This basic but crowd-pleasing chili recipe

I eat a ton of chili in the winter months. Some days, I’ll eat chili for lunch AND dinner and not think twice about it. It’s warming, it’s yummy, it’s easy, and it’s cheap. Chili is pretty much the greatest winter food of all time.

Fortunately, my husband and stepson are also big fans of a big bowl of chili. So I don’t even have to feel bad about foisting my chili habit on anyone else. We all cheer for chili.

Maybe two years ago, I stumbled upon a basic but versatile slow cooker chili recipe — the inspiration for the one I’m sharing today. We use it fairly exclusively as our chili base, though we sometimes get creative with additions (e.g., green chilies, corn, additional meats, fresh tomatoes, different kinds of beans). Anyway I thought you might like to have it, so that you, too, can eat delicious chili as many times daily as you like.

Before the recipe, a quick tip for the skiers out there: Packing along chili for your slopeside lunch will make you feel like quite possibly the most brilliant people in the ski lodge. We pack ours in these big Coleman thermoses we bought for the purpose, so the chili stays perfectly warm. We also bring along tiny tupperwares filled with sour cream, grated cheddar, and sometimes green onions or maybe onions mixed with cilantro, as well as (OF COURSE) a bag of Fritos and maybe an avocado. Pull that spread out in the lodge and see how amazingly self-satisfied and profoundly smart you’ll feel.

Trust me, you’ll get more jealous and admiring looks than you ever thought possible. Invariably, your lodge neighbors will look sadly down at their $15 bowls of chili (which aren’t even very good and which are undoubtedly going to later give them terrible gas). Then, when you pull out your tiny Nalgene bottle filled with red wine, their brains will literally explode.


Basic Slow Cooker Beef Chili


1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pounds ground beef

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely minced

2 (14.5 oz.) cans diced tomatoes

3 (8 oz.) cans cans tomato sauce

1/2 cup beef broth

4 tablespoons chili powder

3 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons paprika

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Salt and freshly ground black pepper (don’t use salt if you used Better than Bouillon to make your beef broth)

2 (15 oz.) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Shredded cheddar cheese, for serving

Optionally top with sour cream, avocado, green onions, or onions-and-cilantro

Optionally serve with fresh cornbread, baked potatoes, Fritos, or tortilla chips


  1. Heat olive oil in a large and deep non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. 

  2. Add onion and saute 3 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Pour onions into a 6- or 7-quart slow cooker.

  3. Return skillet to medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally until beef has browned.

  4. Drain half of fat from beef. Pour browned beef and remaining fat into slow cooker.

  5. Stir in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth, chili powder, cumin, paprika, cocoa powder, sugar, and coriander. Season mixture with salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Cover with lid and cook on low heat for 4 to 6 hours.

  7. Stir in kidney beans and allow to heat through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm with desired toppings.