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Overhead close-up of a bowl of slow cooker beef chili.
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The BEST Slow Cooker Chili

Adapted from Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker: Reinvent the Slow Cooked Meal, by Nicki Sizemore (Storey Publishing, 2019). This is my very favorite beef chili; it’s reminiscent of the versions I grew up with in the Midwest but with an amplified, rich flavor that I crave every snow day, game day or plain ‘ole Sunday. I know it looks like a lot of ingredients, but they’re mostly things you’ll have in your pantry and spice cabinet. A chipotle chili gives the chili a kick of spice, maple syrup lends sweetness, tamari imparts savory “umami-ness” and beer’s pleasant bitterness balances everything out. The chili is even better the next day. I love to serve it with these with Jalapeño Cheddar Spoonbread Muffins.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: slow cooker beef chili, slow cooker chili, slow cooker chili recipe
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients

Stovetop prep

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced

Slow cooker

  • 1 28- ounce can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup strained tomatoes (such as Pomi brand)
  • 1 cup beer (lager or pale ale, gluten-free if needed)
  • 1 15- ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 canned chipotle chile, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder

For serving

  • Toppings, such as: chopped tomatoes, sliced scallions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and/or pickled jalapeños
  • Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Muffins (optional)

Instructions

Stovetop prep

  • Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the beef, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the meat in a colander or strainer set over a bowl (reserve the skillet).
  • In the same skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots, and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño, and cook 1 minute longer.

Slow cooker

  • Scrape the vegetables into a 4- to 7-quart slow cooker and add the drained beef, diced tomatoes, strained tomatoes, beer, black beans, chipotle chile, tamari, maple syrup, chile powder, cumin, oregano and cacao powder. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 7 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve

  • Ladle the chili into bowls and sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. Serve the Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Muffins alongside, if you wish.

Notes

Storage: The chili can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 3 months.
Slow Cooker Jumpstarts:
  • Up to 1 day ahead: Chop the onions, carrots, garlic and jalapeño and refrigerate separately (or you can go ahead and cook them off).
Tips:
  • You’ll need a 4- to 7-quart slow cooker for this recipe (I recommend this 6-quart model). Different models cook at different rates, so use the times as an approximation (but don’t worry; this is a very forgiving chili!). 
  • It's important to sauté the beef first for two reasons. First, it allows you to drain off the fat (otherwise you'd end up with a greasy, heavy chili). Secondly, it helps to build flavor.
  • The ingredient list might look long, but these are mostly things you’ll already have in your pantry and spice cabinet. 
  • If you’re gluten-free, be sure to use a gluten-free beer (I use Omission Pale Ale). You can also swap out the beer for chicken broth, if you prefer. 
  • Strained tomatoes give the chili body. I use Pomi brand (which comes in a box). If you can’t find strained tomatoes, you can use canned tomato puree instead. 
  • You can swap in ground turkey (preferably dark meat) for the beef. 
  • I serve this chili with these Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread Muffins or this Skillet Cornbread.
  • Get a ton of other slow cooker recipes in my book, Fresh Flavors for the Slow Cooker!