Poor Man's Chili Slow Cooker Recipe

Happy Friday!

I made the very best "free" dinner the other night. I planned on going out to get some fresh chicken for the crock, but my little one climbed into her bed at 9:45 am and fell asleep. Until 12:30. No fever or anything, I guess she was just tired.
So I had to use what I had on hand to make dinner----the afternoon was packed full of activities, including a dance class that ends at 5:30pm. I had to get the slow cooker plugged in or we were going to end up eating lovely bowls of Rice Chex for dinner.

not that there's anything wrong with that.

This chili is similar to the Clean Out the Pantry Chili I made last July, because I just started opening cans and tossing stuff in.
But this is different.
The biggest difference is the spices I used and that my kids ate it this time. I also tried using jarred pasta sauce for the base, since I didn't have any canned tomatoes in the house. It worked!

The Ingredients.
serves 6.

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
1 (24-ounce) jar prepared pasta sauce
1 cup baby tomatoes (optional, they pop after slow cooking!)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon corriander
1 teaspoon tumeric (not really a "poor" spice, it's a substitute for saffron, but I had it in the cupboard. If you don't have any, you can try a mixture of curry and cardamom, or just omit it all together)
1 cinnamon stick

The Directions.

I used a 6 quart slow cooker. Drain the beans and corn, and put the can contents into your crock. Top with tomatoes, if using, and the pasta sauce. Stir in spices, and add cinnamon stick. Cover and cook on low for 7-8 hours, or on high for about 4. If the tomatoes haven't popped on their own, gently poke them with a wooden spoon to pop before serving.

The Verdict.

This was a very filling, and lovely chili without a hint of spice----just a great medley of flavor. The cinnamon provided enough of a "sweet" component to convince the kids that I had put brown sugar in their servings. I didn't correct them.
I enjoyed the leftovers for lunch the next day over a baked potato.

more chili!:

Presidential Chili
traditional chili
white chili
clean out the pantry chili
chili and cheese afternoon snack

Do you love this article?

Please share it with your friends!

Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at April 03, 2009

Sign up for the A Year of Slow Cooking newsletter and get the Top Ten Reader Favorite Recipes sent directly to your inbox!

What they say about this article

  1. I always use a jar of pasta sauce as a base for chili. It works great, especially since we like ours very thick. This sounds very good!

  2. Just wanted to say, love the Mickey plate!! We have several of those ourselves!!

  3. The presentation is priceless! I'll have to try this one soon.
    Thank you!

  4. hmmmmm...looks like a good McDougall recipe, do you mind if I post it on their forum? Might make it for our next pot luck at the campground!


  5. You are so clever, Steph! I love an adaptable recipe like this one. We're on the same wavelength. I just posted on a crockpot vegetarian chili (with many of the same ingredients). My husband who loves meat did not realize it was vegetarian because the portabello mushrooms gave it a nice "meaty" flavor. (You might chop those up finely for picky kids.) I didn't enlighten him until I'd made the recipe a few times. We had cornbread, too. I bet the kids loved the Mickey Mouse presentation. Presentation is a big part of being enticed to eat good ... that's what the big time restaurants do so well, right? Cinnamon is very appealing to kids. I make a porcupine meatballs recipe that my son always loved as a child because of the cinnamon. :-)


  6. I wish I had known how well pasta sauce works in chili before, Amber! It made a fantastic base.

    thanks, Jamie! I took 2 of these plates home from Disneyland when we went in January. They serve the kids meals in them.

    thanks, bostonred!

    sure, Nancy, thanks! This is a super simple camping recipe. THat's a good reminder--I'll pass it on to Adam, he's the chef while camping. We all really liked this a lot.

    what a great point about the mushrooms. The pasta sauce I used had some mushrooms in it, and you're right---the pieces did mimic meat. I haven't put cinnamon in chili before, but LOVED the result. So did the kids.

    happy friday!

  7. This looks really good and I love the plate!

  8. I just wanted to stop by and say as a new visitor that your blog makes me happy! I love the crock pot too and you just made my life easier cause now i have a place to look for dinner ideas!! :)
    Thanks for that!

