Slow Cooker Chili

Based on the fact that we’ve finally dropped out of the 90’s and into the 60’s, I’m declaring it chili season. Chili is one of those things I just don’t spend the entire year longing for (unlike pumpkin, which I enjoy all the livelong year but don’t necessarily shout from the rooftops for fear of ending lifelong friendships; apparently the rules of when pumpkin can be enjoyed is a very emotional and monumental issue so I end up eating my pumpkin chocolate chip bread on the down low in July which totally works for me). The only exception to my self-imposed chili standard is this creamy white version which is acceptable and requested year round. Our cloudy, slightly blustery weather that hints of cooler fronts to come has me craving chili big time.

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.

Slow Cooker Chili

There are no secret ingredients or crazy methods; the warm spices and hearty beef and beans combine into the most comforting perfect chili ever. You can step up the spiciness by adding jalapenos (fresh or jarred) or upping the chili powder. As is, it’s low on start-your-mouth-on-fire and big on flavor.

Admittedly, chili doesn’t rank in my kids’ top 10 meals of all time, but put a big bowl of this in front of them topped with plenty of sour cream and cheddar cheese while they’re glued to a football game with their dad and you might pass out when they ask for seconds. Chili and football are a pretty winning combination around here – Brian would say it’s his favorite time of the year and I’m pretty sure if you polled the four boys, they’d agree. Like father like sons. Cam and I? We try to watch a bit of football here and there along with them but usually lose interest when no one will tell me what offsides means, which I ask at least 105 times each game, and we end up making cookies instead. Obviously no one’s complained about that arrangement yet. You could say it’s mutually beneficial for all.

Slow Cooker Chili

What To ServeCornbread or Cornbread Muffins
Sour cream
Shredded cheese

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

Yield: Serves 6

Classic Slow Cooker Chili

This chili is also delicious with beef cubes (I use a chuck or sirloin roast and cut it into small pieces; you could also use the stew meat that comes already packaged into bite-size pieces). If doing so, you don't need to cook it all the way through in the skillet. Just brown lightly and it will finish cooking in the slow cooker (the reason I cook the ground meat all the way through is so I can drain off the fat after it cooks instead of it accumulating in the slow cooker).

Also, if you want to increase the heat (as is, the chili isn't overly spicy), consider adding chopped jalapenos (fresh or from the jar) or additional chili powder.


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut 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
  • 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey (see note above)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans light or dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • For serving:
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Sour cream


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Scoop the mixture into a round 5-quart (or similar size) slow cooker. Stir in the brown sugar, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and beans.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

57 Responses to Classic Slow Cooker Chili

  1. Dalia says:

    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! 🙂

  2. Tori says:

    How full does this recipe make your slow cooker? Do you think I could double it to accommodate more people?

  3. Roger says:

    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.

  4. Jamie says:

    This recipe is a keeper! My husband and I both agree it’s the best chili we’ve ever had.

  5. Sarah says:

    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)

  6. Multimeg says:

    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!

    • Mel says:

      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!).

  7. Cathy says:

    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?

    • Mel says:

      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).

  8. Carmin says:

    How many servings (ie bowls) does this make? Would you say 8? Or more?

  9. Heather bell says:

    I’m not a huge chili person but today was rainy and needed chili! It was delicious

  10. Stacy says:

    Made this for my family tonight and we all LOVED it. Definitely the best chili recipe I’ve ever made!

  11. Kari says:

    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!

  12. Rebecca says:

    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!!!!

  13. Deb says:

    Made this to warm our bones after FREEZING during trick or treating. It was amazing! Really easy prep and tons of flavor.

  14. Jeanette says:

    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?

  15. Vanessa says:

    Do you think I could freeze this after cooking?

  16. Pamela says:

    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.

  17. Nicole H. says:

    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!!

  18. Jennifer says:

    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.

  19. Sandra says:


    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!

  20. Michelle says:

    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!

  21. Kari says:

    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.

  22. Anonymous says:

    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!!

    • Kari says:

      I’m not too hot on beans, either (lots of carbs!)

      Any ideas for other tasty lo-carb additions?

      • Mel says:

        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).

    • Rebecca B says:

      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!

  23. 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!!

  24. There’s nothing like a hot bowl of homemade chili on a crisp fall day. Thanks for sharing your recipe with us, Mel!

  25. Jessica Chamberlain says:

    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…..

  26. Erin G says:

    Yay! I’m so glad you liked it. I prefer eating it in your bread bowls. It’s delicious!

  27. Kim in MD says:

    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!

  28. Char Riippi says:

    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!

  29. Kristin says:

    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 🙂

    • Mel says:

      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. 🙂

  30. Heather M says:

    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!

  31. Beverly says:

    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.

  32. 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!

  33. Cammee says:

    This is nearly identical to my chili recipe! It’s a keeper. We love it with your cornbread.

  34. Kari says:

    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?

    • Diana says:

      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.

  35. Andie says:

    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!!

  36. Cyndi B says:

    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!

  37. Katie says:

    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. 🙂

  38. Becky says:

    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 🙂

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