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classic beef chili in the slow cooker
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4.5 from 8 votes

Slow Cooker Classic Beef Chili

Chili, which improves in flavor the longer it cooks, is a perfect recipe for the slow cooker. It takes a bit of work at the stovetop upfront, but you are rewarded with savory aromas from the slow cooker all day and dinner ready to go.
Prep Time40 mins
Cook Time7 hrs
Total Time7 hrs 40 mins
Course: Soups/Stews
Cuisine: American
Keyword: beef recipe, slow cooker recipe, slow cooker soups
Servings: 8
Calories: 295kcal
Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $15.00


  • 6-quart Slow Cooker
  • Dutch Oven, Saute Pan, or Skillet


  • 3 tablespoon Cooking Oil, divided
  • 1 Yellow Onion, diced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 8 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 12 oz Sausage (see note)
  • 1 lb Ground Beef (use 90% lean beef)
  • 2 tablespoon Chili Powder (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Dried Oregano
  • ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • 4 tablespoon Tomato Paste
  • 2 tablespoon Brown Sugar (light or dark)
  • 1 cup Water or Stock (any type of stock will work - beef, chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 28 oz can Diced Tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
  • 1 28 oz can Crushed Tomatoes
  • 2 15 oz cans Kidney Beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Bay Leaves

Optional Chili Toppings:

  • Green Onions, chopped
  • Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • Sour Cream
  • Chips (corn tortilla chips or Fritos are always great)


  • Place a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add 1 Tablespoon oil and then add onion, bell pepper, and garlic with a pinch of salt. Saute until very tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Transfer to bowl of a 6-quart slow cooker.
  • Return pan to heat and add 1 Tablespoon oil. When oil is shimmering, add sausage and saute until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add to bowl of slow cooker.
  • Return pan to heat and add 1 Tablespoon oil. When oil is shimmering, add beef and saute until browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, black pepper, and salt. Saute for 2 minutes more. Add to bowl of slow cooker.
  • To ingredients in slow cooker, add tomato paste, brown sugar, water / stock, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, beans, and bay leaves. Stir everything to combine.
  • Cook on low for 7 to 9 hours or high for 4 to 5 hours. (After cooking, the slow cooker can switch to “warm” until you are ready to serve the chili.)
  • Taste and season with some salt and black pepper, if needed.
  • Serve chili with your favorite toppings.


Chili Powder - Chili powder can vary a lot in the amount of spice it contains. If want a more mild chili, check the ingredients in your chili powder to be sure that cayenne pepper isn’t on the list. I prefer McCormick Chili Powder which has just the right amount of spice, and a lot of great flavor. For a less spicy chili, you can also reduce the amount of chili powder you use (though you may want to increase the amounts of the other dry spices so that you don't sacrifice flavor in the finished dish).
Sausage - This adds a lot of flavor to the chili and you can use many different variations. I like the subtle sweetness and flavor of Chicken Apple Italian Sausage (chop it into small pieces before using). Any type of loose / bulk Italian Sausage also works really well and doesn’t require any prep.
To Freeze: You can freeze chili before or after cooking. If freezing before cooking, saute the meat and aromatics and allow to cool completely. Combine with other ingredients and transfer to freezer-safe containers. If freezing cooked chili, let it cool completely before transferring to freezer-safe containers. In both cases, remove as much air from the container as possible. Freeze for up to 6 months.
Print and attach the label below so cooking instructions are ready when you are!
slow cooker classic beef chili


Calories: 295kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 66mg | Sodium: 556mg | Potassium: 499mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1222IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 3mg