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Your search for the best slow cooker chili recipe stops here! With just the right amount of zesty seasoning, this classic beef or turkey crockpot chili is thick, rich, and incredibly flavorful. Serve it with a side of cornbread for the ultimate family-friendly dinner!

Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of easy chili recipe with a spoon.

Crockpot Chili

Chili is one of our family’s favorite meals, so I’ve certainly tried many, many versions over the years. From slow cooker chicken chili to Texas chili and pumpkin chili, we generally love them all. But if we had to pick a favorite? It’s safe to say that this easy chili recipe is the best we’ve ever had! Here’s why you’ll love the simple dish:

  • Flavor: it’s got just the right balance of zesty chili seasoning to give it the flavor that you’re looking for — without any single spice overpowering another.
  • Thickness: no watery slow cooker chili allowed! This hearty, rich chili is loaded with meat for a satisfying meal. After all, chili is not a soup, so it shouldn’t be thinned with too much broth.
  • Easy: the dish comes together quickly and easily in the Crock Pot with minimal effort. Just set it and forget it!
  • Make-ahead and freezer-friendly: this meal just gets better as it sits and the flavors come together, so you can make a batch on the weekend and enjoy a warm, homemade meal on your busiest weeknights. Leftovers keep well in the freezer, too!
Side shot of a bowl of crockpot chili on a dinner table with a side of cornbread.

What is a true chili?

This crockpot chili recipe is about as classic as it gets! Also called chili con carne (or “chili with meat”), a true chili is a spicy stew containing chili peppers or chili powder, meat (usually beef), and often tomatoes and beans. You’ve got each of those components here, for an easy chili recipe that delivers maximum flavor with minimal effort!

Ingredients

This is just a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for the best chili recipe. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Ground beef: you can substitute with ground turkey or ground chicken, but ground beef is definitely the most traditional choice.
  • Onion and garlic: for savory flavor.
  • Diced tomatoes: no need to drain them first — just add the juices to the pot right along with the tomatoes.
  • Beans: kidney beans are the most traditional, but you can use pinto beans (shown here), pink beans, or any other beans that you prefer. If your kids don’t like beans, just substitute with a can of drained corn — as I often do!
  • Beef broth: to loosen up the dish and add a bit of flavor.
  • Tomato paste: gives the chili a rich tomato flavor without watering it down.
  • Chili powder, seasoned salt, onion powder, cumin: the classic warm spices that make a great chili seasoning.
  • Brown sugar: a secret ingredient that balances the acidity in the tomatoes and gives the chili a more complex depth of flavor.
Browning ground beef in a cast iron skillet

What beans go in chili?

Dark or light red kidney beans are a classic addition to a pot of chili. That said, the larger kidney beans don’t appeal to my picky little eaters, so I often substitute with smaller pinto beans — or omit the beans entirely and substitute with extra corn or ground beef. Really, any beans that you enjoy will work well in this dish — from pink beans to white beans or even garbanzo beans!

Do you have to cook ground beef before putting it in the Crock Pot?

Yes, in general, it’s best to brown the meat before slow cooking. This is because cooking the beef in a skillet gives you the opportunity to drain the fat before you add the meat to the Crock Pot. Unless you’re using extra lean ground beef, the raw meat would result in a greasy chili if not browned and drained first.

Adding ground beef to a crock pot

Can you put raw meat in the slow cooker for chili?

As I mentioned above, I highly recommend browning the beef in a skillet before adding it to the Crock Pot. That said, you can put raw meat in the slow cooker if you’re using extra lean ground beef (at least 96% lean) or ground turkey breast (99% lean). These extra lean meats will not make the chili greasy.

If you do add the raw meat directly to the Crock Pot, be sure to break up the chunks periodically as it cooks.

Pouring beef broth into a slow cooker.

How to Make Chili in a Slow Cooker

This cozy meal has been a favorite in our house for decades. I hope you’ll agree that it’s the best slow cooker chili recipe you’ve ever tasted!

