21-Ingredient Chili Slow Cooker Recipe

quite possibly the world's best chili

This is not an ordinary chili recipe. I received an email from Jennifer D., at the beginning of October.

Her email read:
I'm not a chili fan after having endured my mom's "chili" (really ground beef, a can of kidney beans, a can of stewed tomatoes), but I love this recipe.  Like would eat it every day kind of love.  It's a lot of ingredients, but it's well worth it.  And gluten-free.

I made Jennifer's chili over the weekend and while I balanced the cans and spice bottles for the "before" photo, Adam walked into the kitchen. 

I believe his exact words were, "this better be a damn good chili."

It was.

Adam, the baby, and I each had THIRDS. Thank you, Jennifer!!

The Ingredients.

serves 8

a lot of ingredients. don't freak out.

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cut in 1-inch chunks)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (15-ounce) can corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes (whole can)
  • 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce (La Choy and Tamari Wheat Free are gluten free)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder (this has heat, if you are sensitive, start with 1 tsp. 3tsp = 1tblsp)
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (this has heat, if you are sensitive omit completely or go slow)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • add salt to taste at the table, if needed

The Directions.

Use a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.

Put the chicken into the bottom of your cooker; frozen is okay, but cut it into chunks.

Add the diced onion, canned beans, tomatoes, chiles, corn, and grated sweet potato.

Now add the mustard, honey, and dried spices.

Carefully stir well to distribute spices the best you can.

Pour in the chicken broth.

Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or until chicken easily shreds with two large forks.

Although you could cook this on high in 4 hours, the flavors will meld best when cooked low and slow.

Stir very well and serve in a large bowl with your favorite chili toppings. We like shredded cheese and sour cream.

The Verdict.

Such. Good. Chili.

This is a whole meal in a bowl.

I thought I was going to make cornbread to go with, but the day got away from me.

We didn't need it, though--- this is incredibly hearty and has a fantastic range of flavors.

My tongue was first hit with sweet, then a slow heat came out.

The children ate their servings---it was not overly spicy (the baby had three helpings!).

The heat is from the white pepper, not the chili powder.

If you've got sensitive palates, cut back on the white pepper (you can always add more at the table).

Thank you again to Jennifer D.!

additional chili recipes:

Do you love this recipe?

Please share it with your friends!

Posted by: Stephanie O'Dea | A Year of Slow Cooking at December 09, 2011

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What they say about this recipe

  1. I've never used white pepper before...did you use it for the more subtle flavor or for the color? or because that's what the recipe said to use? :)

  2. Hi Kari, white pepper is much finer than black pepper and has a *hot* feel to the tongue, but doesn't taste peppery the way black pepper does (it doesn't itch my nose, for instance). It is the hot heat in Hot and Sour soup. I think you'll like it!

  3. oh! and yes, I used white pepper because the recipe told me to. :-0

  4. Steph! 21 ingredients Holy Moley or rather Holy Chili :-) Making next week due to the fact that "THE Baby ate three helpings" it must be good...

  5. When I've got a recipe that uses a lot of small measurement amounts I combine them before adding. When I try this recipe (not if!) I'll probably combine everything listed after the sweet potato and add it all together so it's mixed. Just a tip I thought I'd share. It's only one more bowl to wash. :)

  6. Right on! I'm glad you liked it! I put a can of chipotles in adobo sauce in it along with a scoop of mole, too. The canned chilis crank up the heat, though.

  7. This chili looks awesome, I can't wait to try it.

  8. How do you think it would taste sans mustard? I'm allergic and it makes me nauseous to even smell it.

  9. Wowza! That looks and sounds fantastic! I usually put the sharpest cheddar I can find on chili...do you think very sharp grated cheddar would mask some of the flavors in this chili? Maybe I should just try it "plain"...?

  10. Taximom512/09/2011

    I am SO glad you posted this today!!!! I had no idea what I was going to make for dinner. I had a pound of ground turkey, but really wasn't jazzed about making tacos AGAIN...and then I saw your recipe! As soon as I saw that combo of spices, I was hooked!

    Am I allowed to admit that I'm making it on the stovetop? (No time for slow cooker, I didn't start it until 4:00. :( ) Or that I subbed ground turkey for the chicken thighs (I PROMISE I'll make it with chicken thighs next time...)?

    My kitchen smells like heaven. Everyone in the house is drooling and asking when dinner will be ready.

  11. Yummy, Steph and Jennifer! Steph, this made me think of your garlic clove chicken with the big number in the title. ;-)


  12. This sounds amazing! I can't wait to give it a go...sounds like a real change from our usual chili.

  13. I bet the sweet potato makes this SO good. Yum.

  14. Mm, looks so good!

  15. Made this chili for dinner tonight and it was really delicious. But it was incredibly spicy!!!! I can't wait to make it again, but I will adjust the seasoning for sure. Are you really supposed to put in 3 TABLESPOONS of chili powder?! and then another tablespoon of chipotle chili powder? I thought this seemed like a lot but figured I would follow the recipe since it was the first time. Or maybe I have freakishly spicy chili powder?! There is no way my kids could eat this, and I had to put tons of sour cream in it to not burn my mouth :( But seriously....I love the ingredients and combo of flavors and will totally try it again soon.

