If you’re living on the east coast, you probably haven’t left your house much. It’s been insanely cold, snowy, and just terrible all around. And today I pulled my neck so badly that I can barely move. So between that and the weather, I think I’ve left a permanent assprint on my couch.
Now please understand the dedication to my craft, because even though I’m stationary, I’m on a lot of painkillers and it’s taking me a really long time to type words. But I’m doing it for you. You’re welcome.
So as I was saying, when it’s cold AF, you’re cooped up in the house, there’s football and movies to be watched, and you need a snack to go along with it. Enter: the slow cooker.
I’ve made chili on the stove top nearly every year for my Super Bowl party, and it’s always a hit. This time I decided to make it in the slow cooker and see what happens. Result? Delicious and probably even better because it’s slow cooked.
I love a spicy chili with a slow heat – the kind that doesn’t hit you right away, which is the kind you usually get from the use of chili powder. You’ll notice the other flavors first and they’ll be nice and rich, because it will cook for 5-6 hours in the slow cooker (on low). I always top mine with cheddar cheese and scallions, but if you don’t have that, you’ll survive. I just think cheese is a necessary component to a good batch of chili.
Another thing that’s important for chili is the lean/fat ratio in the ground beef. The higher the fat content, the greasier the sauce. So for chili, you don’t really want the fat content too high. I try to keep it at 80-85% lean.
Ground beef or ground turkey? You can use whatever you want, but these days I usually do 1 lb ground turkey and 1/2 lb ground beef. My guests barely notice a difference when I do that, so I say do whatever is cheaper in your supermarket!
Lastly, if you want to know my secret to chili, it’s this: unsweetened cocoa powder and a squeeze of fresh lime juice. I KNOW. Trust me, it’s not the painkillers talking. It just gives it that extra something. If you’ve ever had unsweetened cocoa powder, you know it isn’t really sweet. It just has a deep, bittersweet cocoa flavor, like a mole sauce. And the lime just adds an acidic punch but it’s not a lot so don’t worry, you can omit it if you want, but please give it a shot. I’m tellin ya.
And one thing you need to make absolutely sure of is that the cocoa powder is UNSWEETENED. That Is one thing you cannot substitute with the kind you make chocolate milk with.
Do you need to use fresh jalapeños? Absolutely not, but some people would argue that you should. Personally, I have had some bad finger-to-eye experiences after chopping jalapenos, so I used the jarred kind more often than not and it works out just fine. And no eye gouging.
NOTE: The “tomato water” you’ll see below is when you take one of the tomato sauce cans BEFORE RINSING IT OUT and just add water to it. This makes your water tomato-y. For example, when you add chicken broth to something, it’s because the recipe doesn’t want just plain water, it wants it to have a little flavor. This is the same idea. Is it essential if you forget? No. But try it! It’s a good trick when you’re cooking anything tomato-based.
ANOTHER NOTE: this can absolutely be made on the stovetop. I don’t even change anything to the ingredients/measurements and it comes out great. But same rules apply for the beans: don’t add those until about 5-10 mins before you plan on serving, because they will get mushy if they cook in there for too long.
Slow Cooker Chili
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 and 1/2 lbs ground beef (80% lean)
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 jalapeños, diced
- 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 tsp chili powder (more if you want more heat)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
- 2 (15 oz each) cans diced tomatoes
- 1/2 can tomato water (from one of the tomato sauce cans above)
- 1/2 tsp of dried oregano
- 1 can red kidney beans (or black beans, if you prefer)
- 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
- Black pepper to taste
- Squeeze of 1/2 a lime
- Cheddar cheese (optional, for topping)
- Scallions (optional, for topping)
- In a large saute/frying pan, add the vegetable oil over medium-high heat, then add onion and pepper. Cook for a few minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute at most. DO NOT burn the garlic or it will be bitter and terrible.
- Add beef to the same pan and cook until browned, making sure to break it up with a wooden spoon. Add 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper to taste, stir to combine.
- Drain any excess fat from the pan and add the meat/onion mixture to the slow cooker.
- Add the rest of the ingredients (including the other 1/2 tsp of salt), except for the beans. They will get mushy if you cook them for too long, so I add them in towards the end when it’s nearly done.
- Cook on low for 5-6 hours, or high 3-4 hours. Near the last hour, add the can of beans and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning as necessary, but I think a squeeze of fresh lime and a pinch of cheddar cheese/scallions are all you’ll need.