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
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. I have three pounds of beef I want to use up and curious how much I should increase everything else. I love this recipe so much as is and I want more to freeze! Thanks!

    1. You can use the slider tool (hover over the servings) and adjust until you see the ground beef change to 3 pounds. Enjoy!

  2. I have made this several times. My biggest problem is there are no leftovers!! Everyone who has tried it absolutely loves it. Thanks for such an awesome recipe.

    1. This chili hit the spot….we all loved it. I did have to substitute Ritz crackers for the saltines because someone, (namely husband), had pigged out on the crackers I thought I had, but it was still delicious. I plan on trying a lot of your other chili recipes as well!

  3. this was the best!!!..had our meal then froze in portions for the 2 of us (love my Foodsaver)..second time from the freezer to the pot was just like fresh ty for this..huggzz

  4. I plan to make this Chili but prefer pinto beans, can I put dried beans in or should they be cooked prior? Thanks!

  5. Fantastic chili recipe! Love the full and robust flavor, as well as the basic simplicity…. After having made it a few times, I’ve modified it a bit…… I use 2.25 lbs. of ground beef – I insert 1 beef bouillon cube – I add a 7 oz. can of little green chilies – I omit the jalapeno pepper – I add a dash of Chili de Arbol powder – I add a pinch of ground cinnamon – I add about a cup of beer.

    I love to make and put on about 11 p.m., just before bed. It cooks all night and is ready when I wake up… I transfer to a cast iron dutch oven, stick in the fridge – then reheat when I get home for dinner that night.

  6. I love this chili, it’s amazing… but! How is this 281 calories per serving? The 2lbs of 80/20 ground beef is 288 calories per serving on it’s own. I think it’s more like 360.

    1. The nutritional info is calculated automatically by the ingredient list on my site. If you’re watching calories or anything else, it’s best to double check like you did to ensure it fits within your dietary needs. So glad you enjoy it so much!

  7. I recently moved out on my own and got a crock pot for Christmas. I decided to try your recipe for my first chili attempt. It came out great!! My parents tried it and said it was delicious and asked to take leftovers. Thanks so much for the recipe! 🙂

  8. I had to add olive oil or the meat would have stuck to pan. I added a little extra of the garlic and spices and topped with sour cream, chives, cilantro and lime juice with a few toasted crostini on the side. Perfect. Was ready in 2 hours on high heat (I didn’t use a slow cooker). Very simple and good.

    1. I like to add a scoop of beef base to deepen the beef flavor. If you want to add stock, you’ll just need to eyeball it as it’ll cause your chili to be thinner, so I usually don’t add it. My suggestion is to start with a small amount and then add on to your liking.

    1. You’ll want to make sure to use a large enough slow cooker and then you may need to add an additional 30 minutes of cook time. Enjoy!

  9. I’ve made this more times than I can count. I double the recipe (double everything except for the beef and only 1.5x the beans – mostly because that’s the max I can fit in the slow cooker) and freeze in portions for easy dinner/ lunch. I follow the recipe exact except I’ve never added the crackers. Definitely try the white kidney beans and brown the meat, as suggested. Love it! Thanks for sharing!!!

  10. Reading all the comments and I’m confused. Starting to make this now but wondering why everyone said water or beef broth I do not see this in the recipe at all. Am I missing something?

    1. You aren’t missing anything, there is no water or beef broth in my recipe. Some folks are adding beef stock concentrate (not broth) for extra beefy flavor, but it is not necessary. Hope this helps!

  11. Awesome!! Our family loves football and I have been looking for just the right chili to please everyone on a game day. This dish did not disappoint and was a hit with everyone, The beef base was a great addition and the only addition I made was to chop up a green pepper and add it mid-way through browning the ground beef with the onions. Also, my children have a thing with tomatoes and “skins” so I substituted pureed tomatoes for the diced and it still came out great. It worked out great and added a little texture and color. Thank you! This will surely be a regular go-to.

  12. I followed the recipe exactly, including using one of those little pots of Knorr beef stock pots (not water) BUT I ended up putting in only 2 tablespoons of chili powder (one mild, one hot). It was perfect for me but it was too spicy for my daughter so I ended up putting in two tablespoons of maple syrup! That’s the only tweak I made. My husband said it was the best chili he’d ever had. Great recipe!

    1. I’m so glad you liked it! And that you were able to make it milder for your daughter. 🙂 Thanks for coming back and letting me know!

    1. Sorry I didn’t see this earlier. You don’t want to add water, it will thin out the chili too much. I do not add the grease to the slow cooker.

