This slow cooker beef chili, from Skinnytaste, is easy as can be to make, satisfying beyond words to taste. All you do is dump the familiar chili ingredients in a crockpot. And just like that, dinner is done.
This chili pleases all palates in my house—it’s not too spicy or too mild, but it’s loaded with flavor. I love the combination of black beans and chickpeas, but you can use any type of legumes you like. What really makes the chili, in my opinion, are the toppings! Some sharp cheddar, a dollop of cumin-cilantro sour cream, and diced red onions are a must. Sometimes I even add some crushed tortilla chips.–Gina Homolka
CAN I MAKE CHILI WITHOUT A SLOW COOKER?
To make this slow cooker beef chili on the stovetop, in step 2, leave the beef in the pan and add the water, beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and gently simmer for about 1 hour. Continue with step 3.
Skinnytaste’s Slow Cooker Beef Chili
For the slow cooker beef chili
- 2 pounds lean ground beef (preferably 93%)
- 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup (4 1/2 oz) chopped onion (about 1 small onion)
- 1 cup (4 oz) chopped red bell pepper (about 1 medium pepper)
- 3 garlic cloves minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1 cup water
- Two (15-ounce) cans no-salt-added beans, whether black, pinto, kidney, white, or chickpeas, rinsed and drained (the author suggests 1 can black beans and 1 can chickpeas)
- One (10-ounce) can diced tomatoes, preferably with mild green chiles, undrained
- One (8-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 to 3 teaspoons chile powder
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 bay leaves
For the cilantro sour cream
- 1/2 cup sour cream (the author recommends light but we say go full-fat)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- Squeeze fresh lime (optional)
For the slow cooker beef chili toppings
- 1/2 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese (the author recommends lowered-fat Cheddar but we say go full-fat)
- 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
- Crushed tortilla chips (optional)
Make the slow cooker beef chili
- Place a large deep skillet or pot over medium-high heat. Add the ground beef, salt, and pepper to taste. (If you’re using beans and tomato sauce that are canned with salt, you may wish to reduce the amount of salt to 3/4 teaspoon.) Cook, using a wooden spoon to crumble the meat as it cooks, until no trace of pink remains, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain all the liquid from the pan and discard. (But don’t pour it down the drain! You definitely want to let it cool and then toss it in the trash.)
- Add the tomato paste, onion, bell pepper, and garlic to the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 4 minutes.
- Dump the beef mixture into a 6-quart slow cooker. Add the water, beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, cumin, 1 teaspoon chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and bay leaves. Cover and cook on high for 5 hours or on low for 7 to 9 hours.
Make the cilantro sour cream
- Combine the sour cream, cilantro, and cumin in a small bowl and, if desired, add a few drops freshly squeezed lime. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Serve the slow cooker beef chili
- Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste the chili and adjust seasoning to taste, adding more chili powder, salt, and pepper if desired. Ladle the chili into individual bowls and let each guest help herself or himself to a dollop of the sour cream mixture and some cheese, red onion, and, if desired, tortilla chips.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I really enjoyed the versatility and simplicity of this slow cooker beef chili recipe. I chose the stovetop method and it was satisfying to prepare a home-cooked and nutritious chili for my family in such a short amount of time.
The chili took about 15 minutes prep time and about 30 minutes simmered on medium-low heat and dinner was served. While the chili was simmering I prepared the toppings. My family enjoyed the chili and toppings and I wouldn’t hesitate to make this recipe again.
I usually make chili with ground beef but for this recipe I used 2 pounds of ground chicken breast instead for a healthier alternative. Even with the “extreme” substitution, my family gave the chili a 9/10 in the flavor category. Win! I really enjoyed the fact that this recipe yielded a delicious chili despite the substitutions I made.
My standard “go-to” chili recipes have more chili powder and seasonings and less tomato so I wondered if the recipe would be balanced in flavor or overpowering in tomato flavor but found the chili to be seasoned perfectly. I also thought the addition of water would make the chili watery but it was fine.
I failed to find the “no salt” beans or tomato sauce at the grocery store so I reduced the salt to 3/4 teaspoon. I served the chili with all of the recommended toppings, including grated sharp Cheddar cheese, chopped raw white onion (I used the remaining half of the white onion leftover from the chili for garnish), and tortilla chips. The sour cream, while flavorful, could have used a hint of lime juice or even a little salt.
Even though I love the flavors of cilantro and cumin, I am a sour cream purist so I actually prefer sour cream plain or with just a touch of lime juice. I’m not sure if I would make the sour cream topping again if it was just me but my husband loved it! The chili is a for sure a make-again recipe.
Yum! As soon as I stirred in the spices I knew this slow cooker beef chili was going to be a winner! The aroma was amazing! This is a wonderful and mild chili with lots of varied textures and flavors. The chickpeas were a great addition to the regular beans. The sour cream mixture was lovely and added an extra flavor boost and the crushed tortilla chips added a nice crunch. The whole family enjoyed the meal and loved the choice of extra toppings.
I was worried that this slow cooker beef chili would be too bland and not spicy enough for my taste but the finished dish was layered with flavor. I especially loved the combination of black beans and chickpeas! I was reluctant to include the chickpeas but I’m so glad that I did! The chickpeas provided a different texture and a beautiful contrast in color to the rest of ingredients. My daughter and I preferred the chili without the sour cream, however, my son really enjoyed it. I think this dish would be a 10 if 1 extra tablespoon of tomato paste was added to thicken it up a bit.
As someone who hasn’t made a lot of chili, I can say that this slow cooker beef chili recipe is a great base recipe to work with. Nothing too complex and it was easy to see how I could mix things up next time by adding other veggies, beans, or spices. Plus you can easily double the recipe.
I was pleased that my spice-sensitive friends weren’t too blown away—there was a slight warmth but nothing too hot to handle. For those who like it more fiery, a little cayenne or crushed red pepper might be in order. I simmered the chili on the stovetop on low for about 2 hours and was pleased to find the peppers and beans not overdone and mushy. Even after being stored in the fridge for a few days and reheated, the lovely texture of the beans was still intact.
I spent only 20 minutes getting everything for this slow cooker beef chili ready for the slow cooker. Start to finish was about 5 1/2 hours, including 5 hours in the slow cooker on high. For the beans I used black beans and pinto beans.
I don’t think the green chiles in the tomatoes is really an option as this chili needs the flavor of the green chiles. What makes this slow cooker beef chili recipe is the cilantro sour cream. Next time I’d make the sour cream again as is, add another can of beans to the chili and probably double the amount of spices.
Originally published January 28, 2017