Classic Slow Cooker Chili
This no-fuss classic slow cooker chili is perfect any time of the year! Flavorful, EASY, and straightforward, it’s good enough to win any chili cookoff!
This slow cooker chili could not be easier.
A quick little session in the skillet to cook the meat and develop awesome flavor and into the slow cooker it goes…while you do heel kicks in anticipation of getting a million things done while dinner cooks.
There are no secret ingredients or crazy extra steps. The warm spices and hearty beef and beans cook into the most perfect chili ever.
Layers of Flavor
This recipe is a testament that simple ingredients, given time and a little boost, can combine into something completely delicious.
If you haven’t gotten the memo about chili yet: it tastes amazing the 2nd or 3rd day. So it makes a great make-ahead meal. And it freezes great.
What kind of beans are best for chili?
I’m not going to lecture you here. Because chili is super adaptable.
This recipe calls for canned light or dark kidney beans. But it is easy to sub in other kinds of beans. Pinto beans, black beans, etc.
If you want to use dry beans, you’ll need to soak and cook them first.
Pressure Cooker Variation
In this day and age where electric pressure cooking has become all the rage, it’s just a matter of time before someone asks about converting this recipe over.
The good news is, it’s pretty straightforward!
Make the recipe up to step #3 and combine all the ingredients in an electric pressure cooker (like an Instant Pot), secure the lid, and cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. Let the pressure naturally release.
Make it meatless
You can also make this recipe meatless by omitting the ground beef and adding another can of beans. A variety of beans would be yummy (and quite pretty).
Over the years, my kids have resisted fully embracing classic red chilis. My tactic? Let them smother their bowls of chili with chips and cheese and sour cream. I mean, how could anyone resist?
It’s now a family favorite. Which is a good thing because apparently, I really like chili.
What To Serve With This:
Cornbread or Cornbread Muffins
One Year Ago: Slow Cooker White Bean Chicken Chili
Two Years Ago: Simple Shredded Chicken: A Quick How-To
Three Years Ago: Texas-Style Blueberry Cobbler
Classic Slow Cooker Chili
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or avocado oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced small
- 1 medium red bell pepper, diced small
- 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, optional, but delicious
- 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey (see note)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- 1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 cans (15-ounces each) light or dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained (see note)
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- In a large, 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions, bell peppers and garlic. Cook, stirring often, for 2-3 minutes. Add the chili powder and cumin and stir to combine. Cook for another minute or so.
- Add the ground beef or turkey, salt and pepper to the skillet and cook, breaking up the meat into small pieces, until the ground beef or turkey is no longer pink, 5-6 minutes. Drain any excess grease.
- Scoop the mixture into a round 6-quart (or similar size) slow cooker. Stir in the brown sugar, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans.
- Cover and cook 8-9 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high. (The chili will thicken slightly the longer it stands after cooking.) Add additional salt and pepper to taste if needed.
- Serve with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and any other chili toppings you like.
Recipe Source: adapted slightly from here after Erin G. (a lovely blog reader) forwarded it to me earlier this year
Recipe originally published Sept 2014; updated May 2020 with new photos, recipe notes, etc
83 Comments on “Classic Slow Cooker Chili”
I’ve struggled to find the best, easiest, most flavorful chili recipe for YEARS! This one is definitely it! I cooked it all in my cast iron pot and let it simmer for about 30 minutes and it was perfect like it had been cooking in the crock pot all day. So east and delicious! Mel‘s recipes never disappoint!
Thanks, Mel, for another great recipe! I used ground turkey and added jalapeños. I also made your instant pot mac and cheese about 30 minutes before the chili was done. We added a big scoop of mac and cheese to our bowls of chili. Yum! Thank you again! Happy New Year!
The biggest mistake I made was to follow this recipe exactly – I should have doubled it! My picky kids have raved about this chili and even asked to take it to school for lunch. That’s a big deal!
