with picky boys, they love this chili.

    • Theresa

      I slow cooked this in the oven at 300. I only used 1lb of ground beef and added extra beef broth so mine is on the soupy side. I used 2 cans of black beans instead of kidney beans. It’s delicious and perfectly seasoned. Thanks for sharing this chili recipe. 😋

    • Art E.

      I am cooking as i type actually. 11pm eastern, going to wake up 5am and add beans make a bowl to go to work. I am having nice dreams tonight..i am going to stuff chilli into bake potatoe when i get home. I used 2 beef boulion and no coriander. It is thick as i put on lid maybe add dash water??

    • Andrea Mosser

      Love this recipe! Wondering if you would recommend 1lb beef and 1lb hot italian sausage?

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        Hot Italian sausage flavors wouldn’t blend very well here. Instead you could try 1 lb of ground unseasoned pork.

      • Brittany

        You can use hot Italian sausage! I use 2lbs of ground beef and 1 lb of hot Italian sausage and 1lb of sweet Italian sausage when I make it.

    • Cookingcutie

      This is my go to chili recipe. I even made it when we had a potluck night and our friends loved it. I love how easy it is to make ahead, and although the slow cooker tends to dull spices after cooking them a few hours, I always find the spice level in this to be perfect. We make it with turkey so it’s a bit lighter.