Slow Cooker Chili

I promise it won't be all slow cookers all the time, but I do have this nifty new toy. :D We're working on adapting some of our favorite Latvian recipes to it, like plovs and šķovēti kāposti, which we think are very well-suited. (The plovs was made to my father-in-law's recipe, which is braised in a sealed roasting pan in the oven. It worked well but there's still some testing to do before I write the final recipe.)

One thing I really wanted to do with our new slow cooker was make a real chili. I've tried before on the stove, but never had a successful chili worth sharing. In fact, I've only made one successful chili in my life: the Three Bean Vegetarian Chili. Even so, it's not quite what I think of when I think chili so I wanted to try again with a more traditional recipe.

I'm really happy with this one. It came out beautifully and absolutely delicious. It also scales well, since the original recipe made enough for 12 and required a much larger cooker than we have. Cutting it by half made it fit perfectly in our 5qt and it should still fit in a 4qt.

Slow cookers are ideal for this kind of meal - the longer it cooks, the better it gets, so this is definitely a recipe to throw in before leaving for work. I cooked it for 8 hours until we couldn't stand it any more and dug in, but it easily could have gone another two. I might add this just keeps getting better -- the following day's leftovers were superb.

Now, I used a mix of ground beef and TVP chunks. I wanted to see how the TVP chunks would stand up to this form of cooking in particular. I'm happy to say that they did great - they were indistinguishable from beef! I love TVP - the extra fiber and ability to take on whatever role is required makes this one of my favorite ingredients. If you have the finer TVP, it will still work fine, but if you can get chunks, you won't be sorry. I found mine marked as "Soy" in the local Mexican grocery.

Slow Cooker Chili [printable recipe]

Adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook
Serves 6

  • 1/4 lb lean ground beef, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup TVP chunks1 + 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 cup green cabbage, shredded
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3 14oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 6oz can tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 sweet red bell peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2 cans pinto beans OR 3 cups cooked beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp ancho chile powder
  • 2 tsp pasilla chile powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • salt
  • oil

In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions until soft.

Combine all ingredients in a 5qt to 6qt slow cooker and stir well. Cover and cook on Low for 6 - 8 hours.

If it is too thin, let it cook longer with the lid off. The longer it simmers, the better the chili will be.


  1. Alternatively, use 1/4 lb pork sausage for carnivores or 1 whole cup of TVP chunks and omit the beef for vegetarians and vegans.
  2. A note for carnivores: Since my beef is home-ground from extra-lean roasts and used in small quantities, I didn't bother to cook it separately. If you're using a fattier grind, definitely cook it prior to putting it into the cooker to get rid of that fat. It won't be nice in the chili. Smoked sausage would also be excellent in this dish, but I'd definitely brown that first to get as much flavor as possible into the chili.