  9. Awesome!

    And where did you get that adoreable plate???

  10. Cinnamon? What a great idea! I attempted my first crock chili last month and my hubby was the only one who could eat it because it was way to spicy for the rest of us...I will be giving this recipe a try soon. Thanks again!

  11. OMG I have that same Mickey Mouse "plate"- it's the plate they put kids meals on at Disneyland. It was so cute I couldn't part with mine, either (and my drive to save the planet didn't hurt, either- I just couldn't throw it away!). Izzy uses hers for paint and glue, though. Lord knows I don't need another kids dish beating around in my kitchen!

    PS- I love all your recpies! I will probably make this one today, of course with my own available ingredients... as soon as I figure out what they are!

  12. Just wanted to say I found your blog about a week ago, and have been LOVING it! Your lean towards HEALTHY is so helpful! I don't like the can-of-cream-soup and velveeta recipes that are so common. Your recipes are great FAMILY meals w/o a lot of crazy abnormal ingredients. Here in the south, we start getting hot weather about NOW, and the oven heats up the house way too much. Therefore, I was looking for more ways to use my crockpot(s) and stovetop. Your site is now a FAVORITE, and I've passed you along to all my family and friends. Fabulous recipes (I've already tried several!) and great pictures too!!!! Thank you for blogging all this! You're a blessing!

  13. I have never even thought of chili without meat.Thanks for posting this idea.

  14. Anonymous4/03/2009

    This sounds great!

    Also wanted to let you know that I've used salsa as a base for chili and that also works really well.

  15. I've done the reverse, but by accident. I used salsa as sauce for rice pasta TWICE and didn't notice until I switched back to pasta sauce and it seemed kind of bland. :)

  16. Anonymous4/03/2009

    I love the black bean in chili! My 5YO 'gags' on the kidney beans & found that I actually like them better myself! The mickey plates are great!

  17. Pasta sauce for chili? Wow, I might be able to do this.

  18. I'd be OK w/Rice Chex for dinner. My daughter's favorite dinner was the one time we had popcorn and ice cream.

  19. I use a jar of sauce for many crockpot recipes. It works well and it is quick!

  20. I sure wish we had a Trader Joes here in Jacksonville! Sigh....
    We do have a Whole Foods...but they are so expensive that I can barely walk in there.
    This meal sounds very good!
    I'm so thankful for your blog!!!

  21. Well done . . . I always have all of this stuff around the house. I would never have thought of using pasta sauce as a base. Thanks!

  22. Just came across your blog and your mickey mouse plate made me stay!!

    I would like to invite you to join in my Penny Pinching Parade launching on April 14. Mr. Linky and giveaways will also be joining me.

    I love your recipes and think you would be an awesome contributor to this parade. The crockpot is a wonderful tool to use to save time and energy--both resulting in saved pennies!

    Come on over and leave a comment, grab my button, become a follower and most importantly--join in the parade.

    Hope to see you soon.

  23. Just wanted to tell you that I have been checking your blog daily for about a year now and I love all your great recipes. You have inspired me to use my crockpot more often :)

  24. Chrystal4/05/2009

    I made this last night, only I didn't have canned beans, pasta sauce or cherry tomatoes or coriander or canned corn.
    I used 1 cup each of adzuki, turtle, and garbanzo beans (dried) 5 cups of water, a can of tomato sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, 2tbsp italian seasoning, 2tsp cumin (to make up for the coriander), 1 tsp tumeric, 1 cinnamon stick, salt, pepper, 1 tsp granualted garlic, and at the end I added 1 bag of frozen corn and let it cook for 20 minutes.
    It turned out so good. I crushed up some corn chips (the tortilla kind) and added those into my bowl. My husband put some yogurt sour cream (where I drained homemade yogurt, the kind from the yogurt post) and cheese on his.
    My daughter called it "Mexican Soup".
    I never would have thought to add the tumeric, but it really made a difference and I loved the 3 different beans. I have always added cinnamon so that I knew would be great.
    Thanks for the cupboard cleaning out idea!!!

