An EASY, classic Slow Cooker Beef Chili that takes no effort and makes a perfect meal the family will love. Perfect for dinner or game day!
Slow Cooker Recipes make for easy dinners on busy, cold days. A hearty meal like the similar Slow Cooker Beef Stew, the incredible Slow Cooker Indian Butter Chicken, or the Ultimate Slow Cooker Pot Roast will warm up the entire family.
As the weather cools, there’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of chili. It’s a hearty dish that can be customized in countless ways and is perfect for cozy evenings at home or large gatherings. Slow Cooker Beef Chili is a recipe that stands out for its deep flavors and ease of preparation. The combination of lean ground beef, onions, and a blend of spices in a tomato sauce creates a rich base for this hearty dish. A variety of beans and diced tomatoes add texture and layers of flavor, making each bite a delight. The unique addition of saltine cracker crumbs helps thicken the chili, resulting in a perfectly hearty consistency.
Another major plus for this recipe is how easy it is to make! Using a slow cooker means that after an initial sauté of the beef and onions, the remaining ingredients can be added and left to cook without the need for constant supervision. This makes it a great dish for those busy days when you want a delicious meal but don’t have the time to spend hours in the kitchen.
This recipe’s origins can be traced back to the Tex-Mex tradition, where chili is a staple dish. However, this version has been adapted for the slow cooker, making it a perfect blend of tradition and convenience. Whether it’s a casual weekend dinner or a crowd-pleasing dish for a game-day get-together, this Slow Cooker Chili is sure to impress. Serve with corn chips or homemade Skillet Cornbread for a filling meal fit for royalty!
How to Make Slow Cooker Beef Chili
There’s something incredibly satisfying about making your own chili at home, and this Slow Cooker Chili recipe with a short prep time makes it easier than ever. Check it out!
- Step One: Start by cooking the beef and onion together in a large pot or Cast Iron Skillet over medium-high heat until the beef is well browned.
- Step Two: Transfer the beef mixture and onion to your slow cooker, adding the rest of the ingredients.
- Step Three: Set your slow cooker to high heat for 3 hours or on low heat for 6 hours. Let the slow cooker do its magic!
- Step Four: Once the cooking time is up, give everything a good stir to combine. Your comforting and delicious Slow Cooker Chili is ready to serve! Top with green onions and sour cream!
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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, browning the beef adds depth of flavor to the chili. It also allows you to drain off any excess fat before adding the beef to the slow cooker.
Absolutely, you can substitute ground turkey or chicken for the beef if you prefer. Keep in mind that these meats have a milder flavor than beef.
Yes, you can substitute the beef with a plant-based meat substitute or add extra beans for a vegetarian version.
If you don’t have saltine cracker crumbs, you can substitute with bread crumbs or crushed tortilla chips.
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Key Ingredients in Slow Cooker Beef Chili
Creating this Slow Cooker Chili is straightforward, and the ingredients are simple, but each plays a vital role in building flavor. Here’s a rundown:
- Ground Beef: The protein base of the chili. Opt for lean ground beef to avoid excess fat. However, you can substitute with ground turkey or chicken for a lighter version.
- Onion and Garlic: These aromatics form the flavor foundation of the chili. Don’t skip these; they add a depth of flavor that can’t be replicated. The 3 cloves garlic are really healthy too!
- Red Kidney Beans: They add texture and are a great source of protein and fiber. Feel free to experiment with other beans such as black beans or pinto beans.
- Diced Tomatoes: These add a tangy sweetness that balances the heat of the chili. If you prefer a less tomato-heavy chili, you can reduce the quantity or use fresh tomatoes instead.
- Chili Powder, Cumin, and Jalapeno: These spices bring heat and complexity to the chili. Adjust the quantities to suit your taste for spiciness.
- Saltine Cracker Crumbs: An unusual ingredient, but they help thicken the chili to the perfect consistency. Substitute with bread crumbs if necessary.