  13. Made this today but tweaked it a little. Added a little (half cup) of beef stock disolved in water. Didn’t want to lose flavor by just adding straight water. I like a thinner chili and add crackers as I eat. Added a couple stalks of celery and a green pepper. Great recipe. I just personalized it to my taste a bit. Thanks.

  14. Good recipe. Made a few modifications.
    1) used canned tomatoes with green chilies.
    2) added about 2 cups of beef broth; 1 cup into the slow cooker at the start of cooking and another after the first hour so that the chili would not be dry.

  15. Made it this weekend and it was DELICIOUS! It’s going to be a staple around here all fall/winter. I added the beef base and the saltines definitely added a little thickness… similar to adding corn tortillas to a tortilla soup. My husband asked if I would make a batch and freeze it in individual servings for him to grab for lunches when he needs/want it… and if you knew how picky he is – you would know how big that is! Hahaha

  16. I’m obsessed with making slow cooker chili. This is my new favorite recipe. Thank you for the beef base tip / this chili is on a new level.

    1. You could adjust a few things depending on the flavors you’re going for. I suggest adding jalapeño, cayenne pepper and/or chipotle pepper for a spicier kick. For the sweet side you can add brown sugar or ketchup. You’ll want to play around with it and find the perfect combination for your taste buds. Good luck!

  17. This is my fave chili recipe. I prefer it with the extra spice but still delicious without the jalapeno, I’ve made it both ways. Awesome recipe and super easy.

  18. Perfect Beef Chili! My son can’t wait to get home from his baseball game tonight! Chili & cornbread it is!

  19. This is the best chili ive ever had. I made it with ives imitation ground beef instead and it was absolutely fantastic. I just added 1/2 teaspoon coriander.

  20. i love this recipe and have made it once before, im going to make it again tonight, my one questions is, how much is 1 serving? 1 cup? just wondering for us calorie counters. overall this is a relatively healthy meal which i love. thanks!

  21. I’ve made this a few times. First time was the exact recipe as here minus the pepper. I’ve also done it with half amount of each ingredient for a smaller pot that I can eat when it’s just me. I eat it over rice, so a small amount goes a long way. Both times I cooked on low for 6 to 7 hours.

    This time I’m doing it with 3lbs of beef and adjusted the other ingredients to match. Cooking it on high this time so that Me and my girlfriend can eat a little earlier. Also added a whole green pepper as well as a red pepper.

  22. I make this chili for me and my boyfriend All. The. Time. It’s amazing. I follow the recipe exactly but I haven’t tried adding beef base or jalapenos. I use one can of red kidney beans and 1 can of cannelini beans. The first time I made it I was worried because it looked dry, but by the end of cooking it always has the perfect amount of liquid. I’ve tried it 3 hours on high and 6 hours on low and both work just fine. Highly recommend, best chili I’ve had!

      1. What would be the cooking time if I decided to NOT brown the meat first and put it into the crock raw? I know some recipes cook the Chili that way but I don’t know what the proper cook time would be. Thanks.

        1. I would not recommend that – it will cook the beef but it will have more of a boiled texture. And you will miss the browning of the onions, so that will affect the flavor. If you decide to do it, break the beef apart small.

          It will work but again, it wouldn’t be to my taste. Let me know if you try it!

  23. I cooked this on low for about 6.5 hours a few nights ago, and it came out awesome. I went light on the chili powder and no jalapenos. Also no crackers, since my son and I like to eat chili over steamed rice (jasmine is good). We like a little more moisture to our chili. Other than that, I went by your recipe. Tasted so good that it was gone fast. I just put a pot on tonite with a little less ground beef, and used one can each of kidney and white beans. We will see how this comes out, but thank you for a great recipe!

  24. I made this last night and it was delicious, very hearty! …I definitely had to add some tomato sauce as it was very dry. I only cooked it on LOW for 3 hours, at high it was starting to stick to the bottom of the slow cooker after only 20 minutes. I would not bother adding the crushed saltines next time. If I had gone out and left it on high it would have been a disaster! A piece of garlic bread was a great addition along with shredded cheddar cheese on top!

    1. So glad you checked it when you did. I know every slow cooker is different and it sounds like yours runs hotter than mine. I’m happy you enjoyed it.

  25. This was the most delicious chili I’ve ever made. I made my own chili powder blend and added 2 minced corn tortillas at the beginning so the flavor would be infused.

    And ot came together so easily and quickly. Thanks for posting the recipe.

  26. Definitely trying out this recipe! But do you put crushed saltines in? What texture does this give the chili? I’ve never tried it before.