  16. This sounds amazing with the sweet potato - never thought of that! I make one similar, but I use a can of pumpkin instead of the sweet potatoes, and I add a can of rinsed black beans to the mix - guess that makes it 22 ingredients. Craving chili now!

  17. You inspired me to buy my very own crock pot and make this - and it was delicious! My husband, who is the cook in the family, said the sweet potato was "inspired," and we both found the seasoning to be just right. Thanks for sharing this - and for your blog!

  18. Is this part of Home for the Holidays?
    Regardless, it sounds fantastic!

  19. This sounds fantastic. I'll modify it to allow for my own personal sensitivities/allergies (starting w/ no corn!).
    I just made chili in the crockpot today, will try this recipe next time.
    Is this post part of the Home for the Holidays promotion?

  20. Sounds yummy.

    For various and sundry personal reasons I will make slight alterations to the ingredients.

    I will omit the meat due to having to fight gout (ouch ouch ouch).

    I will add a "regular" tater or two.

    Corn and honey will be omitted; unsure what to replace corn with.

    A couple packs of "equal" to add that small hint of sweetness. Hate to do so but every bit of certain food-types require slight alterations in my semi-cooking.

    A Disgruntled Old Coot such as I, dwelling in his hovel, a shanty atop the Ozark Plateau with a life of bachelorhood behind him; never devoting much time to cooking.

    An Old Geezer who never sneered at opening a can of condensed soup and eating it straight from the can for a meal.

    A simple man immersed within a human herd of simpletons hereabouts took a tremendous technological and culinary leap out of the 19th century when I bought that new-fangled electric pot that takes hours to cook the vittles.

    Not really all that much different from when I was a bare-foot youngun' scampering 'round Ma's big iron kettle in front of Ma and Pa's shanty over yonder 'cross the holler when she cooked any squirrels Pa could nab or an unlucky 'possum found its way into THAT slow cooker.

    I DO look forward to the end result and the mention of the chili being "thick" appeals to me.

    That too-often-seen "thin" chili more akin to soup than what I view as real chili seems to be the results of my past efforts.

    Hopefully this recipe will give me the desired results.

    If I make a boo-boo and get too-thin chili any recommendations as to what will make it "thick" without negatively altering the taste?

    Thanks to y'all for any info, tips, etc and feel free to mosey on over to the shanty and hunker down and jaw-bone fer' a spell.

    Since the Old Coot has finally settled down single gals desiring some courtin' especially welcome.

  21. Holy cow...and I thought I used a lot of ingredients to make Indian curry dishes. Hold that thought while I dig up a picture.... Here: http://www.quirkycookery.com/2011/10/cooking-indian-foods-could-we-use-few.html

    But 21 ingredients for a chili seems like a lot. It *does* look amazing, though....thick, chunky, and just the right amount of spicy. I suppose I would have a lot of the ingredients on hand already. Now you said it serves 8...with you guys having thirds, does that mean there weren't really any leftovers here? I'm afraid I would just keep eating and eating, ha.

  22. Scott, I thicken chili like dishes with quinoa. Adds protein and fiber but doesn't change the taste. Add it about 1/2 hour before serving.

  23. "...I thicken chili like dishes with quinoa."

    "...quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds."

    Cool!!!! Tumbleweeds should impart that tangy "western flavor" that makes chili so liver-quiverin' yummy.

    Thanks for the tip!!!!

  24. Hi Steph,

    Thanks for sharing this recipe! The chili has a pleasingly thick consistency and looks thoroughly inviting. I agree with grnbean44 the heat though. the flavours are fantastic, so I will make this again but I'll reduce the spices quite a bit maybe down to a third or a quarter.


  25. thank you so much for your feedback. The heat comes from the chipotle chili powder and the white pepper. I'll put in your notes, thank you.

    if you do a taste-test with your spices (finger dip), you'll find that the regular chili powder isn't actually spicy, just flavorful and kind of woodsy/smokey.

  26. made this today - not usually a fan of stuff that comes out of my slow cooker (I know, that's sacrilege on this page) - this was DELICIOUS!

  27. Hi Steph,

    Thanks for the tip about taste-testing the spices! I still think this recipe is a keeper.


  28. It's on the menu for today. But since we have an unexpected holiday gathering we'll be eating it next week! (gotta cook those chicken thighs today or... well, you know.) I'm sure the flavors will have time to blend together delightfully by that time.

  29. Hi, Stephanie,
    Just wanted you to know that I tried the "21 Ingredient Chili" last week and IT IS DELICIOUS! Like you, I thought I didn't need all those ingredients, but they really make for a different and delicious tasting chili. Now, I'm not one to follow recipes very well so here's what I did: I used ground beef instead of chicken, left out the corn, sweet potato and chipotle powder. I used 1 teaspoon of adobo sauce from a can of chipotles. It is perfectly wonderful. So I'll be trying more of your recipes especially since COLD winter has set in here in eastern Idaho. Thanks, Steph. Sue Fineman Idaho Falls, ID

  30. I came to the site looking for a soup recipe and got distracted by this recipe even before I could search! So it's happily crocking away on the countertop. Fortunately, I had everything with only minor subs -- two cans of kidney beans since I don't have canned cannellini, fire roasted green chiles and regular tomatoes, but no chipotle or cloves as we don't care for either. Thanks again for another great dish!

