Slow Cooker Beef Chili

8 Servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes

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.

Bowl of Slow Cooker Chili with beef and kidney beans

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!

More Delicious Chili Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it necessary to brown the beef before slow cooking?

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.
 

Can I use a different type of meat in this chili?

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.

Can I make this chili vegetarian?

Yes, you can substitute the beef with a plant-based meat substitute or add extra beans for a vegetarian version.

What can I use instead of saltine cracker crumbs?

If you don’t have saltine cracker crumbs, you can substitute with bread crumbs or crushed tortilla chips.

beef chili recipe made in the slow cooker

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.

crockpot chili with scallions on top

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!

More Great Slow Cooker Recipes

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. 
crockpot chili topped with sour cream and onion

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Pin Recipe

Slow Cooker Beef Chili

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!
Yield 8 Servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours
Total Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Nutrition

Calories: 281kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 26g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 660mg | Potassium: 760mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1155IU | Vitamin C: 14.8mg | Calcium: 68mg | Iron: 4.8mg
Keyword: Slow Cooker Beef Chili
Slow Cooker Beef Chili Pin 1

Photos used in a previous version of this post.

Slow Cooker Beef Chili Collage
An EASY, classic Slow Cooker Beef Chili that takes no effort at all and is a perfect winter meal your family will love for dinner or for a game day treat!
RICH, HEARTY, thick beef stew with chili powder, beef, onions, tomatoes and more simmered low and slow for chili perfection!
Slow Cooker Beef Chili Collage
Slow Cooker Beef Chili Collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the cookbook Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients, published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. Hi, did u add the crackers into the slow cooker or is that for after when being served? It said add all ingredients to crock pot so I just wanna make sure, never heard of this but it may be the secret I’ve been looking for… haha!

    1. I added them to the mixture. It helps to give it a good thickness, slow cooker recipes have a tendency to be watery. I also have a new non slow cooker chili recipe on the blog if you’re looking for a classic non cracker recipe. 🙂

  2. Not bad but not brilliant. Felt it was too dry and needs more liquid. To make it tastier add 200ml of beef stock. An extra onion Diced red pepper and diced mushrooms and a tin of white beans.

  3. Daaamn. I’m always a little hesitant of following blog based recipes bc a lot of the comments and reviews are based off of the photos and the theoretical taste of the food. I just made it and it was sooooo goood. Perfect flavor and heat. Thank you!

  4. Delicious. I made this yesterday. My husband even enjoyed it. He’s not a big fan of kidney beans either. So I just used 1 can. Everyone that came by enjoyed it too. I found that adding the vinegar, after cooked, really gave it a nice bite. Thanks. ?

  5. I just make this an house ago i cut the recipe in half. It smelled so good I had to try it before it was done. OMG amazing! This will be my go to from here on out! Thank you so much for sharing! Can’t wait for the family to get home and dig in

  6. I made this. It came out nothing like the photo shown. I don’t think that much meat is needed or add more liquid to the prep.

  7. I’m making this recipe right now and I used a bag of kidney beans and it seems as though it’s drying out . What can I use ?

  8. I’ve made this twice now, and it’s been such a hit!! I didn’t use any saltine crackers, and the chili still had great consistency! Thank you for sharing! (Ps. I added the white beans, and it was yummy!)

  9. Delicious chili!! Made half the receipe in my 2 1/2 qt slow cooker. I used crushed tomatoes and added a dash of chipotle chili pepper, cumin and ancho chili pepper to the receipe. Also, jalapeño pinto beans instead of red beans. Cream of corn and cheddar cheese cornbread was also a hit!!!

  10. Just wanted to let you know that I used this recipe for a chili cook off for a church function and won first place! I followed the recipe to a T including adding a spoonful of beef base. I didn’t add the jalapeño though. Thank you!

  11. Way too much ground beef (2 lbs.) and 2 cans of kidney beans for one 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes in the crock pot. So glad I bought 2 28 oz. cans of the tomatoes because there just wasn’t enough liquid for all the beef and beans. I also had to increase the garlic and spices for the recipe. The saltine crackers were pointless and I should have used my better judgement and not bought a box of them that we will never eat. For anyone making this recipe- 1/2 cup of the crackers is approximately 15-I used my food processor to finely grind them. I suggest you don’t bother-they didn’t add anything to the recipe. If I made this recipe again-I would use 1 lb. ground beef instead of two. =

    1. The crackers weren’t supposed to go in the recipe but just on top. I was confused about this too. Can the original recipe write make that more clear in the instructions please?

      1. Sorry about the confusion. To be clear, ALL of the ingredients go into the slow cooker. You can use more crackers at the end for a garnish (completely optional).

  12. In the process of cooking now! Looks and smells delicious! Only thing is I added corn to it, cant wait to eat it!

      1. I’m excited to make this for Super Bowl Sunday…would that be 28 oz cans if you’re using both types beans? – one kidney and one white beans?

        1. So sorry I missed your question, it got caught in my spam filter. You’ll want to use 28-32oz worth of beans, whatever combination you’d like to use. Hope you enjoyed it!

