Monday, August 29, 2011

Slow Cooker Chili

This time of year makes me a little crazy.  It’s still much too hot to cook–we’re hitting daily highs in the neighborhood of 108 in this part of Texas–but we’ve already made it through the first week of school. That means summer is most certainly over.  Which also means grilled burgers and big salads don’t feel quite right when dinnertime rolls around; picnic food just reminds me of the season we’ve left behind, and there’s no point in looking back with Labor Day on the horizon.

Fortunately, I’m a great devotee of the slow cooker.  As I mentioned in this recipe for Slow-Cooker Brisket, using the slow cooker is an excellent option when it’s this hot outside:  your slow cooker use much less energy than your oven, and most slow cookers heat up to less than 300 degrees even on their High setting.   In other words, the slow cooker will allow you to avoid blowing a fuse while the air conditioner is working hard to keep you cool, and it won’t work against the cooling effect by heating up your house.  It’s the perfect solution for a day when you can’t bring yourself to even think about cooking.

Around noon on Sunday, I put on a pot of Slow Cooker Chili.  Three out of four Foodie Family members love chili–over corn chips in a Frito Pie, over cheese enchiladas, or any which way you ladle it.  The fourth will eat a hot dog, when we have chili dogs for dinner, or happily heat up something for himself when chili goes it alone, as it did tonight.

The best thing about chili is that it’s infinitely customizable.  Full of protein and vegetables, it’s a complete meal on its own . . .

but you can also dress it up with a few tortilla chips and some grated cheese . . .

and you can always top it off with something cool and creamy, for the sake of contrast:  sour cream, guacamole, or some combination of the two.  (I was out of both, but I’ve been known to add a dollop of sour cream to my chili bowl.)

You’ll note that this recipe doesn’t call for any green pepper, though many chili recipes do.  That’s only because I’m not a fan of green pepper; you can certainly swap out the red pepper for a green one, if you prefer that flavor.  I also recommend adding some brown sugar to take the acidic edge off the tomatoes, but trust me, you won’t taste any sweetness in the finished product.  Finally, the diced green chilies add heat without overpowering the other flavors.  That’s the key in any spicy dish: you want the seasoning to complement the food, not hide it.  Though there’s a lot of seasoning in this recipe, that’s balanced out by the fact that it makes enough to feed 8 people easily.

As for the eternal question in chili-making circles–whether chili should or should not include beans–I can only say that, in my humble opinion, chili without beans is simply meat sauce.  I’d give up the meat before I’d leave out the beans.  And you can certainly leave out the meat, if you’d prefer to make this a vegetarian recipe.  I’ve done that before, and I’ll probably do it again.  I’m a rebel like that.


Slow Cooker Chili


1 lb. ground beef
1 large red pepper, diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 cans (14 oz.) kidney beans
1 can (4 oz.) diced green chilies
2 T. chili powder
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. oregano
2 T. brown sugar


Coat a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray. Brown ground beef slightly, then add the red pepper, onions and garlic to the skillet. Cook just until the ground beef is browned thoroughly and the vegetables are beginning to soften, then scrape the beef and vegetables into the slow cooker.

Add the remaining ingredients--the diced and crushed tomatoes, beans, and green chilies--to the slow cooker, and stir with a large spoon to combine. Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and brown sugar. Stir again to distribute the seasonings.

Put the lid on the slow cooker. Allow to cook on High setting for 4 hours, or on low heat for 6 to 8 hours. Remove the lid for the last half hour of cooking time, to let some of the liquid evaporate.


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One Response to “Slow Cooker Chili”

  1. 1

    Christine — August 29, 2011 @ 5:39 pm

    This looks wonderful! I like to make large batches of food that I can put into small portions for my 90-year-old grandmother, and this will be perfect for her.

    Love, love, LOVE your blog!

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