Slow-Cooker Weeknight Chili


People often ask me how Mary and I work together. “Do you have meetings to plan your posts? Do you have everything on a shared calendar? Do you get along?” The answer to all of those is “YES!”. Listen. We’re not totally organized and we don’t always stick to our plan. We try new things and if they aren’t “post-worthy” we scramble to find something else to share with you (or we skip a post). And, we definitely get along. We’ve been friends for 26 years and somehow we just get each other. A little give and take, ebb and flow, whatever you call it: that’s how to make a friendship last a lifetime.

Here’s an example of how we get each other.  Mary invited me to dinner the other night and as I was walking to my car she suggested a contest post with a calendar/organizer as the prize. “Sounds great,” I replied. Well, as Mary was working on our December Cookbook Giveaway post, I was completely unaware that she had taken a different direction and chosen to give away a slow-cooker cookbook. Here’s the crazy part: I was sitting in my living room, searching for slow-cooker recipes at the Cook’s Illustrated website for easy weeknight dinners to share with all of you. Imagine my (pleasant) surprise when I saw her contest post. We just get each other!

So, about slow-cooker recipes and this chili ~ it’s genius! I got up 30 minutes early yesterday and got dinner ready. Seriously, once everything was in the slow-cooker, I didn’t have to think about dinner, again, until it was time to prep the toppings and serve our meal. And it was delish! The meat was so tender, and the flavor from the browned tomato paste and spices was layered and complex. The best part was that the clean-up of the ceramic pot was easy-peasy (really! no scrubbing!).

Serve this Weeknight Chili with:

Corn Souffle
Spinach-Orange Salad 


Slow-Cooker Weeknight Chili

Author: Cook’s Illustrated
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8-10
Do not use beef any leaner than 85 percent or its texture will turn dry and sandy as it cooks. For a milder chili, use the smaller amount of chipotle chiles; if you like yours spicy, use the full 4 teaspoons. When the chili is done, break up any remaining large pieces of beef with the back of a spoon before serving. I like to serve my chili with sour cream, grated cheddar cheese and tortilla chips.
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 medium onions , minced
  • 6 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/4cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Salt
  • 1(28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2(15.5-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans , drained and rinsed
  • 1(28-ounce) can tomato puree
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano leaves , or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2-4teaspoons minced chipotle chiles in adobo sauce (see note)
  • 2 pounds 85 percent lean ground beef
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 limes , cut into wedges
  • sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, tortilla chips for toppings
  1. Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic, chili powder, tomato paste, cumin, pepper flakes, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened and lightly browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in the diced tomatoes with their juice, scraping up any browned bits.
  2. Transfer the mixture to the slow cooker and stir in the beans, tomato puree, soy sauce, oregano, sugar, and chipotle until evenly combined. Season the meat with salt and pepper and stir it into the slow cooker, breaking up any larger pieces. Cover and cook, either on low or high, until meat is tender and the chili is flavorful, 8 to 9 hours on low or 5 to 6 hours on high.
  3. Let the chili settle for 5 minutes, then gently tilt the slow cooker and remove as much fat as possible from the surface using a large spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the lime wedges and other toppings.



  1. Kelly says:

    This looks delicious! Could you leave out the diced tomatoes?

  2. Philip says:

    I made it exactly as directed by the recipe, though accidentally used white sugar. The chili is good but seems to lack some depth. It’s a bit on the sweet side. Any suggestions?

  3. Pam Moyers says:

    Thank you so much for posting this! I made this when I first read it in the Cooks Illus magazine, but couldn’t find my copy and wanted to make it again this week. It is definitely a five star recipe.

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  7. Jeannie says:

    “Five stars for friendship”! That is SO seventh grade and I love it and counter with five stars for both of you being awesome! I love crockpot chili and can’t wait to try this recipe along with the delicious leftover combinations of chili on a baked potato or chili dogs or chili nachos!

  8. Colleen Stromatt says:

    This looks delicious! Would it work with ground chicken as well? 🙂

  9. MaryMiller says:

    Joy, I love this post and would like to point out one more thing… one of the reasons we get along so well is because YOU are totally organized and yet you don’t seem to mind when I change plans, change directions or change recipes! Love ya!! I haven’t tasted the chili yet, but I am giving you 5 stars for friendship.

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