  31. Hi Steph,

    Thank you sooooo much for this recipe!! I made it for our church caroling event last week and it was a hit. What a great way to warm us all up after a chilly caroling jaunt through our small town in Colorado. Everyone loved the chili. I'm not one that can take a lot of "heat" in my food, but this was a warm heat that was tolerable and delicious. I couldn't wait to take the next bite. I made the recipe with no substitutions and it was amazing. My husband, who is not a chili fan, said that he would be happy if I made this again, real soon! That is saying something! I love your recipes, your ideas and your books. Thank you so much!

  32. Just made this on the stove with ground beef. Delicious!

  33. Made this today, and turned out great! The sweet potato did something magical! I realized after I started putting it together that I didn't have any green chilis, so I subbed 4oz of chopped jalepeno wheels, and cut the chipotle down to one tsp. Still turned out perfectly hot. Which is to say that it was pretty darn hot, but not unbearable. Perfect, in my book. :)

  34. Michelle in Ory-gun1/07/2012

    Oh, wow, this was good! I didn't have chipotle chili powder so I used canned...it was a bit too hot, so I won't do that again. But the depth of flavor, with the hint of sweet...I've never had such good chili before!

  35. This was the best chili that I've ever made! Thanks so much!

  36. This chili was absolutely fantastic. I made it on the stove with ground beef and will make it this week with the chicken in the slow cooker... It really doesn't matter HOW you make this chili because it's not the meat that makes it amazing, it's the flavors. WOW.
    I was able to find the fire roasted tomatoes in a can with the chilis already in it, so that was one less can to open! I love that the sweet potato adds a healthy veggie to the chili. This chili is so good that you could probably even sneak SPINACH into it (at the very end of the cooking, obviously) and it would still be completely scrumptious.

  37. Could this be made with out the beans? My husband will NOT eat beans because he says they have a bad texture and he cant handle them. I even blended beans before and added them as a very smooth puree and he could tell saying they make his teeth feel grimy. I REALLY MISS CHILLI!

  38. Just another positive review. I made this a couple of weeks ago. I halved the chipotle chile powder and (I think) the white pepper, too. It was still about as hot as I can handle and still think something tastes good. So basically it was perfect for the adults in the house. The sweetness adds a lot. Such a great combo of flavors! The kids couldn't handle the heat. But I've got a second batch in the crock pot today anyway! It's such a perfect lunch that I don't even care if my kids eat it tonight!

  39. Leanna3/19/2012

    Tried this last night and it came out amazing!!

  40. I made this and wrote about it here. I did what a commenter suggested and added some leftover quinoa and made it a 22 ingredient chili!!

    It was a big hit with the whole family and the leftovers freeze really well too.

    to shelli.hanson: I used to think I didn't like beans too. Then I realized it was just the tough skins, particularly from kidney beans. I'm sure the texture issue is from the skins. I've found if I start with dried beans with thinner skins like black or cannellini, and cook them for hours, their skins get super soft and I actually like them. I make a big batch of them and freeze them. Somehow the defrosting and reheating them seems to break down the toughness of the skin even more.

  41. Anonymous5/22/2012

    The spices for this look delicious! I'm going to have to hunt around to figure out what I can replace chipotle powder with, as we don't have it in Australia. I'm going to use the spices and method in this to make my first chili in a slowcooker. :)

  42. Just checking, is this supposed to have 1/2 CUP of mustard? Seems like a lot. I see that others have made it though. It's in the crock now, I didn't add that much but I might add more.

  43. i love this recipe! i have made it several times and everyone always wants the recipe. my husband wants me to make it more, but i don't always have all the ingredients. that is my only complaint- i have to remember to get everything before i make it. not always so easy for my aging brain.

  44. I used black pepper and get full teste. This is awesome recipe. Thanks to share with us.

  45. Fans of Cincinnati chili or a curry type dishes (not its not curry, but has the same kind of profile) this is right up your alley.I'm the sole contrarian here of people who actually made and reviewed the recipe exactly as written. Served this at a tailgate untested.. The verdict was we wouldn't make this again.Believe it was the spicy brown mustard which came forward and overpowered everything else. It wasn't the chili powders or white pepper since these amount are pretty normal in our long cooking chilis, and we use cumin frequently.

    Thanks for posting this. Stretching boundaries in cooking is fun, and it exposes kids to new things. Though this is not on any of our repeat lists, we'll be checking your site to give something else a go. Thanks again

    Had been holding on to this recipe from WomansWorld 2/27/14 who probably got it from your! and found your site with actual reviews before I made.

  46. LOVE this go-to recipe!!! so simple, this is seriously perfect for the workweek grind