This recipe is very similar to one I made up! This one adds smoked paprika and brown sugar. Some of my people don’t like chunks of tomatoes so I used crushed. Doubled everything except the tomatoes since we like it thick. Didn’t have a lot of time so I just cooked it all on the stove. I’m sure it would be even better slow cooking all day!
I’ve been making this about once a month over the winter for years now. Over time I’ve modified it slightly by adding a cup of beef broth and a diced jalapeño. It is a really great recipe, especially if you are like me and tried several other chili recipes but weren’t very happy with them.
This recipe is my go-to for chili! I use black beans and add one more pepper; it is perfection! With warm cornbread, you can’t get a better comfort meal.
So good and easy! I didn’t get to make this until right at dinner time and just let it simmer on the stovetop, I am sure it would have been even better had I put it in the slow cooker. I will make this again and again!
My family and I tried this recipe for the first time last night for dinner. When I say it was great I mean just that. I am speechless. I can’t wait to have this again especially as the colder months lie ahead.
Wow! I made this in my Instant Pot tonight, and it is easy and fabulous. I cooked everything in the pot, then just added the rest of the ingredients. Easy peasy. Thanks for the recipe Mel! Q
This chili couldn’t be easier to make. Every time I splash in about 1/2 can (prob a little less) of Dr Pepper too. I’ve made it four times and it is so good every time and compliments all around . Makes the best leftovers and freezes well!
This recipe has been my go-to for years. I use ground turkey breast and sometimes swap the kidney beans for black beans. You really can’t tell it’s turkey with this recipe, if you are dealing with a picky eater. I usually just do the 4-5 hours on high as I put it together at lunch.
Also, I always use diced tomatoes with green chilis. Yum!
This chili recipe was a huge hit! I made it in the Instant Pot, for 9 mins, and it was delicious. Thanks Mel
This chili is amazing! We are making it for a second time tonight. I did a few things different, and thought I would comment here, just in case anyone else wonders if they can change it. I didn’t have a meal planned so about an hour to dinner time I found this and decided to give it a shot, even though it is a slow cooker meal. It turned out wonderfully. I just followed the directions and added everything in and just let it simmer on low, stirring often, for about a half hour.
My husband is also very against tomatoes, so I pureed the tomatoes and omitted the tomato sauce and added a cup of chicken broth in its place, this made it so it wasn’t overly thick, and he didn’t have to waste time picking out tomatoes.
Even with the adjustments I made, it was still as amazing as ever. We like things a little (or maybe a lot) spicy, so we diced pickled jalepenos on top. We would have added them in, if we didn’t have a little one who is still a little sensitive to the heat.
I made this tonight as a quick dinner before the trick or treaters arrived, The chili was delicious and very easy to make. Will defintely be making again.
Would you suggest something instead of Cumin? I don’t like that spice at all for some reason. Or should I just leave it out?
I think you could just leave it out.
This was so SPICY for my kids! Ek. I used chili powder but not sure if my chili powder was extra spicy or something!? The ground beef I used was really lean so there wasn’t any fat to drain off (Does draining the fat help with the spiciness?) the flavor was good but the kick on the spice left our mouths on fire
Not sure that you need another comment on this fabulous chili…but here it is.
It is truly great! If you’re wondering if you should make it…do it! Do not use a pre made packet anymore.
I wanted to keep to the original recipe as much as possible…so I only made minor changes. I cut the sugar in half (you don’t need the full amount if you like it a touch spicy). I used two cans of tomato sauce and one can of diced tomatoes, just a personal preference. And lastly, I am ‘cumin sensitive’…meaning I don’t like cumin, lol. But I used the full amount (it needs it) and it did not bother me at all.
I have made this chili countless times, especially on rainy days. I love it! My favorite part is that it doesn’t have 2lbs of beef like most other chili recipes. Thank you for your recipes!
I’ve never really liked chili, but I love this recipe. It has a hint of sweetness and isn’t overly spiced. it’s perfect. and the fact that I can throw it in the crockpot makes it even better. thank you, Mel!
