Easy—and just like mom used to make
There’s nothing like tucking into a big bowl of chili. It’s the best way we know to tame the winter cold.
And with football playoffs here, you can eat it while watching the game. Plus, this easy dish is a crowd pleaser, so it’s ideal for a Super Bowl party.
Speaking of easy, chili might be the best slow cooker dish ever. You just need to do some quick prep work, then let the cooker do its magic. Unattended. The chili will be ready when you are—no last-minute timing required.
So it’s perfect for entertaining. Or Saturday night supper after all those weekend chores.
Recipe: Slow-Cooker Homestyle Chili
Here at Kitchen Riffs central, we make a lot of chili. Usually with meat (beef and pork are our favorites). Though we like Vegetarian Chili too. We tend to use beans in chili (especially kidney or black beans). But we won’t turn down a beanless Texas-Style Chili con Carne.
This chili recipe is similar to the one we highlighted in our Chili Basics post. There are just two major differences: First, this recipe calls for using a slow cooker, rather than a stovetop. Second, in this recipe we use chili powder instead of chile powder.
Chile (with an e) powder is made from dried red chilies, and nothing more. Chili (with an i) powder contains powdered chilies, but also includes other flavorings, such as salt, oregano, and cumin.
We love “pure” chile powder, which adds depth of flavor to any dish. But most cooks in the US don’t use it in homestyle chili. Instead, they use chili powder. That’s largely because, until recently, most people outside the southwestern US couldn’t buy chile powder in supermarkets. So chili powder is what our moms used when most of us were growing up. Even in Texas—where dried chilies and chile powder have always been available—many cooks used chili powder. In fact, the Gebhardt brand of chili powder (which originated in San Antonio) is legendary throughout Texas.
So this recipe reflects the chili of our youth—and the type of chili that many (maybe most) cooks in the US still make today.
Prep time for this recipe is no more than 30 minutes. Cooking time ranges from 4 to 8 hours (depending on whether you set the slow cooker temperature to high or low).
This recipe yields about 4 quarts of chili—enough to feed a crowd. Leftovers freeze well.
- 2 onions (about 2 cups, chopped)
- 4 garlic cloves (or to taste)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon kosher salt; but see Notes)
- freshly ground black pepper to taste (several grinds; but see Notes)
- ~2½ pounds ground beef (ground chuck is the most flavorful; but see Notes for more choices)
- additional salt and black pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chili powder (or to taste; see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon dried cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 cups beef broth
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomato
- 1 28-ounce can tomato purée
- 2 15-ounce cans kidney beans (can substitute pinto beans or flavored “chili” beans)
- garnish of shredded cheddar cheese (optional; see Notes for additional garnish suggestions)
- Position your slow cooker (the 5-quart size is ideal) on the kitchen counter. The cooker will be doing its thing for several hours, so make sure it’s in a place where it will be out of the way.
- Peel the onions and cut them into dice of about ½ inch. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and mince it finely or cut it into very thin slices. Set aside.
- Place a large frying pan on medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the oil. When the oil is heated (it’ll shimmer), add the chopped onion. Add salt and black pepper to taste, then sauté the onion until it’s translucent but not browned (5 to 8 minutes).
- Add the chopped garlic and cook for an additional minute. Then scrape the contents of the frying pan into the slow cooker.
- Add the ground beef to the frying pan, and season with salt and black pepper. Then brown the beef, stirring it from time to time. When the beef is thoroughly browned, spoon off (or pour off) any excess grease. Add the chili powder, cumin, and oregano to the beef. Stir and cook the mixture for one minute. Add the beef broth. Stir again, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the crusty bits that form when you brown meat (they’re tasty, so you don’t want to leave them behind). Cook for a minute or two, then pour the contents of the frying pan into the slow cooker.
- Add the diced tomato and tomato purée to the slow cooker. Drain the beans in a strainer or colander (rinsing off the gunk they’re packed in), then add them to the slow cooker. Stir the mixture to make sure all the ingredients are nicely distributed, then turn on the slow cooker. If you set the cooker on high, the chili will be ready in 4 to 6 hours. If you set it on low, cooking will take about 8 hours.
- When the chili is done, taste it and add seasoning if necessary. You can let the cooked chili remain in the slow cooker (on the low setting) for an hour or two if necessary. When ready to serve, ladle the chili into serving bowls and add garnish (if using).
- There are several brands of slow cookers available. The “Crock-Pot” brand is probably the best known. But they all work pretty much the same.
- You might be able to squeeze this recipe into a 4-quart slow cooker, but we wouldn't chance it. Use one that holds at least 5 quarts (or size down the recipe).
- Some slow cooker chili recipes direct you to use raw onions (not sautéd), and even unbrowned meat. Doing it that way may save some prep time, but you lose a lot of flavor. We prefer our method.
- For ground beef, we favor chuck. Ground chuck has more fat (typically 15 to 20%) than ground round (which contains about 10% fat) or ground sirloin (which often has a fat content as low as 3%). Ground chuck is also more tasty.
- We particularly like to use ground chuck for slow cooker recipes. The higher fat content means it will emerge from the long cooking process a bit juicier and more flavorful.
- We don’t recommend using plain old ground beef (which usually contains about 30% fat). Although it has good flavor, and remains juicy in slow cooker recipes, it will yield a lot of grease (which you’ll need to dispose of in Step 6.)
- Gebhardt brand chili powder would work great in this dish. It’s not readily available in most parts of the US, though. So just use whatever brand your supermarket stocks.
- The amount of chili powder we suggest yields a mild chili. Still, if you’re worried that ¼ cup of chili powder might be too much, you can reduce it to 2 or 3 tablespoons.
- On the other hand, if you’d prefer a spicier chili, we suggest adding some red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. Or a spicy chile powder. When you serve the chili, you can also place some hot sauce (like Tabasco) on the table for those who want even more heat.
- We use kosher salt for cooking. Kosher salt has big flakes, so it doesn’t fill a measuring spoon as “tightly” as regular table salt. Hence, it’s less salty by volume. If you’re using regular table salt rather than kosher salt, use only about half as much as we suggest. But really, when it comes to salt (or black pepper), you should always season to your own taste.
- If you like more beans in your chili, just add another can or two. Conversely, if you don’t like beans in chili, just leave them out.
- We like to garnish chili with shredded cheddar cheese. But feel free to use oyster crackers, diced raw onion, jalapeño pepper slices, or a dollop of sour cream. Or anything else that sounds good to you.
- Need a side dish to go with your chili? Our favorite is homemade cornbread.
“Gosh, the flavor of this chili takes me back,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs.
“Like mom used to make,” I said. “Only better.”
“Perfect dish for watching the football playoffs,” said Mrs K R.
“Huh,” I said. “I’ve lost my enthusiasm for football. It just won’t be the same now that the owner of our local team—the St. Louis Rams—has decided to move them to another city.”
“What a crock,” said Mrs K R.
It certainly is.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Texas-Style Chili con Carne
Meat and Potatoes Chili
Roast Squash & Sweet Potato Chili with Kale
BBQ Beef Brisket Chili
Pulled Pork Green Chile Chili
Chunky Pork and Sweet Potato Chili
Sweet Potato Chili with Black Beans
Or check out the index for more recipes