Slow cooker, Weeknight dinner
comments 5

Slow Cooker Chili with Ground Beef and Beans

What do I make on a weeknight, when I need a quick, warming meal? Ground beef and bean chili. Sure, purists call this chili for sissies. As far as they’re concerned, if there are beans and tomatoes in it, I might as well be wearing a dress when I make it. You know what? I don’t care. Sissy or not, this is the chili I grew up with, the first one I learned to make on my own. Sure, it’s not a bowl of Texas red. It doesn’t have to be; it’s a great style of chili all on its own.
*Sorry for the mental picture of me in a dress. I hope you’re not scarred for life…

This is the chili that converted my kids. They flinch when served a meal with everything mixed together. The kids want to be able to identify all the ingredients, preferably separated by at least an inch on their plates, so they don’t have any of the yucky stuff touching the good stuff. One pot meals are not popular around here….but I make this chili so often that it wore them down. First, they covered it with shredded cheese…and ate the cheese off the top. Then they started fishing out the kidney beans. Soon, the ground beef was acceptable as well. Now, two of the three get excited when I make chili.
*The third? He wants his chili made entirely from chunks of beef. Great. I’m raising a chili purist.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Chili with Ground Beef and Beans

Adapted From: Editors at America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution

Cook time: 10 hours


  • 6 quart or larger slow cooker (Crock Pot brand is fine, but I like my fancy one from All-Clad)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste (half of a 6 ounce can)
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano (preferably mexican oregano)
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle en adobo puree
  • 2 pounds ground beef (preferably 85% or leaner)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cider vinegar


1. Saute the meat and aromatics:
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and saute until the onion is softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, and chipotle. Saute until the tomato paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add the ground beef sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and saute until the meat just loses its pink color. Increase the heat to high, add the water, and bring to a boil, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the tomatoes, beans, soy sauce and brown sugar, and bring to a simmer.

2. Slow cook the chili:
Transfer the ingredients to the slow cooker, cover, and cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours or high heat for 4 to 5 hours.

3. Serve: Stir in the teaspoon of cider vinegar, add more salt and pepper to taste, and serve.


*Garnish with: diced onions, sour cream, shredded cheese, pickled jalapenos, minced cilantro, and tortilla chips.

*Soy sauce may seem strange in this recipe. It’s a trick I learned from Cooks Illustrated; it adds meaty umami flavor to the chili.

*A number of readers have asked about my All-Clad slow cooker. It’s not really worth three hundred dollars, is it? Well, if low cost is important…of course not. A decent slow cooker costs thirty dollars. But… If you can afford it, the All-Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker is a joy to use. If you can afford it, the stovetop safe insert is worth the cost. No extra pot to clean! Use the cast aluminum insert to saute and brown on the stovetop, add the other ingredients to the insert on the stove, bring to a simmer, and drop the whole thing in slow cooker base.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:

Slow Cooker Bolognese Sauce
Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Pork Tinga
Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Tex Mex Style

Adapted from:

Editors at America’s Test Kitchen Slow Cooker Revolution

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Filed under: Slow cooker, Weeknight dinner


Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.


  1. Shyanha says

    I’ve lived all but 3 of my 40 years in Texas and I’m going to say chili without beans is not chili at all. In fact, you might just get run out of town if you serve beanless chili in Texas. Heck, I might be the one chasin’. 😉 Beans add bulk to keep you satisfied longer, fiber (which meat lacks), flavor, texture and protein. In this woman’s opinion, the sissies can leave the beans out, it helps us separate the boys from the men. Hook ’em!

    PS: For the Texans reading this, coriander = cilantro, just to help alleviate frustration when you can’t find coriander in the store. :p

  2. Elyse says


    I’m looking forward to trying this recipe. What’s the serving size for this recipe? I am looking to make it for about 10-15 people.THANKS!

  3. KarenG says

    Made this tonight, it was my best chili yet. I used cannellini beans which were great. I’m sure kidney beans are fantastic too. You’ve got some good looking recipes on this blog, I’m so glad I came across it. Looking forward to trying the slow cooker pork shoulder for Tuesday Taco night!

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