Stovetop Slow Cooker Beef Chili
While the slow cooker method is convenient and helps develop deep flavors, you can also make this chili on the stovetop. Follow the same process of browning the beef and onions, then add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer the chili on low or medium heat for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally making sure it doesn’t burn on the bottom.
Can Slow Cooker Beef Chili Be Made Ahead of Time?
Absolutely! Chili is a dish that tastes even better the next day as the flavors have more time to meld together. Make sure to let it cool down before storing it in the fridge. Reheat it on the stove over low heat, adding a splash of water if it’s too thick.
Substitutions in Slow Cooker Beef Chili
- Ground Beef: For a lighter version, substitute ground turkey or chicken. For a vegetarian version, use a plant-based meat substitute or add extra beans.
- Red Kidney Beans: Feel free to use black beans, pinto beans, or a combination of your favorite beans.
- Saltine Cracker Crumbs: If unavailable, bread crumbs or crushed tortilla chips work well as a thickening agent.
Variations on Slow Cooker Beef Chili
This Slow Cooker Chili recipe is versatile and can be adapted to suit your taste. Here are a few variations to consider:
- Spicy Slow Cooker Chili: Add extra jalapenos or a dash of hot sauce for a spicy chili with an extra kick.
- Vegetarian Slow Cooker Chili: Replace the ground beef with a plant-based meat substitute or add extra beans and veggies, like green bell pepper and baked potatoes.
- Three-Bean Slow Cooker Chili: Use a combination of kidney beans, black beans, and white beans (like pinto beans) for a variety of textures and flavors. Bean chili is a delicious crockpot chili!
How to Serve Slow Cooker Beef Chili
Slow Cooker Beef Chili pairs well with a variety of sides. Consider serving it with a side of Skillet Cornbread to balance out the heat, a fresh green salad for some lightness, or over a bed of rice for an extra-filling meal. Top with shredded cheese If you’re in the mood for a fun dessert, why not try this Sheet Pan Apple Crisp recipe?
PS, you’ll also want to try this awesome Southern Cornbread to enjoy with this crockpot chili. It isn’t that normal super sweet cornbread you see in your regular grocery stores!
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How to Store Slow Cooker Beef Chili
- Serve: This chili can be safely left out at room temperature for up to two hours before it needs to be refrigerated.
- Store: Once cooled, store your leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat on the stove over medium heat, adding a splash of beef broth or water if needed.
- Freeze: This chili freezes well for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stovetop.
- 2 pounds lean ground beef , 80/20
- 1 yellow onion , chopped
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 16-ounce cans red kidney beans , rinsed and drained
- 29 ounces canned diced tomatoes , not drained
- 1/4 cup tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 minced jalapeno , optional (if you want it spicy)
- 1/2 cup saltine cracker crumbs , finely ground
- Cook the beef and onion together in a large pot or cast iron skillet over medium high heat until the beef is browned well.
- Add it to the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients.
- Cook on high heat for 3 hours or on low heat for 6 hours.
Photos used in a previous version of this post.
My go-to beef chili recipe. The only thing I change is I swap out the jalapeños for a chipotle pepper in adobo sauce which gives this a nice smoky heat. A crowd pleaser every time!
love chipotle pepper!
Excellent. The only thing I changed was adding in a small can diced green chilis. I got nervous about liquid so I put hot water in my tomato paste can and got all the leftover tomato paste and added… probably 1/2 cup… and garlic salt, since I’m a salt freak. Next time I’m making the original amount. Had to cut in 1/2 because only I can of red kidney beans and 1 pound of ground beef. It was just wonderful!
This is my go to recipe for Chili! It’s easy, doesn’t require a bunch of ingredients and super tasty! Sometimes I add a can of drained corn near the end of the cooking time.
Thank you for this great recipe!