Would you adapt this for the Instant Pot like the other chili recipe listed on your site with regards to cooking times, when to you enter ingredients, etc? Thanks. This is my kids favorite recipe.
I think you could saute the meat/onions/bell peppers in the IP, drain the grease, and then add the other ingredients and cook on high pressure for 8-10 minutes.
I have made this chili so many times I have lost count. In fact, I am currently on our couch smelling it as it simmers away. Yum! We absolutely love this and have served it in a bowl with chips and toppings, over baked potatoes, just for our family, to guests, as well as quadrupled the recipe and made it for a family reunion. I always make it on the stove though, since I haven’t quite jumped on the slow cooker bandwagon yet. It’s a favorite for classic chili, and I want to tell you thanks for all the recipes you post!
Thank you, Nicole!
This is my kids’ favorite chili! I usually make it on the stove instead of the slow cooker and it works great just letting it all simmer for 30 minutes or so. It’s just the right amount of spice for the kiddos and my husband just adds sriracha to his bowl (like every meal). We usually make cornbread to go with it too. Thanks, Mel! You’re the go-to website for meals in our house.
Hi Mel!! I can’t wait to try this!!! I loooove a classic chili!! One question though, what tomato sauce do you usually use? I live in Spain and they don’t have “tomato sauce” as in US tomato sauce. They have your basic crushed/diced/sauteed. Am I looking for more of a flavored chunky sauce or a smooth liquidy sauce? Thanks for your help and as always thanks for your blog dedication!! You are the best! 🙂
It’s a smooth sauce, Dalia. Kind of like a tomato puree.
Ok!! Perfect! Thanks a bunch for your quick response 🙂
How full does this recipe make your slow cooker? Do you think I could double it to accommodate more people?
It moderately fills up a 5-quart slow cooker but I think you could double it for one of the larger 8-quart oval slow cookers.
First time commenter here. My church was having a chili cookoff. My usual chili recipe is a black bean turkey chili recipe, but from past experience, the judges and attendees at a chili cookoff are looking for a more classical type chili, so I turned to Mel. I wanted to make a big batch, so I quadrupled the recipe. I used a #10 can of kidney beans and a #10 can of diced tomatoes. I used a 12 oz can of tomato paste in place of tomato sauce, as I have always used tomato paste with my chilis in the past. I let it cook in the roaster oven all day at about 300 degrees. I got a lot of compliments from people who experienced the aroma of it cooking at my office. I also ended up getting second place at the cook off, so it all turned out well for me.
Second place is awesome, Roger! Congrats!
This recipe is a keeper! My husband and I both agree it’s the best chili we’ve ever had.
Just found this and can’t wait to try it! Thought I’d help you out with the whole off sides thing (in case you still don’t know!)
Off sides is where the defense jumps across their “line” before the snap (the snap is when quarterback gets the ball). :o)
Mel! we had a rough summer where my husband was across the country 25days/mo. and we just ate chicken dinos and frozen peas & popsicles. He’s based in LA now and I’m remembering how to cook again. Thank goodness you are still here, delivering delicious, family-friendly recipes! Temps are finally dipping below 88 in California today and we can’t wait to try out your slow cooker chili, in our efforts to beckon fall to pay a visit! Thank you for being here!
That does sound rough, Meg! Glad you are back to cooking again (no shame in going the easy route when things are less than ideal!).
We love your creamy white chili, so I’m excited to try this chili!
Does the cooked ground beef get kinda mushy being in the slow cooker that long? When I make taco soup in the slow cooker, I tend to have that problem. Do you think I could start with everything but the ground beef, and just add the ground beef near the end?
You could definitely add the cooked meat toward the end of the slow cooker time if you have had texture issues in the past (although it won’t absorb as many of the flavors of the chili).
How many servings (ie bowls) does this make? Would you say 8? Or more?
It serves about 6.