  13. Is the only liquid from the canned tomatoes? Mines in the crock pot right now and there’s very little liquid to it. What could I add? I don’t want it soupy, but it doesn’t look much like chili right now. 🙁

  14. This was way, way, WAY too much garlic for my taste. The recipe is great, and fairly simplistic, but I think it would be much better with 1/2 garlic clove.

  15. Made this tonight. It was fantastic!! We made 6 bowls and we have two large Tupperware containers completely full. I was nervous in the beginning about not adding any liquid other than the juice of the tomato can. But in the end there was a good amount of liquid. Can’t wait to make this again!

  16. First off, I didn’t follow the recipe verbatim – but there’s good reason. I didn’t realise that my crockpot was far too small for this – so I wound up making it on the stove in a dutch oven. I also omitted the saltines and added half a bottle of beer.

    I made this the night before having company over. Simmered it for an hour on the stove then let it cool before putting it away. I reheated it in a smaller pot before eating and I’m firmly convinced that this is one of those dishes where the flavours develop the longer you let it sit.

    My boyfriend loved it so much that as he was eating the last bowl of it, he asked me to make another batch. Highly recommend.

        1. I clearly needed more coffee before commenting. You’re right, everything gets added in in the beginning. Thanks for catching that!

  17. My family doesn’t like tomatoes in chili, would this recipe work without tomatoes? Should I substitute some tomatoe sauce?

  18. Waaaaay too much chili powder. My boyfriend and I could not eat any of it because there was so much in it. 3 tablespoons was definitely too much

    1. I just tossed the garlic in with the other ingredients into the slow cooker but you can cook it with the onion and beef if you prefer. I hope you enjoy it!

    1. No broth is needed for this recipe. I like to add a spoonful of beef base to intensify the flavor without thinning out the chili with too much liquid from broth/stock. Hope this clears up any confusion.

  19. I’m making this today for the very first time. I’m also making homemade cornbread and cinnamon rolls to go with it. My family is very excited to try this.

      1. Can I leave out the canned tomatoes? My husband is not a tomato fan. I still plan on using the paste. Was just hoping to omit to cans of diced tomatoes. Would I need to add something in its place?

  20. It says 8 servings. Approximately how much in each serving serving? I’m making this for a football game on Sunday and want to make sure there is enough for everyone! Would a double batch of this fit in a 6qt cooker?

    1. 1 serving size is approximately 1 cup. I’m not sure if a double batch would fit in a 6qt so I would recommend using 2 slow cookers to be sure.

  21. OMG, I made this just the other day and they ATE IT ALL!!!! And requested more, so I’m making a huge batch tomorrow.

    1. Sorry I don’t have the nutritional facts for recipes on the site but I know there are a lot of free resources on the internet from when I’ve cooked for clients with low calorie diets.

  22. Going to make this for Super Bowl!! Sounds yummy. Do you actually include saltines in pot for cook time? Or are they used for top of chili when you serve it?
    Thank you

  23. I never cooked chili before and I have a chili contest on Sunday at my church and I signed up to be in th contest because I want to make something I never made before , I love to cook and I’m up for a nice challenge . No water needed , the liquid come from all the sauce correct? Will that be enough for a big crowd or should I double the ingredients? If I do double it does the cooking time doubles as well ? I want to cook it overnight on low heat so the flavors is nice and tasty . For a first time cooking this what do you recommend? Thanks , any tips and advice helps i really want to win this contest and be proud I made a delicious chili using your recipe but without the jalapeños because I don’t like spicy food ?

    1. I’m honored that you’d use my recipe for the contest!! To answer your questions….you are correct, there isn’t any water need for this recipe 🙂 Also, I think that this recipe should be enough for the contest considering most people will just have a taste and aren’t getting a full bowl. If you do decide to double it, I would suggest making it in two slow cookers as I’m not sure double the ingredients would fit into one slow cooker. Good luck!!

    1. I didn’t mean to confuse you, so sorry. I just meant that I like to add a scoop of the base to intensify the flavor. No need to make broth or add any liquid to this recipe.

    1. Same time should work. With chili its all just about the flavors coming together. I’d do 1 1/2 times the liquid to be on the safe side, you can always add more later if you see it is drying out.

        1. Sorry for the confusion….double the tomatoes (not drained) or you can even add a bit of beef broth if needed.

  24. This just makes me feel all warm and happy simply from looking at the photos. Nothing pumps me up for dinner like knowing it’s chili night!

  25. I made a small pot of this, and it was yummy.  Thank you so much.  I will be making this a lot THS winter, but in a much larger pot.  You rock!

  26. I’d love to try that slow cooker chili, it looks awful delisoush? And when i was a little girl my mom used to make chili every weekend? What size slow cooker did you cook your chili in? I have a 5 or 6 qt. pot? I love to have all of your recipes to try if possible, because i love to cook?

    1. I used a 6 qt slow cooker for this recipe. There’s a link you can click on above in the “Tools Used” section to see the exact one I used. I absolutely love it!

      1. Hello my slow cooker doesn’t have a high low setting… So do I cook mines for 3 or 6 hours with one setting ?

        1. It would depend on whether your one setting is considered high or low. I would suggest looking at the manual or researching it online to see what temp it gets up too and decide whether it’s considered low or high. Hope this helps!