This is a delicious chili—even my picky daughter likes it. The second time I made it I subbed ground turkey with beef bouillon added and cut the meat in half and the flavor was still wonderful. Thanks for a great recipe!
As a lover of all things garlic, I would point out that it has to be added near the end. It will have been cooked to tasteless goo after 3-6 hours in the slow cooker whether fresh or granulated (powdered is more like flour). Likewise the onions but at least they can act as filler.
This is my favorite chili recipe. It is not only easy to prepare but Delicious as well. Thank you Sabrina, for your tasty recipes!
I see your recipes and would like to know what a serving size is considered. I see how many servings but not the size.
Mine turned out dry and a little bland. I used all the ingredients as listed in the recipe. But, I may have altered the results by adding 2 medium chopped sweet potatoes, a green pepper, and a red pepper. Plus, I drained the meat after browning. To make it soupier, after the cook time was up, I added tomato sauce (needed 16-24oz) and 1-14.5oz chopped tomatoes, and cooked on high for an hour. It was okay.
You changed the recipe and then gave only 3 stars? The recipe you are reviewing isn’t the one that she posted. I just find this mind boggling!
This is our go to chili recipe. We add an extra can of tomatoes because we like more tomato. Thank you for our favorite chili recipe!!!
Thank you Nicole! So glad you enjoy it!
This is my go-to chili and it’s the best chili I’ve ever had. I leave the crackers out and used jar jalapeños but other than that, I follow the recipe exactly. It always turns out delicious! Every recipe I’ve tried on your site has been a winner!
I just used this recipe (without the jalapenos) and the chili turned out delicious. However, even after following the instructions, the chili was a bit dense with hardly any juices.
I added 1/2 jar of salsa because I added an extra can of beans, and didn’t want it too dense.
Could I use crushed tomatoes vs diced in the recipe??
Cam’t wait to try this!!!!
You can, but it might come out a little liquidy, I haven’t tried it that way!
My husband and I love this chili recipe!!!! I was wondering, if you make this the night before, then let it cool and put it in the fridge, can it still be heated up the next day? I am serving this for work but won’t have time in the morning to make it. Thoughts?
After cooking the meat and onion I drained it. Was I not supposed to do that? The chili looks really dry after cooking for 1 hour. Thank you!
We actually leave the fluid in for extra flavor and moisture. Its such a habit, I usually drain everything as well. Sorry it didn’t turn out the way you wanted!
Am going to make this today. Love slow cooke anything. have a classic old pottery and metal version from 70’s. Wondering any idea what carb count would be if beans were taken out. Thanks, M
Looks great but there is no way only 11 carbs. Beans have huge amounts of carbs, fiber, too, but not enough to reduce carbs that much.
Used your recipes for years. Thanks, keep ’em coming.
This is a really good chili! I don’t like it too hot so use 2 tbsp of chili powder instead of 3 tbsp. I added one can of diced mushrooms and canned corn. Thank you for the excellent chili recipe. Was just what I was looking for. I will be cooking this again.
Is it possible to put the ground beef in the slow cooker without downing it first?
You can but I would recommend browning the beef first so it’ll have more flavor. You might need to cook it on high for 4 or stick with low for 6 since it will all be cooking in the slow cooker. Hope this helps!
Hi there! I’ve made this recipe several times in my slow cooker and love it! Do you think I could make this in my instant pot?
I’m sure you can though I haven’t tested it to know the exact timing. You might want look up another recipe online using one to use as a guideline. I’ll add it to my research list also.
No matter how creative I choose to get in venturing out from this chili recipe, this is the one I always refer to when it is time for chili. I definitely have this one saved.
I’m honored, Christopher!
Can I substitute anything for the crackers?? Thank you!
You can just leave that part out if you’d like.
Hi there I cooked this without the crackers. I feel like there is not enough salt? The video did not show adding the saltine crackers in the slow cooker, so I did not add them. Should I have added the crackers in the slow cooker with everything else before it slow cooked? Pls kindly advise.
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