I’m not a huge chili person but today was rainy and needed chili! It was delicious
Made this for my family tonight and we all LOVED it. Definitely the best chili recipe I’ve ever made!
Rebecca; the meat – be it beef or turkey – is just the protein in this recipe. It’s all the other ingredients that really give you the taste. Just make sure you pair the protein source and the spices properly.
Good luck to your experiments!
How is this with ground turkey? We do eat beef, but try to keep it to once a week so I really want to make this with turkey, but don’t want it to be bland!!!!
Hey Rebecca, yes, ground turkey works great in this recipe!
Made this to warm our bones after FREEZING during trick or treating. It was amazing! Really easy prep and tons of flavor.
Thanks so much for this amazing recipe! I didn’t rinse the beans but it still turned out well. Why do you rinse the beans?
Mostly to get rid of excess starch.
Do you think I could freeze this after cooking?
I haven’t tried it but usually chili freezes pretty well.
I made this yesterday. I have never liked chili. Well it turns out I love chili, I just don’t like bad chili LOL
I left out the bell peppers and tossed in red pepper flakes. YUM, only thing I will change is to add more meat next time. For me there were too many beans for the amount of meat that was in it. My daughter also loves it and even too it for lunch at school today. Makes a great baked potato topper. Mmm Mm.
Made this today with stew meat which I’ve never bought before. It was so delicious. Served it with sourdough toast. I LOVE coming to the dinner table with dinner already made and most if not all the dishes already done. Really appreciated this one today, thanks!!
It was 100 degrees today (Santa Clarita, CA) and I didn’t care. College football & Dodgers in the playoffs made chili a must. As I poured in the kidney beans my husband informed me they weren’t his favorite. After two bowls he now is a huge fan of this chili & of kidney beans. Thank you for the great recipe.
Made your recipe today and with just a few changes it was magnifico! 🙂 I cooked it on the stove in my dutch oven and used 1 tsp cumin,1-1/2 T chili powder,1-1/2 T brown sugar,2 -15 oz cans of diced tomatoes (I puréed) and 1 tsp onion powder. I cooked it on medium for 2 hours and it was great! Perfect dish for a ND fall day – thanks!
Made this last night and it’s delicious! I’ve been married for 12 years and have never made my own chili because my husband doesn’t like it (too many childhood experiences with crunchy beans). I told him what we were having for dinner and he was skeptical until I told him it was Mel’s recipe. He said, “she hasn’t let us down yet!”, and he loved it! I served it on top of potatoes or /and zucchini and my kids ate it like taco soup! Yum!
Love the idea of serving this on top of zucchini, Michelle! (And so glad your anti-chili husband loved it, too!)
Thanks. I decided to go on with small, quickly fried cauliflower florets.
As to the chilies, I have been freezing our own chilies but I now understand that I should also dry some of them.
This was delicious! Thanks for saving dinner for my family yet again! I came to your site yesterday looking for dinner and then started on this right away. The flavors were delicious, and I think I vocalized that after every.single.bite! My husband only cares for beans in moderation, so next time I will use less for his sake.
Yum!!! Thank you!!
I’m not too hot on beans, either (lots of carbs!)
Any ideas for other tasty lo-carb additions?
You could leave them out – the chili would be thinner – or try adding some cooked quinoa or even diced zucchini or other vegetables (although I’d add those toward the end of cooking time).
My hubby isn’t too big on beans either, but I always puree half of the beans and he doesn’t know the difference. It thickens up the chili too!
I love chilli! One of my favourite comfort foods – yours looks incredible! Look at those gorgeous rich colour. Anything you can throw in the slow cooker has my tick of approval!!
There’s nothing like a hot bowl of homemade chili on a crisp fall day. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us, Mel!
This looks super yummy. Thanks so much for all your work! I made your cheese fondue the other night, and my boys were in heaven. They all loved it! They told me that they “are so glad Mel helps mom out”. Yep, your name is know by all my five boys around here. I don’t know if you should feel happy or nervous about that…..
