How to Make Our Best Slow Cooker Chili Recipe

Everyone has a go-to method for making chili, but this slow cooker chili recipe is our favorite. It's perfectly seasoned with just the right level of heat!

We might be a little biased, but we think this slow cooker chili recipe is the best chili ever! Whip up a batch as a perfect game day snack, or enter it in this year’s chili cook-off. It has all the beefy, spicy flavor you know and love, but we added a few secret ingredients that take things to the next level. Adding smokey bacon and pickled jalapeno slices really amps up the flavor, and we snuck in one extra ingredient that contributes a malty backbone to the slow-cooker stew.

How Do You Make the Best Chili Ever?

Everyone has a secret chili ingredient, and few people are willing to share theirs. We’ll tell you ours: it’s beer! How do you choose the best beer? Well, you can use any kind you like, but the style will affect the overall flavor. Darker beers like stouts and porters add roasty, robust flavors while lighter beers contribute more moderate levels of maltiness. Anything with a lot of hops (such as an IPAs or pale ales) will add a touch of bitterness to your chili, so it’s best to stick to the low-hop beers. Here’s more information about how to cook with beer.

Have some fun and play around with different styles. If you’re not a huge beer fan, we’d recommend starting with a lager like Shiner Bock or Negra Modelo.

Can You Put Raw Beef in a Slow Cooker?

Yes, you can totally cook raw beef in a slow cooker. Many slow-cooker chili recipes have a step for browning the beef before it goes into the Crock-Pot. While this step isn’t necessary, caramelizing the meat creates richer, bolder flavors. But, if you don’t want to clean the extra dish or you don’t have time to make it happen, feel free to skip this step!

Psst! Our Test Kitchen’s go-to slow cooker allows you to brown meat and slow cook in one pot. Learn more.

How Long Does Chili Take in a Slow Cooker?

If you’re browning your beef ahead of time, your chili can be ready in 4 to 5 hours on low (or, 2 to 3 hours on high). Because all the ingredients are already cooked, you only need to simmer the chili until the flavors meld together. If the meat is raw, increase the cooking time to 8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

How to Make Slow Cooker Chili

Taste of Home

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound bulk pork sausage
  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cans (14-1/2 ounces each) diced tomatoes with mild green chilies, undrained
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes with onions, undrained
  • 1 can (12 ounces) beer
  • 6 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno slices
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and chopped green onions, optional for garnish

Yield: 12 servings

Instructions

Step 1: Cook the beef and sausage

Start by browning the beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat. It may dirty an extra pan, but it’s totally worth it because it increases the depth of flavor. Cook the beef for 6 to 8 minutes until it’s no longer pink, breaking it up into crumbles as you go. Drain the fat and transfer the beef to a 6-quart slow cooker. Repeat the process with the sausage.

Step 2: Load up the slow cooker

Add all the ingredients to the slow cooker, except the optional garnishes. Stir until everything is well combined and cook, covered, on low for 4 to 5 hours. Since all the ingredients are already cooked, you only need to heat everything through and allow the flavors time to meld together.

Step 3: Garnish and serve

Ladle the chili into individual bowls and top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and chopped green onions, if using. Alternatively, you can spoon the chili over hot dogs, spaghetti, nachos or French fries.

Pro Tip: Don’t worry if you have a ton of leftovers! After the chili cools down, freeze it in individual portions or press it flat in gallon-sized freezer bags for easy storage. It will stay good in the freezer for 4 to 6 months.

For more chili-making secrets, check in with our Culinary Director, Sarah Farmer.

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Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay has been writing for digital publications for seven years and has 10 years of experience working as a professional chef. She became a full-time food writer at Taste of Home in 2023, although she’s been a regular contributor since 2017. Throughout her career, Lindsay has been a freelance writer and recipe developer for multiple publications, including Wide Open Media, Tasting Table, Mashed and SkinnyMs. Lindsay is an accomplished product tester and spent six years as a freelance product tester at Reviewed (part of the USA Today network). She has tested everything from cooking gadgets to knives, cookware sets, meat thermometers, pizza ovens and more than 60 grills (including charcoal, gas, kamado, smoker and pellet grills). Lindsay still cooks professionally for pop-up events, especially when she can highlight local, seasonal ingredients. As a writer, Lindsay loves sharing her skills and experience with home cooks. She aspires to motivate others to gain confidence in the kitchen. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her cooking with fresh produce from the farmers market or planning a trip to discover the best new restaurants.