  25. I am surprised that you are using canned pasta sauce and not making your own in the crockpot. I have been making mine in it for years now. I use my grandmother’s recipe but use the crockpot instead of slow simmer on the stove.

    I am going to try this one this weekend but using fresh bean.

  26. I've never tried pasta sauce as a base for chili, but we use spicy V8 - it adds more veggies without the kids knowing and doesn't leave any chunks of tomatoes which the kids WILL eat, but the husband won't. Go figure. LOVE this site!

  27. I love your blog and have tried and loved many recipes from it. (No more collecting dust for our crockpot!) Now that you've done a year of Slow Cooking, I was just wondering if there's any chance you would do a year of Pressure Cooker cooking? (By the way, I can't wait to buy your cookbook!)

  28. This sounds fantastic. Now if only I could get the hubby to eat beans.

    And since the hubby went out for dinner (work), the kids decided to have breakfast for supper....Rice Chex. Sounds great to me. :)

  29. I've never tried using spaghetti sauce in my chili. I'll keep that in mind for next time.

  30. Popped in to say hi! This chili looks great!

  31. What a great idea! I have never tried pasta sauce in my chili! Thanks for the great recipe!

  32. This turned out really well. It tasted fantastic. However, my hubby and my kids wouldn't touch it. SO BUMMED ABOUT THAT!!!! Do you know if it freezes well? I just dont' think I could eat it for the next how many days in a row. Also do you think I could "puree" the beans to help with the appearance?

  33. I didn't realize until too late that the pasta sauce in the cupboard was unusable (contained cheese & DD has dairy allergy) so instead I tossed in the leftover sloppy joe meat mixture. It had a certain "sloppy joe" flavor (ha ha) but still yummy. thanks for the inspiration!!

  34. Mark F. Garso4/21/2009

    This chili looks great - using a variety of beans puts a spin on what I usually consider chili! Absolutely LOVE that I can find everything in the pantry (minus the tomatoes) so I don't need to plan too far ahead of time!

    Mark F. Garso

  35. Roberto4/21/2009

    I really liked this, so simple yet flavorful. Thanks!

  36. I love making Chili in my CrockPot, so it is always great to find another recipe to try. :)

  37. Oh!! Thank you. The only thing I cook with is the crockpot and then only rarely. There was a need for a low cost, filling lunch for 6 to 15 people who were doing physical labor at my volunteer site. An unknown number would be vegetarian. . . . I made your chili and set up a small sandwich area for those who had to have meat. Um, one person made a sandwich, lol. And, to make matters "worse," I had nothing to bring home and freeze for later. Since there were only 7 people and I had doubled the recipe . . . I consider this a major hit. Bless you for sharing your work and thoughts!!

  38. Just made my own version of this poor mans chili. Its a rainy day and I can now stay home and enjoy the aroma. I used tomatoes and a can of RoTel tomatoes with jalopenos - we like spicy. I added a little red wine, some garlic and some chopped shallots. The cinammon smells wonderful and I can't wait for dinner.

  39. I made this chili tonight, and everyone loved it! I think its the best chili I have made thus far (I've used like 3 other recipes prior to this one), and I plan on making it my go-to chili recipe. I loved that it came out thick and that it wasn't spicy, but still very flavorful! Thanks so much for such a great recipe. I love your blog, you inspire me to use my crockpot!

  40. sundragonlady6/20/2012

    Never thought of using turmeric, will do this tomorrow!! Great note from Lindsay Wagner's great veg cookbook (High Road To Health)... clean your mushrooms w a paper towel (NO water) and put them in a paper bag in the fridge for a few days. Fridge acts like a dehydrator, and the mushrooms are fabulous... no one will believe there's no meat! Absolutely awesome! My favorite cookbook!!

  41. I adapted this recipe because I only had chick peas. I put a full bag (cooked) of garbanzo beans instead of the other beans. I put 45 ounces of spaghetti sauce/tomato sauce and I added a palak paneer spice packet (Rasoi magic). My husband is on his third bowl and he can't get over this Poor Man's Chana Masala!