Slow cooker chili is a hearty stew filled with ground beef, vegetables, beans, and spices in a tomato sauce. This beef chili recipe is hearty, filling, and an easy family favorite dinner.
Slow Cooker Chili is the perfect recipe to start on a cold Sunday morning. The smell of onions, peppers, and spices will fill your home around midday. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that dinner is cooking itself!
This slow cooker chili is filled with crumbled ground beef, canned tomatoes and beans, bell pepper, onion, and a variety of simple pantry spices. Plus, it's easy to customize to make spicier or milder to suit your tastes.
Serve this slow cooker chili with cornbread (try my skillet cornbread recipe), tortilla chips, or crackers. It's perfect for keeping warm during winter, tailgating during football season, or as a fuss-free weeknight meal.
Ingredients and substitutions
Ground beef can be substituted with ground turkey or ground chicken for a lighter, lower calorie chili.
To make a thinner, saucier chili, substitute half of the canned tomatoes with a can of tomato sauce. This chili turns out chunky and thick when made as written.
Any canned beans can be used in this recipe - I like to use half light kidney and half dark kidney beans simply for variety of color.
Can I use raw beans?
No. Do not add raw or dried kidney beans directly to your chili!
Raw or dried red kidney beans contain a toxin that needs to be heated to a certain temperature, for a certain amount of time, to kill it. Otherwise, according to the FDA, they can cause nausea and vomiting when consumed.
To use dried beans safely, soak your beans for 5 hours in water, then boil for a minimum of 10 minutes. Once you have done this, your beans can safely be used in any slow cooker recipe.
Canned beans are already cooked, so these extra steps don't need to be taken.
For more information: Allrecipes: Why you should never cook kidney beans in a slow cooker
How long to cook chili in a slow cooker
You'll generally have at least two options on your slow cooker - low and high heat. I have cooked this chili dozens and dozens of times, on both low and high heat, and both ways turn out the same.
On low heat, your chili will cook for about 8 to 9 hours.
On high heat, your chili will cook for about 5 hours.
If your chili cooks for slightly longer than this, that's okay too. Chili generally gets better as it cooks. The sauce will thicken and flavors will deepen.
I suggest stirring your chili once during the last half of cooking, so as to not let out too much heat. Repeatedly opening your slow cooker will release heat and slow down the cooking process.
Don't have a slow cooker or crock pot? This recipe can be made on the stove top as well.
Simply brown your beef in the bottom of a stock pot, then add your remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low.
Cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
You can find both my slow cooker and stove top versions in the recipe card below.
How to freeze chili
You might think chili is only a cold weather recipe, but I make it year round. It’s filling, healthy, and keeps well as a leftover.
Chili is one of those few recipes that is even better the next day. Slow cooker chili leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
And guess what? Chili with beef and beans can be frozen for 3 months or more if stored in a well sealed container. I almost always make a double batch of chili and freeze half for future meals.
Chili can be stored in single serve containers or freezer bags, then removed from the freezer the night before to thaw. Simply reheat in the microwave or over medium heat on the stove top.
What to serve with chili
Aside from toppings like shredded cheese, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, chives, or green onions, what can you serve with chili? Here are a few ideas.
- Skillet cornbread
- Buttermilk cornbread muffins
- Jalapeño cheddar cornmeal biscuits
- Cowboy caviar
- Tex-Mex cheese quesadillas
- Garlic bread cheese balls
Slow Cooker Chili
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 30 ounces canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 30 ounces canned diced tomatoes, with juices
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Over medium heat, crumble ground beef into a hot saute pan and cook until browned.
- Add cooked ground beef to your slow cooker. Add all of your remaining ingredients - onion, bell pepper, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and spices. Stir to combine.
- Cook on low heat for 8 to 9 hours, or on high for 5 hours. Stir sparingly (once during the last half of cooking will suffice).
- Over medium heat, crumble ground beef into a stock pot and cook until browned.
- Add all of your remaining ingredients - onion, bell pepper, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and spices. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 2 hours, stirring sparingly.
- This recipe makes a mild chili. For a spicier chili, add diced jalapenos with your bell pepper, or add additional red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper (to taste).
- Slow cooker chili leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Chili can be frozen for 3 months or more if stored in a well sealed container or freezer bag.
- If frozen, remove from the freezer the night before to thaw. Reheat in the microwave or over medium heat on the stove top.
- Top with sour cream, shredded cheese, chives, crumbled bacon, or fresh jalapenos.