This chili is very simple. I got the recipe from my friend Shelli. When our oldest kids were just teeny tiny, they were good buddies.
We spent a lot of time together back then. Long luxurious days where we talked about sleep issues, eating habits, our families, our history, and all the while watching our sweet babies discover the world.
Another thing we shared with each other was recipes. I remember having this chili at Shelli’s. I remember sitting in her kitchen, and being impressed that Asher was going to eat that chili. At the time, I wasn’t a big chili fan, but that was the best chili I had ever had. Maybe because I was with Shelli, and she made it, and we were sharing pieces of our lives with each other.
Shelli and her family moved to Colorado shortly after our kids turned two. I still miss her. Whenever I make this chili, I think of her, and I remember those days that seemed to last forever.
For the record, I have changed the recipe many times, because I am often in a hurry, and will make it with just the ingredients I have available. But what I like is how simple it is. This recipe really is a blank slate; you can add or take away whatever you like, and it will still turn out great. But it is best exactly how Shelli made it.
You can ignore the writing in red, that was my addition, back when I wrote down everything I did. As you can see from the recipe, the original is not a slow cooker recipe, and it is perfectly simple and delicious exactly as written. Make it that way.
But, if you have a day like mine… today I have to work in the afternoon, and then work again this evening… then you can make this in your slow cooker in the morning and have it ready exactly when you need it. It just simmers all day long and the flavors blend nicely after all that time. And there is no need to sauté things first. That’s what I like.
But there is an order to it that is important. Here’s how I made it today, with just the things I had on hand.
Slow Cooker Chili
- 1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 pound leanest ground beef (must be leanest!)
- 1 28 oz can chopped tomatoes, with liquid
- 1 can black beans, drained
- 1 can cannellini beans, drained
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 2 Tbsps chili powder
- 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Cayenne pepper to taste
Place chopped onion in a layer on the bottom of the slow cooker. Break up the ground beef with your hands and layer it over the onions. Then layer the tomatoes, then the beans, and finally the herbs. You can gently stir the herbs into the top layer of beans, but do not disturb the layers of onion and beef and tomatoes. Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours, or high for 6 to 8 hours. Shortly before serving, stir in the balsamic vinegar and cayenne and let cook for a few more minutes.
Add ins: A few minutes before serving, if I have time, I like to sauté up some veggies, like perhaps some chopped zucchini or bell pepper, so they get a nice grill to them and intensified flavor, and add them to the chili when I add the balsamic vinegar. It takes about ten minutes. You can also just use those sautéed veggies as toppings. You can add whatever you like, or nothing at all.
Toppings: Grated cheese, raw onions, avocado slices, fresh cilantro, sautéed veggies… whatever you have on hand!
Tip! I don’t enjoy chopping onions (sorry!), but when I do, I chop more than one, and put any extra in bags in the freezer. That way, when I have a recipe that calls for chopped onion, chances are I can just grab some already chopped out of the freezer. It comes in really handy when I am in a hurry in the morning, and frozen onion works just fine for slow cooker recipes. Bon apétit!