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 (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 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.
4.91 from 363 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 (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.
    Post originally published February 10, 2013. Photos updated February 2, 2019, text and recipe notes last updated December 15, 2019.

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    1,262 Comments

    • DAN ANDERSON

      I have this recipe sitting in my crockpot. When I tasted it, it seemed to be abnormally acidic (I guess from all the diced tomatoes, more than I would have normally used). When I reviewed the recipe, I discovered I left out a can of tomato sauce. I would add it, but worry that it would only increase the acidity. Any suggestions on how to cut the acid?

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        Sorry I just saw your other two comments, I don’t answer comments right away as I’m busy with many other aspects of running this food blog throughout the day :).

        As far as acidity that can vary a little by brand, next time I’d suggest trying a different one. For now you can add a few pinches of baking soda to this batch to fix the issue.

    • Walter Harvey

      Served this up for my buddies during an evening of poker they all had a seconded helping and a couple took some home. Everyone complimented it.
      Thank you

    • Nicole

      Hi there,

      This recipe sounds delicious! I was just wondering if I am out of cocoa powder if I could add a small amount of unsweetened chocolate chips??

      Thanks!

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        If finely grated and added at the end it would probably work ok, or you can omit this time and try next time.

    • Erika

      I’ve made this recipe a few times and it never disappoints. You can use ground beef or ground turkey and both turn out delicious. It’s always a hit for family dinners or for Superbowl Sunday.

    • epoc

      As a little kid once told me, anyone who puts beans or tomatoes in chili does not know anything about chili!
      Onion, Chile peppers, salt and beef.

    • Constance Smith

      I made some chili for the guys at work . I followed the recipe except I had to make due with what I had on hand. I used 3 can 10oz rotel . I also used 2 forty oz. Can of kidney beans. And I used the whole can of beef broth. Everything else I used what was in the recipe. I needed a full pot for 10 hungry men that work in the cold. I really wanted to add extra spices. But I was worried I would over due it. Well it was such a hit I almost didn’t get a bite. And they where talking about bringing in another crockpot so they could have enough for seconds. Keep in mind that was a full 7qt crockpot . If you have any suggestions for maybe increasing the spice or not I’m all ears

    • Monica

      Everyone claims “the best chili” but this one is the clear winner for me. I added 1 T of A1 and used curry instead of coriander because I was out of it.

    • Ziggy

      I’m new at this but I seem to see every recipe saying the kidney beans should be cooked in for the six hours but your recipe says only to put the kidney beans in for the last 2 minutes is this correct?

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        Yes just long enough to heat through since they are already fully cooked. If you like them extra soft you can add at the beginning.

        • Lisa

          Finally, the perfect chili. Thank you! I followed the recipe “almost” exactly….. I used 3 lbs ground turkey instead of ground beef, I added an extra can of beans to balance it out & I used a full cup of beef broth (melted a beef bouillon cube in a cup of hot water) so it wasn’t too thick with the additional meat & beans. I was worried to change the spice ratio so I didn’t. It was perfectly fine as is but in the future, I will increase each spice by 1/3 since that’s what I did with the meat & beans and turkey does need more seasoning (I forgot about that) but this recipe is exactly what I was looking for. I’m so thrilled that I found this. I will be making this at least once a month. Thank you again. (In the end, with the extra meat & beans, it made about 12 cups of chili)