  27. I’m making this chili today, just wondering if I need to drain the beef after cooking it on the stove or do I just add it straight to the crock pot?

    1. Mine wasn’t very fatty so I didnt’ need to. If you feel like there is a lot of fat from yours, you definitely can.

    1. This original recipe doesn’t include any beef base but I prefer to add a scoop of beef base to almost all of my stews. I just love the bold flavor that it adds. It’s up to you and your taste. Hope this helps!

  28. I’ve made this three times now and it’s been delicious but looks nothing like the pictures (it’s much lighter than the pics). I leave it on for 4 hours on high because 3 is way way too short in my cooker, and even then it seems not thick enough. Am I doing something wrong?

    1. The most immediate ideas I’d have is that I really browned my beef pretty darn well as well as my onions and my chili powder is pretty dark. I also use a tomato paste that is pretty dark in color. The biggest reason is likely the beef/onion browning. When I sear for the slow cooker I sear pretty dark because I want it to preserve some texture even given how much it will sit in the liquids. Also if it isn’t thick enough I think the culprit is the brand of tomatoes, I really do think some brands sneak in way more liquids than other brands. You can absolutely cook for longer it won’t hurt it one bit or just add a bit more saltines.

  29. It was very good! I made it with lb ground turkey and added chopped potatoes. I didn’t have tomato paste but my can of “crushed tomatoes” was basically the consistency of paste. I paired it with homemade bread and it was a hit!
    Thank you for sharing!

  30. Easy and tasty recipe! Nutritional info is way off, though. By my calculation, for those of us who care about these things, this recipe serving 8 yields about 400 calories per serving, using 85/15 beef.
    % Daily Values*Total Fat 18.28g28% Saturated Fat 6.787g34% Polyunsaturated Fat 0.695g  Monounsaturated Fat 7.83g Cholesterol 77mg26%Sodium 730mg30%Potassium 540mg Total Carbohydrate 28.37g9% Dietary Fiber 7.4g30% Sugars 5.86g Protein 29.46g  Vitamin A 232%Vitamin C 206%Calcium 73%Iron 245%

    1. So glad you enjoyed it! I use a program that automatically computes the nutritional information for me. I’ll have to double check it, thanks.

        1. It didn’t pick up a few of the ingredients but based on my nutritional information, it looks to be around 280 calories for a 1 cup serving. Enjoy!

          1. I! I’m not sure if I’ll get a response in time but worth a try: I just made this and started it in the slow cooker about 5 minutes ago. It looked really thick right from the start so I did not add the saltine crackers. Does this recipe turn liquidy enough while it’s cooking? Or will it remain this thick? Adding the crackers sounds good but it’s so thick already. I’m hoping it will have some liquid develope in it. Advice pretty please 🙂 thank you. Ps it smells yummy! Thanks for sharing this.

          2. So sorry I’m just now seeing this. How did it turn out for you? I hope you enjoyed it.

  31. I am preparing this chili recipe now and I don’t have can beans. I have dry beans so do I increase the liquids…add liquids ?

    1. Dry beans need to be soaked overnight before using them in a recipe so they won’t work as a last minute substitution. Sorry.

  32. This is hearty and delicious! I didn’t use jalepeno (had to keep it mild for the kiddos), and I used one can of dark red kidney beans and one can of cannellini beans. Since my husband doesn’t like tomato chunks (weirdo), I used tomato puree instead of diced. The spoonful of beef base was a great tip.

    This is the first chili dish I’ve eaten that I didn’t have to add a bunch of sour cream or cheddar cheese to. It’s excellent by itself. Thanks so much!

  33. This Chili is the best Chili in the world, I literally just got done making it and trying it for the first time, and it was AMAZING!!! I did season the ground beef with salt, pepper, and garlic salt though, gave the beef a really good flavor, so that’s all I did different from the recipe. Over-all, insanely good Chili, and easy to make to boot not to mention inexpensive. I will be recommending this till the day I die.

  34. I’m making chili for the first time ever and this recipe is by far the best I’ve come across! And the comments have helped me to add/remove as I go!! Thanks so much for sharing this with us and I will let you know how it turns out!!

  35. I made this chili for my cats quincenera party. Everyone loved it! I used ground turkey and added a chopped poblano pepper and skipped the saltines. Easy and very delicious thanks Sabrina! Love your blog!

  36. I made this precisely by the recipe but it was very bland and way too thick without any sort of added liquid. Maybe I’ll try adding some beef base and another can of tomatoes.