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!

Best homemade Chili in a crockpot.
4.9 from 309 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

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

    • 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.
    • 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.
    Post originally published February 10, 2013. Photos updated February 2, 2019, text and recipe notes last updated December 15, 2019.

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    1,092 Comments

    • Laura

      This was very good. I did bloom the spices. I cut the recipe in half and cooked it in a 3 quart crockpot. I will definitely make this again.

    • Marlow

      Can I use onion powder instead of whole onion ? Also, is there an alternative to the diced tomatoes? ….. I think it’s a texture thing for me just hate the mushy tomato and crunchy onion but I do love the flavor ! ☺️

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        You could try crushed tomatoes though it will be a bit runnier. Then as far as the onion goes if you saute before hand it shouldn’t be crunchy. You could try substituting with onion powder it just won’t be near as flavorful or fresh tasting.

    • S. Somerset

      Pretty lit and very easy. Has a nice depth of flavors and easy to follow recipe. Will be making again!!!

    • Tarana

      I’m currently cooking this as I type! It’s been on the slow cooker for 4 hours already, so I took a little taste and the flavor is amazing! Thank you for all your tips, tricks, and recommendations in addition to the actual recipe! I can’t wait to serve this for dinner! If it tastes so good already, I can’t wait to see what it’s like when it has thickened up and cooked for the complete time!!

    • Sandy

      I always thought there was dry mustard too and also can I use a bag of red kidneys the ones you soak over night and boil for a hour in the morning before I put everything together

    • noelle

      I used one where it doesn’t say mild it just says diced tomatoes with green chilies. will it be too spicy?

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        It really can just vary from brand to brand. I’d probably say if it’s not listed I would maybe guess it would be a medium heat.

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        You can though it’s not necessary. The long simmering really just helps develop and bring the flavors together.

        • Diana Millage

          This is my go to recipe. My hubby does not like a lot of heat and this has just enough kick to satisfy me. I love seeing the cocoa listed in the ingredients! I have been adding it for years and when I would mention it people thought I was crazy. I add my beans in the beginning so they are a little mushy- it’s a texture issue for me. Thanks for posting this!