Basic Chili CrockPot Recipe

Day 114.

Chili! Finally! I've held off as long as I could----but it was time to put my crockpot to work for it's intended use.

There are nine hundred trillion chili recipes. I know, because once I watched a good six hours of some sort of chili championship on the Food Network.

Some people use beans, some don't. Some are purists, some aren't.

I live in California, and have only had chili that has a lot of beans in it, so that's what we made. Adam and I had an absolute ball pulling stuff from the fridge and the spice cabinet. This is a very basic chili---it has some heat, but not enough to scare (my) kids.

The Ingredients.

* EDITED TO ADD: I just learned this freaky thing about kidney beans... THIS IS A REAL THING. All red beans need to be brought to a rapid boil on the stovetop for 10 minutes to cook a naturally occurring potential toxin. Please do this step. It's better to be safe than sorry. *

1 pound ground meat (I used 4% beef; turkey is totally fine, pork, etc)

1 bag small red beans or kidney beans (soaked overnight and then boiled on the stove like described up above. OR: for a quick soak method, put the beans in a pot with lots of water, bring to a boil uncovered. Boil for 10 minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Let it sit for 1 hour, then drain and use in your recipe.)

2 whole jalapeƱo peppers
1 diced onion
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 (29-ounce) can tomatoes (whatever you have in the cabinet or is on sale. this happened to have basil in it)
1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
3 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon tobasco sauce (optional)

The Directions.

The night before you are going to make chili, sort your beans and soak with a healthy amount of water. Pick out any cracked beans, or any that float to the top or look funky.

In the morning, bring your beans to a boil on the stovetop (FULL DIRECTIONS UP ABOVE) and then drain the water (in honor of earth day stuff you should water the garden. Now you will feel guilty if you don't. sorry.)

Brown the ground meat on the stovetop with the onion. 

Drain fat. Have a rather heated discussion about whether or not to drain the fat with the man of the house who seems to think that the teensy bit of fat left from the 4% meat is full of flavor and should be added to the pot.

PS, you will win.

Drain the fat from the meat, and add on top of the beans. Add the rest of your ingredients to the mix and stir gingerly. If you are using the jalapeƱos, don't open them, but instead rest them on top of the beans and meat for a nice mellow smoky heat.

cook on low for as long as you can stand it and the beans are tender.

These were some rather hard beans and didn't tenderize until about 9 hours in.

If you are antsy, cook on high for at least 6 hours.

The Verdict.

We've been munching on chili for the past 3 days, and I truly believe each day it improves. I was impressed with this spice combination and liked the hint of smokiness. The kids enjoy their chili topped with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.

This makes a very thick chili--you can do the fork trick!

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Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at April 23, 2008

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What they say about this article

  1. Love chili .. just LOVE chili!

  2. I like my chili with several different kinds of beans. Ground turkey is also amazingly good. I actually prefer it to beef (in chili). We also add corn and green bell peppers to ours. In my mind, you can't go wrong with anything quasi-tex-mex as far as chili is concerned. We don't have kids, so I also tend to add WAY to much spice. My husband likes it that way, but it makes me cry. I love your blog, btw.

  3. Anonymous4/23/2008

    No water? Really? Or did I miss it. Is there stuck in the beans after you soak them?

  4. me too, Jai!

    Hi Becca,
    if I didn't have children to feed, I'd add a bunch of spice in there too. I agree that tex-mex anything totally rocks.

    Sharon, nope, no water! The liquid from the tomatoes and the tomato sauce was all I used. There was plenty of condensation on the glass lid and the beans softened well (after they cooked for 9 hours, lol!).


  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. OK, OK, and I thought that *I* was a little too much of a crockpot lover. Or perhaps I'm just a crockpot. ;o) But you take the cake! Or, should I say, the chili.

    I love your blog! I'll be checking out your other recipes. Thanks for sharing!

    Incidentally, I found a great series of crockpot mixes that includes EVERYthing (veggies, barley or rice, etc.). I'm not naming the company because I'm not advertising for them - but what a handy thing to have on hand for a last-minute-out-the-door emergency! ;o)

  7. BTW, one more thing: I've discovered crock pot liners! They make it SO much easier to clean up. Again, I won't mention the brand - but it's SO helpful!

  8. Anonymous4/23/2008

    Hi, I don't want to freak you out, but you do need to boil kidney beans after you soak them, to get rid of a nasty toxin that is inside raw beans.

    (I think it can give you a bad tummy ache)

    I am so happy to see your project here because there are mostly a lot of "pretend" blogs on crockpot recipes and not many real ones, so I have subscribed to your feed and am reading with great interest. I love my crockpot so much because it feels like someone has cooked my dinner for me!

  9. Anonymous4/23/2008

    (I think you had red beans which are different, but if you're working with kidney beans, that's what you have to do)

  10. thanks, rosie. I've never heard of that before. so the bag said 'red beans'---those are different?

    dude, I'm leaning so much this year!


  11. I wish my kids liked chili.

    Just reading the words chili and California in the same post makes me think of Tommy burgers. Have you had one? I LOVE Tommy burgers.