  1. Brown the meat, onion, and garlic in a Dutch oven or large skillet.
  2. Transfer the beef mixture to a Crock pot, and stir in the remaining ingredients.
  3. Cover with the lid and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  4. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary.
  5. Ladle into bowls and garnish with your favorite toppings.
Close overhead image of classic beef chili in bowls with toppings.

Favorite Chili Toppings

Set out a variety of toppings and let your friends and family customize their own bowls. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Grated cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Diced avocado
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sliced green onion or minced red onion
  • Hot sauce
  • Sliced jalapeño peppers
  • Lime wedges
  • Tortilla strips or crushed chips

What to Serve with Homemade Chili

Round out the meal with any of these easy sides:

Dipping cornbread in bowl of homemade chili.

Storage

Leftover chili will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days.

How to Freeze

This chili freezes really well, making it an ideal prep-ahead dish for busy stages of life. To freeze, allow the chili to cool completely. Package in airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months.

How to Reheat Slow Cooker Chili

Thaw frozen chili in the refrigerator overnight. Place chili in a saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover and warm over low heat, just until hot, about 10-15 minutes.

Side shot of hands holding a bowl of slow cooker chili with all of the toppings.

Crock Pot Chili Recipe Variations

  • Slow Cooker Turkey Chili: substitute ground turkey for the ground beef, and use chicken broth instead of beef broth. You can also use ground chicken or ground pork if you like.
  • Make slow cooker chili with no beans by omitting the can of beans and substituting with extra corn and ground beef.
  • Use any of your favorite beans! Instead of the kidney beans or pinto beans, try navy beans, black beans, pink beans, or even garbanzo beans.
  • Add diced bell peppers to the skillet with the ground beef, onion, and garlic.
  • If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can use a can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce instead of the diced tomatoes. You can also thin with extra beef broth, as instructed in the recipe.
  • For spicy chili, add cayenne!
Bowls of the best slow cooker chili recipe on a table with a side of cornbread.

Tips for the Best Slow Cooker Chili Recipe

  • Don’t omit the sugar. It might seem odd, but the sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes in the chili, creating a richer, multi-dimensional tomato flavor. It doesn’t make the chili taste too sweet.
  • Adjust the heat. The chili powder gives this beef chili recipe a little bit of kick, but it’s still mild and kid-friendly. If you prefer a spicy chili, add a dash of cayenne.
  • To make last-minute dinner prep even faster, you can brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic in advance. Keep the cooked meat mixture in a container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before you need to cook the chili. This is a step that you can do on the weekend so that you only have to dump the ingredients into the pot on a busy weekday.
Hands holding a bowl of chili con carne with cheese and sour cream on top.

More Chili Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of hands eating a bowl of easy chili recipe with a spoon.

Slow Cooker Chili

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 6 hours
Total: 6 hours 15 minutes
Servings 12 cups
Calories 302 kcal
Your search for the best slow cooker chili recipe stops here! Use ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken to make it your own.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs. ground beef (or sub with ground turkey)
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 1 ¼ cups)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar (or increase to 2 teaspoons for a slightly sweeter taste)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans or small pink beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes, NOT drained
  • 1 (15 ounce) can corn kernels, drained
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • 4 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Optional, for serving: cornbread; corn chips; cheese; sour cream; sliced green onions/chives; cilantro; avocado; diced red onion

Instructions

  • Heat about 2 teaspoons olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook beef, onion, and garlic in the skillet until beef is no longer pink. Drain.
  • Transfer beef mixture to a large slow cooker. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 6-8 hours or on HIGH for 3-4 hours.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Garnish with optional toppings.

