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 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 recipes (including ours) 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
- 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
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.