  12. Hello! I subscribe to your blog and it is so fun. I was actually wondering a couple of days ago if you had a good chili recipe, so I was happy to see this post! Thanks!

    Keep up the good work! =D

  13. Anonymous4/29/2008

    I made this and it was great! I didn't use meat. I used Kidney beans but at some point during the cooking they were actually boiling. I saw bubbling. Also I cooked them a really long time. I put them on at 11:30 at night and didn't cut them off until we ate them for lunch the next day. It was really good. Thanks for the recipe.

  14. Hi Stephanie,

    How necessary do you think it is to brown the meat on the stove? I plan on using 93% lean beef (the leanest I've found) and making (crockpotizing, actually) Alanna's chocolate chile if that makes any difference:


  15. Hi ~M! ooh, I LOVE the sound of this chili recipe! I totally need to make this!

    I know that your meat will cook fine in the crockpot without being browned first. It's completely up to you. I have weird fat issues. ;-) The meat might cook in a clump if you don't break it up and stir well to mix the ingredients prior to crockpotting.

  16. Hi, I did check out the red bean theory, and here is what I found:

  17. Anonymous10/17/2008

    It is a rainy Friday and I have your chili recipe in my crockpot. It smells wonderful - can't wait for tonight. Found your site via Hi-d; can't wait to try many more your recipes - thanks for the crock pot variety. I love that you put your family's VERDICT after every recipe - that is very helpful. I'm a working mom with many hobbies and I think with your help, my crockpot is going to be my new best friend.

  18. Anonymous4/23/2009

    What about using kidney beans from a can, does that change how long it needs to be cooked?

  19. Rosie is right. Follow this link to Wikipedia.

  20. Hi Stephanie!

    I love your blog and have tried a couple of your recipes so far. I want to try this one out this week but was wondering how long to cook it if I don't use beans at all, (my husband doesn't like them in chili)and use ground turkey instead. Would 4 hours on low be okay since the meat will be cooked all it needs to do is simmer?

    Briar Oak Wife

  21. Hi there,

    I would think so---give it a stir about halfway through to see how the vegetables are tenderizing and heating through, and to see if you need to flip it to high for a bit just to get it up to a good temp.

    xoxo steph

  22. Hmmm, I am planning to have it cook while we are at a church event, so I would not be home to check it. I have seen other similar chili recipes that recommend cooking it on low for 8 hours - could I just cook it on high for 4 hours? Can you cut the time in half on most recipes by turning the slow cooker on high? Sorry, this is only the third recipe I have ever made in my slow cooker and the only one that I have not followed a recipe word for word. But, I am ready to start experimenting!

  23. ah, okay. Start it at home a bit before you leave for church on high, then click it over to low when you leave the house. Since you aren't really cooking anything, just heating through, I think this will work quite well.


  24. I'm excited for this chili! Making it and a batch of cornbread for myself and three hungry guys for dinner. I substituted turkey for the beef, but left everything else the same. Any recommendations for a good veggie side to serve with this??

    Btw, I love your blog! I've made your stuffed peppers more times than I can count, and I always have a batch of your apple butter in my fridge:D

  25. I love chili with grated cheddar and chopped green peppers. I'm going to try this one.

  26. The sugar in the tomatoes will slow the softening of the beans. If you cook the beans first or use canned, then you can add the tomatoes or just wait a couple of hours before adding the tomatoes. That will help the crunchy bean problem.

  27. Anonymous9/16/2010

    I just made this basic chili for my husbands work. He came home the day before telling me I needed to make chili for some event the next day. It turned out perfect! Thank god! :-). All the guys he works with loved it and once again they think I am some amazing cook, Thank you!!!!

  28. This recipe was incredible! I WILL be making it again!

  29. I made this today, with dried beans that I boiled and cooked yesterday. Rather than browning the ground beef and onions, I defrosted in the microwave until it was warm throughout, then tossed it in the crock. I stirred up the beans and meat well before adding the tomatoes and sauce, to break the beef up a bit. It gave the beef a very fine texture, very crumbled, like the beef at Taco Bell. That's exactly what I was going for so I'm happy. But make sure you use extra lean beef if you're going to do this (mine was "at least 93% lean" from Sam's Club and looked more like 96%). It is very thick. I modified the spice because I do not like things that are hot, so I left out the Tabasco and only put in a dash of cumin. It has the perfect amount of kick to clean my sinuses out without burning my tongue.

  30. chunlyda2/22/2011

    We made this last week but for some reason it was more tangy than smokey. Any suggestions on how to make it more smokey? Love love love the blog btw! Our home is new to the crockpot world, our first time using it was last week, now we're hooked! and thanks to you I have recipes galore to experiment with! Much love from Cali :)

  31. what do you do with the whole jalapenos that you set on top?
    Do you throw them out after cooking?

  32. Hi Unknown,
    Great question! I should go back and add this-- thank you!
    I toss them--- some people chop them up and either stir back into the pot or add to individual servings.
    They are soggy and discolored and I personally just throw away.

  33. Anyone know how to cook those red beans in a pressure cooker? After soaking beans over night and tack on another 9 hours slow cooking.... Will leave me with some hungry impatient people...yikes !