Simple Slow Cooker Chili – This delicious chili has the perfect blend of seasonings and just the right amount of kick. It’s perfect for cold weather, meal prep, or game day. Don’t miss the Instant Pot directions, too! (Gluten-free, dairy-free)
Confession: I’m SUPER ready for fall! It’ll still be hot here until October, but at our house, “fall” basically starts as soon as September hits. And I’m going to be READY! We set out our fall decorations, I pull out some of my favorite fall playlists and fall movies (I’m looking at you, You’ve Got Mail!), and we start rotating in some of our favorite fall dinners.
It’s tough to beat chili when fall hits! A good chili is warm, cozy, comforting, and easy as can be. Plus, the leftovers are the gift that keeps on giving! This Simple Slow Cooker Chili recipe is one you’ll want to put in your regular rotation. It’s got the perfect blend of spices and seasonings, just enough kick, AND it can be made in the slow cooker or Instant Pot!
It’s an easy, mostly-hands-off meal you’ll LOVE! Here’s what’s in it…
WHAT’S IN THIS SLOW COOKER CHILI
My chili comes with a lot of “classic” ingredients + a few little tricks to help you coax the most flavor out of each ingredient. Here’s what I put in mine:
AN UNEXPECTED BASE. I start by building the flavor with a few slices of bacon, which adds some lovely smokiness and richness to the chili without making it heavy. Then, I use chicken sausage in place of the standard ground meat. I love that it’s light but packs a BIG flavor punch! I picked up some Green Chile Chicken Sausage from Sprouts (no weird ingredients, no strange preservatives!), but you can really play with this by mixing up the flavor and type of sausage you choose!
SOME YUMMY VEGGIES. After cooking the meat, I add some diced bell peppers and onion, along with garlic and a can of diced green chiles. The flavor combination is AMAZING, and I love how the flavors blend together when cooked.
A MIXTURE OF BEANS. This adds color and texture. I chose a mixture of pinto beans and kidney beans, but you could certainly add some black beans for variety. Sprouts carries organic, low-sodium beans that are my FAVORITE. (So affordable and such high quality!)
SOME CHILI CLASSICS. Then, you’ll find standards like diced tomatoes (I like the fire-roasted ones!), tomato paste, and some broth. You get some smokiness from the tomatoes, that plays off of the thickness and flavor from the tomato paste + broth combo. It’s SO lovely.
A DELICIOUS SEASONING BLEND. I use a combination of chili powder, cumin, and a little smoked paprika for added depth. Next, I add a bit of salt and pepper to tie things together. Again, Sprouts comes to the rescue with affordable, high-quality organic spices and seasonings! I love that their chili powder doesn’t have added salt.
LEFTOVER CHILI RECIPES – WHAT TO DO WITH LEFTOVER SLOW COOKER CHILI
Chili is one of those wonderful meals that keeps on giving, and the leftovers taste even better than they do the first day! You can easily freeze half of the recipe for later, or use leftover chili for one of these yummy ideas:
- CHILI & CORNBREAD POT PIE (TAMALE PIE). This Chili Cornbread Pot Pie is one of our FAVORITE dinners, especially in the fall. It’s an all-in-one meal the whole family will love!
- CHILI MAC. I used to love chili mac as a kid! Stir chili into cooked elbow macaroni pasta and top with cheddar cheese or dairy-free cheddar cheese. Bake until heated through and bubbly!
- CHILI DOGS. Not the healthiest, but certainly fun every once in a while! Add a spoonful of warm chili over a grilled hot dog or sausage.
- CHILI BEAN STAR SUPREME. This is something my grandma used to make for us when we’d visit. It’s got a crunch-wrap vibe but is made a little lighter.
- CHILI STUFFED SWEET POTATOES – I’ve got my method for perfect baked sweet potatoes here. You can use this chili in my chili-stuffed version. SO GOOD!
- CHILI SPAGHETTI SQUASH BOATS – These are so good! Top spaghetti squash with a big scoop of chili, then add some of your favorite toppings.
- TACO SALAD/FRITO PIE – You can top tortilla or corn chips with a scoop of chili, then build it up taco-style, with lettuce, tomato, onion, guacamole, etc.
- TEX-MEX “HAYSTACKS” – My mom used to make these all the time. Similar to the taco salad/Frito pie option, you’ll just spoon leftover warm chili on a bed of cooked rice, then add your favorite taco toppings.
FAQ ON THIS SLOW COOKER CHILI
CAN I USE ANOTHER KIND OF SAUSAGE IN THE CHILI? Yep! I just recommend using ground/bulk sausage instead of pre-cooked sausage (the kind you can slice) for this chili. I used green chile chicken sausage from Sprouts this time, but you can easily swap in your favorite chicken, turkey, or pork sausage. You can play with the flavor profile by using breakfast sausage, Italian sausage, chorizo-spiced sausage, etc.
CAN I USE GROUND MEAT INSTEAD OF SAUSAGE? Yes! If you prefer, you can substitute ground chicken, turkey, pork, or beef for the sausage in this chili. You *may* want to up the spices a bit to compensate. (Just taste and adjust the chili as you go)
CAN I JUST “DUMP AND GO?” INSTEAD OF COOKING THE MEAT FIRST FOR CHILI? Great question! (“Dump-and-go” is putting all the ingredients in the slow cooker without cooking beforehand.) I *do* at least recommend cooking the bacon beforehand, but, if you’re okay with it, you can add the sausage uncooked to the slow cooker, then break it up after cooking. (Chicken sausage is lower in fat, so you won’t end up with a greasy chili. If you’re using pork sausage, you may want to cook it before, so you can drain any extra fat before adding it to the chili.)
CAN I FREEZE THE LEFTOVERS? You bet! Chili freezes and thaws beautifully. I scoop it into freezer-safe bags and lay them flat until frozen. (Put the bags on a plate, cutting board or cookie sheet while they freeze so they can freeze flat.) Since they freeze thinner when laid flat, they’ll thaw faster, too! Thaw in the refrigerator, or in a bowl of cold water in the fridge for a few hours or on the counter for about an hour.
CAN I MAKE THIS CHILI IN THE INSTANT POT? Yes! I’ve included Instant Pot/Pressure Cooker directions in the recipe card below. It’s super pressure-cooker friendly!
CAN I MAKE THIS CHILI ON THE STOVETOP? Absolutely. I’ve included stovetop directions in the recipe notes below, too.
LOVE CHILI? YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE THESE RECIPES:
- Instant Pot Vegan Chipotle Black Bean Chili (GF, Vegan)
- The BEST EVER Pumpkin Chili (GF, DF)
- Slow Cooker Sweet Potato Chili (Paleo & Whole30)
- The Perfect Classic Chili (Stovetop–GF, DF)
PS – NEED A SLOW COOKER? I love this one! I like that it has lid clips (no sloshing or spilling if you’re transporting it somewhere!), and it is so easy to program. It even has a thermometer option so you don’t have to worry about overcooking your meal. (It can switch to WARM when you’ve reached the programmed temperature!)
NEED AN INSTANT POT? I have this 6qt. size and LOVE it. It’s easy to use and clean and has been big enough for everything we’ve made so far. I’ve found this cookbook really helpful for getting started using it.Print