Ha! Thanks for the smile. That makes me happy, Jessica!
Yay! I’m so glad you liked it. I prefer eating it in your bread bowls. It’s delicious!
Just when I think I have your posting schedule figured out, you go and post a new recipe on a Tuesday- yeah! I Love a great chili, and a slow cooker chili is even better. This looks delicious, Mel!
This looks and sounds like a delicious chili. My hubby isn’t big
on chili with tomato sauce (he prefers a thinner version with tomatoes and more liquid, like beef broth.) But I DO like a thick chili with tomato sauce so I think I may have to make this for me and he can eat some if he wants. HEE! (I bet he ends up eating some!)
Football and Chil (with corn bread of course)i…the perfect combination. GO BEARS!
Honestly, Mel, as good as this looks (and probably is) your Hearty Turkey & Bean Chili has unseated every chili recipe in our house – including my mother’s beloved recipe from my childhood. Come Labor Day and cooler temps, it is the very first thing requested in our house…so much so that I now make at least a double if not triple batch and freeze it for winter so that even the boys can have some if I’m out of town. I may have to try this one, but not sure if it anything can compare to your other 🙂
I love that one, too, Kristin! And what’s funny is that this recipe started out (the original) fairly different and much spicier than the Hearty Turkey and Bean Chili but in the end, after I posted it no less, I looked at the Hearty Turkey Chili and realized the two of them (today’s post and that one) aren’t all that different. A few variances in spices and of course this is in the slow cooker. So I’m guessing you’d probably like it. 🙂
I made your white chicken chili on Sunday (which I’ve made a dozen times before), and my husband said it was the best meal he’d had in a long time. It really is my favorite chili ever! I ate the leftovers for lunch yesterday & it was just as good! What I’m saying is, I trust your chili expertise whole heartedly, so I’m going to have to try this very soon!
The chili looks and sounds good. We aren’t quite into chili weather here in Texas yet as it is still in the 90s, but I’m ready for it!
Also, offsides is generally called when a defensive player crosses the line of scrimmage at the same time the ball is snapped (that is the defensive player is on the wrong side of the line when the ball is snapped). If the defensive player can get back before the ball is snapped, there is no foul. This is a very general description of offsides and not a technical explanation at all.
That looks like perfect chili – in that it looks a lot like the chili my mom makes, which is the only chili I’ve ever really liked! I’ve been meaning to get her recipe for a while, but maybe I’ll just make this one instead!
This is nearly identical to my chili recipe! It’s a keeper. We love it with your cornbread.
Mel, please let me know what you refer to when you write “chili powder”. Is this just powdered chilis or some concoction or paprika, ground cilantro and cumin seeds etc?
Can we use a store-bought taco seasoning chili powder?
They’re not the same thing, and I wouldn’t use taco seasoning in place of it because it contains flour. It’s a spice blend that is easily found in the spice aisle, or there’s plenty of make your own blends on the internet. It’s usually a mix of cayenne, paprika, garlic, salt, and sometimes cumin and/or oregano.
Looks so tasty! I love it!
Great minds think alike!! I came to your site today hoping you already had a crockpot chili recipe. And it’s today’s post!! So exciting! Blustery and cloudy here in IL. Ran through leaves on my morning run. Fall is here!!
I am so excited to see you posted today. I check every day and am usually happily rewarded three times a week. Last week you posted more than usual and now it’s Tuesday and already two recipes! I love your blog it’s my favorite and i have made so many of your recipes. Thank you. Your chili looks great!
I believe it is an Iowa thing, but we always have chili with cinnamon rolls. It is one of those deep-rooted traditions that starts during elementary school lunches and is carried on forever. For awhile, I think the cinnamon roll was the main reason why I ate chili. 🙂
In the last several years, I’ve grown to really enjoy football, but I still have no stinkin’ clue what in the heck offsides is either. Join the club…it’s nice over here 🙂