Slow Cooker Texas Red Chili

Super Bowl week…time for Chili!

No, I’m not from Texas.

Please don’t tell my anyone. This simple bowl of Texas Red is why everyone in Ohio thinks I can really cook.
Here in Ohio, chili without beans is still exotic.

I’ve shared this recipe before, in a stove-top version. But, nowadays, I cook it in the slow cooker. Chili is my go-to pot luck dish, and I use the slow cooker at the pot luck to keep the chili warm. Why get a pot dirty when I’m going to use the slow cooker anyhow?

There is one big change from my other recipe. The Second Batch Of Spices.
Yes, all caps. You’ll see why.

I learned how to make Texas chili by cooking the International Chili Society’s winning recipes (between 1989 and 1993). A lot of them use a second batch of spices, adding a fresh hit of chili powder right before serving.

As time went on, I started making my own version of Texas Chili. I made the classic mistake – that something worth doing is worth over-doing. I added more and more chili powder in the second batch. It got out of hand – I was making the chili gritty and unpleasant.

I went cold turkey, and cut out the second batch of spices entirely. It was still good chili, but people who tasted my earliest versions asked me what was wrong – without the second batch of spices, the chili was missing something.

So, the second batch is back in the recipe. Now I have enough to balance out the flavor, but not so much that you can feel the chili powder on your tongue.

I’m also borrowing a trick from Kenji Alt – brown half the beef on one side. I’ve tried to skip browning, to speed up the recipe, but the result is weak flavor. By searing one batch of the beef, and only browning it on one side, you get the best balance between depth of flavor and tender meat. (And, more to the point, it only takes four minutes to sear one side, versus sixteen minutes to sear both sides of both batches. I love saving time.)

Recipe: Slow Cooker Texas Red Chili


Inspired By: International Chili Society winning recipes (between 1989 and 1993)

Cooking time: 10 hours

Equipment:

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

Ingredients

Beef

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 5 pounds boneless beef chuck roast cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Aromatics

  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste (half of a 6 ounce can)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

1st batch of spices

  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle en adobo puree

Liquids

  • 1/2 cup beer (preferably an amber ale – use the rest of the bottle to fortify the cook)
  • 16 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)

2nd batch of spices

  • 1 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon chipotle en adobo puree
  • Juice of 1 lime

Directions

1. Brown the beef
Season the beef with 2 1/2 teaspoons of salt and the pepper. Heat the vegetable oil in a large fry pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Split the beef into two batches, and put one batch into the slow cooker crock. Put the second batch of beef in the fry pan in a single, loose layer, and put any pieces that don’t fit into the slow cooker. Let the beef in the fry pan sit until it is well browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the browned beef into the slow cooker pot with the rest of the beef.

2. Saute the aromatics and toast the spices
Add the onions, garlic, and tomato paste to the fry pan, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt, and saute until the onions soften and the tomato paste darkens, about 5 minutes. Make a hole in the middle of the onions and add the first batch of spices. Cook until you smell the spices toasting, about 1 minute, then stir the spices into the onions. Add the onions and spices to the crock pot, and stir to coat the beef. Put the fry pan back on the stove, turn the heat to high, and pour in the beer. Bring the beer to a simmer and use a wooden spoon to scrape the browned bits loose from the bottom of the pan. Pour the beer into the slow cooker crock, add the tomato sauce and chicken broth, and stir to coat the beef.

3. Slow cook the chili
Cover the slow cooker and cook the chili on low for 10 hours or high for 5 hours.

4. Finish the chili
1/2 hour before serving the chili, stir in the second batch of spices. Put the lid back on and let the spices simmer. When the chili is done, taste for seasoning, and add more salt or lime juice if needed. Serve.

Notes:

  • Stove top safe crock instructions: As you can see in the pictures, my All-Clad slow cooker has a stove top safe crock. I do all the browning, sauteing, and boiling steps directly in the crock. The only change to the instructions is, in step 1, move the beef to a bowl after it is brown, and in step 2, stir it back into the crock when the onions and spices are done toasting.
  • “I’m in a hurry” instructions: Skip step 1 – browning the beef – and put it straight into the crock. Saute the onions and toast the spices, then rinse the pan out with beer and pour everything in the slow cooker. Skip the second batch of spices, but make sure to add extra salt if it’s needed when you taste for seasoning. You won’t get the same depth of flavor, but you cut a lot of the active time out of the cooking
  • No slow cooker? No worries. Here is the stove top version of the recipe.

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

Related Posts:

Texas Red Chili (stove top version)
Slow Cooker Chili with Ground Beef and Beans
My other slow cooker recipes.

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12 Comments

  1. I think it’s time to unpack my slow cooker! Quick question: When it comes time to add the second batch of spices, you say “1/2 hour before serving the chili”. Do you mean 1/2 hour before the cooking (10h/low, 5h/high) is done, regardless of when it’s served set to “keep warm”?

    PS- Not sure whether you answered this before, but what kind of camera and/or lens do you use for the blog? Your food pics are amazing!

  2. 1/2 hour before serving, even if it’s on “keep warm”. I want to barely cook the the second batch of spices.

    I use a Nikon D5100 (just upgraded from the D5000 as an early christmas present to myself) with the 35mm f/1.8 lens, and an SB-700 flash when it’s too dark (which is most of the time in the winter).

  3. Ah, I had a feeling a DSLR was involved with that narrow DOF beer pouring shot (which I’m guessing is a Sam Adams). 🙂

  4. Yep, that’s a Sam Adams – left over from Christmas. Don’t tell anyone it was a Christmas Ale; they didn’t notice the different spices…

  5. Ingredients I don’t have are on the grocery list. Will be making this in a couple of days. Interesting about the spices in two shifts – this is often done in Indian cooking. Uncooked spices have flavors so different from the cooked versions.

  6. It’s heavenly, especially for people who really love intense flavors! What struck me most was how tender the meat comes out with this method of cooking.

  7. Oh, and the lime juice is a touch of genius. Not absolutely necessary, because we forgot it the first go-round and thought we’d died and gone to heaven, but tonight we remembered and were delighted at the difference the lime made. Good call!

  8. Tried this yesterday and it was very, very good. True Texas Chili flavor. Meat is very tender and falls apart. The chili was too thin (more like soup than chili) so I adapted to thicken it up: (1) added about a cup of crushed chili cheese flavored doritos about two hours before finishing, (2) when it was still too thin, I added about two tablespoons of corn bread mix one hour before finishing and (3) I took the lid off for the last hour of cooking to allow for some evaporation. Thickness was just right.

  9. HAVE MADE MANY TIMES ALWAYS A HIT I COOK SLOW FOR 10 HOURS AND ADD EXTRA BROWN SUGAR
    AND ADOBOS SERVE WITH CORN BREAD IT IS THE BEST

  10. Mike , should I cut the spices by half if I’m only cooking 2 1/2 pounds ?

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