Notes

  • Don’t omit the sugar. It might seem odd, but the sugar helps balance the acidity of the tomatoes in the chili, creating a richer, multi-dimensional tomato flavor. It doesn’t make the chili taste too sweet.
  • Adjust the heat. The chili powder gives this beef chili recipe a little bit of kick, but it’s still mild and kid-friendly. If you prefer a spicy chili, add a dash of cayenne.
  • To make last-minute dinner prep even faster, you can brown the ground beef, onion, and garlic in advance. Keep the cooked meat mixture in a container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days before you need to cook the chili. This is a step that you can do on the weekend so that you only have to dump the ingredients into the pot on a busy weekday.
  • Slow Cooker Turkey Chili: substitute ground turkey for the ground beef, and use chicken broth instead of beef broth. You can also use ground chicken or ground pork if you like.
  • Make slow cooker chili with no beans by omitting the can of beans and substituting with extra corn and ground beef.
  • Use any of your favorite beans! Instead of the kidney beans or pinto beans, try navy beans, black beans, pink beans, or even garbanzo beans.
  • Add diced bell peppers to the skillet with the ground beef, onion, and garlic.
  • If you prefer a thinner consistency, you can use a can of crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce instead of the diced tomatoes. You can also thin with extra beef broth, as instructed in the recipe.
  • For spicy chili, add cayenne!

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 302kcalCarbohydrates: 32gProtein: 25gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 49mgSodium: 1179mgPotassium: 1190mgFiber: 8gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 909IUVitamin C: 15mgCalcium: 72mgIron: 6mg
Keyword: best chili recipe, crockpot chili, easy chili recipe, homemade chili, slow cooker chili, slow cooker chili recipe
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan

This recipe was originally published in January, 2018. The photos were updated in February, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. Chili is my favorite dish to make in the slow cooker! I’m loving your healthier version, Blair! Sounds like such delicious comfort food and I know I could eat this ALL!

    1. It came out great! Super tasty! The entire family enjoyed it 5 7 and 13 year old and my husband and i. We had baked potatoes as well. I will definitely be cooking this again!

  2. Hi Blair,this chili sounds great can’t wait to try it. I have a friend/sister who’s Vegan. What would your suggestions be to make this a Vegan meal NO MEAT still having amazing flavor without being too soupy due to not having the meat?

    1. Hi, Kim! I would turn it into a bean chili for your sister. Just substitute an additional 1 (or even 2) cans of beans for the ground beef. You could mix it up and use a variety of beans — for instance, black beans, pinto beans, and kidney beans — and call it 3-Bean Chili. It will not taste exactly the same as beef chili (obviously), but I’m sure it will still be delicious!

  3. Hi Blair, I made your Slow Cooker Chili with Ground Turkey according to your suggestions and it was really good!!! I used 2 cans of garbanzo beans instead of kidney beans and also the chicken broth. It made a lot. I froze some to have another day too!! This was my first time making Turkey Chili and I found your recipe to be very easy!!
    It was the perfect weekend to make it since we were stuck in the house and getting buried in snow. Thank you for sharing a great recipe!!

  4. 5 stars
    Hi again Blair, I forgot to hit the rating. I would definitely give this recipe 5 Stars!!!

  5. I’m curious, was the brown sugar a recent addition to this recipe? I’ve made it like 20 times and don’t ever remember seeing brown sugar in it. Maybe I just can’t read.

    1. Yes! You’re right, Al! I like the addition of the brown sugar to balance the acidity in the tomatoes and give the chili more depth of flavor (similar to adding sugar to tomato-based pasta sauces and soups). That said, it’s your chili and you can certainly omit the sugar or reduce the amount to suit your personal taste preferences. Glad that you enjoy the recipe! 🙂

      1. Well I’m glad I’m not going crazy. I’ve made it in the crock pot many times and now I’ve done over the top chili on my smoker a couple times mostly following this recipe too. It’s really good! I drive truck so usually the crock pot is the only option. I’ll try adding the brown sugar next time I make it.

  6. 5 stars
    Chili is a favorite at our home. We consider ourselves one of the best chili cooks around and found this recipe to be one of the best. It is packed with flavor and almost effortless to prepare. Using the crockpot frees up time for the cook to attend other matters. I am a retired executive and would have loved having this during those busy, hectic evenings trying to prepare a good meal after working hours. Thanks for sharing with us through your recipe collection.