This healthy Ground Beef Chili recipe is made in the slow cooker with beans, corn, peppers, and masa harina. It's full of Southwest flavors!
This Southwest Beef Chili is easy to throw together and perfect to enjoy with some freshly baked cornbread or corn tortillas. I love to make a big batch and eat it throughout the week.
You really can't have too many chili recipes on hand during the fall and winter months. Chili is an essential part of getting through winters here in Minnesota.
When it comes to homemade chili, I love the slow cooker. It's one of those hearty meals that's not meant to be rushed. It's full of warming spices that permeate your home during the colder months and provide an overall feeling of coziness.
This crockpot chili recipe has a Southwest twist. It's made with ground beef, beans, corn, and poblano peppers. Masa harina is added toward the end of the cooking process, which creates a luxuriously thick texture.
It's got chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin for an extra smoky kick.
- Is Chili Better In A Slow Cooker?
- Ingredients For Ground Beef Chili
- Does Ground Beef Need To Be Cooked Before Making Chili?
- What Kind Of Ground Beef Is Best For Chili?
- How To Make Slow Cooker Beef Chili
- How To Thicken Chili
- What Is Masa Harina?
- What Is A Substitute For Masa Harina?
- What To Serve With Beef Chili
- How Long Does Chili Last In Fridge?
- Can It Be Frozen?
- Ground Beef Chili (Slow Cooker)
Is Chili Better In A Slow Cooker?
There is no 'wrong way' to make chili and I find it delicious in all its forms, but I would argue that the flavors are more robust when they come together slowly over a longer period of time.
This might be why chili almost seems to taste better in the days after its made.
The effort that goes into slow cooker meals like this one is pretty minimal and it's mostly hands off once all of the ingredients are tucked into the slow cooker.
Much of the effort involved in this recipe is on the front end and the slow cooker does most of the work.
Ingredients For Ground Beef Chili
Here's what you'll need to make it.
- 6 cloves Garlic
- 1 Onion (any color)
- 1 Jalapeno Pepper (optional)
- 1 Bell Pepper (any color)
- 1 Poblano Pepper
- 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
- 2 lb. Lean Ground Beef (or ground meat of choice)
- 1 15 oz. can Kidney Beans
- 1 15 oz. can Black Beans (or pinto beans)
- 2 cups Frozen Corn
- 1 15 oz. can Diced Tomatoes
- 2 cups Crushed Tomatoes
- 3 cups Low Sodium Beef Broth
- 3 Tbsp. Chili Powder
- 2 Tbsp. Smoked Paprika
- 2 tsp. Cumin
- 1 tsp. Kosher Salt (split)
- 1 tsp. Pepper (split)
- ¼ cup Masa Harina
- Toppings of choice (avocado, cheese, limes, cilantro)
Does Ground Beef Need To Be Cooked Before Making Chili?
It is recommended to brown meat before adding it to a slow cooker. Raw ground meat contains bacteria that a crockpot does not cook quickly enough to be safe for consumption.
Browning the ground beef in a skillet along with the aromatics will ensure optimal flavor and proper food safety.
I find it easiest to chop all aromatics and vegetables before starting the cooking process.
- To prepare the ground beef, start by mincing 6 cloves of garlic and 1 onion (any color).
- Mince 1 jalapeno pepper, removing the seeds and membranes for less heat (you can leave the seeds if you prefer a spicier chili).
- Dice 1 bell pepper (any color) and 1 poblano pepper (removing seeds and membranes).
- Heat a skillet to medium-high and add 1 Tbsp. olive oil.
- Once heated, add the minced garlic, onions, and jalapeno pepper. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.
- Add 2 lbs. lean ground beef to the skillet along with ½ tsp. each of kosher salt and pepper. Break the meat apart as it cooks.
- Sauté the ground beef for 10-12 minutes on high heat, or until it is completely cooked through.
- Drain the excess fat from the meat and discard.
What Kind Of Ground Beef Is Best For Chili?
The type of ground beef used to make chili is entirely up to you. Generally, 80/20% fat is recommended when making chili, because the extra fat provides more flavor.
For slow cooker chili, I prefer lean ground beef with a fat ratio of 90/10%, so that the chili does not become greasy as it cooks in the crockpot.
I went with lean ground beef and chose to drain the fat before transferring it to the slow cooker, but this is up to you.
You can also make this slow cooker chili with ground venison, turkey, or chicken if you prefer. Feel free to use low sodium chicken broth in place of beef broth if opting for ground turkey or chicken.
Love ground beef? Check out these recipes!
- Cabbage Roll In A Bowl
- Beef and Bean Enchiladas
- Tater Tot Casserole
- Juicy Lucy Burgers
- Philly Cheese Steak Sloppy Joes
- Pizza Stuffed Peppers
How To Make Slow Cooker Beef Chili
Once the vegetables are chopped and the ground beef sautéed, it's time to turn it over to the slow cooker!
I recommend a slow cooker that is at least 5 quart in size so that all of the ingredients fit comfortably.
- Drain and rinse 1 15 oz. can of kidney beans and 1 15 oz. can of black (or pinto) beans to remove any excess salt.
- Drain any liquid from 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes.
- Place the cooked ground beef mixture in the slow cooker along with the diced bell and poblano peppers, the drained and rinsed beans, and 2 cups of frozen corn.
- Add the drained diced tomatoes and 2 cups of crushed tomatoes to the slow cooker, along with 3 Tbsp. chili powder, 2 Tbsp. smoked paprika, 2 tsp. cumin, and ½ tsp. each kosher salt and pepper.
- Add 3 cups low sodium beef broth to the slow cooker and stir all of the ingredients until completely combined.
- Place the lid tightly on the slow cooker and cook on 'High' for 4-5 hours or 'Low' for 6-7 hours.
How To Thicken Chili
After the chili has cooked in the crockpot for 4-5 hours on 'High' or 6-8 hours on 'Low', it's time to thicken it up.
At some point, I saw that the Pioneer Woman uses masa harina to thicken her chili and once I tried it I was hooked.
This step is completed 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time. If cooking the chili on 'High' for 5 hours, add the masa harina mixture after 4 hours and 30 minutes.
- Remove 1 cup of the broth from the slow cooker with a glass measuring cup, or some other type of pourable vessel.
- Add ¼ cup masa harina to the broth and stir until completely combined with a small whisk or fork.
- Pour the masa paste into the slow cooker 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time and stir until completely combined.
- Replace the lid and cook for another 30 minutes, or until ready to serve.
What Is Masa Harina?
Masa harina is a very fine flour made from dried corn kernels. It's similar to corn flour, but softer and finer in texture.
It's used extensively in Mexican cooking to make everything from corn tortillas to tamales to sopes.
I love this stuff because it provides a great subtle corn flavor to the chili and accents the frozen corn that was added earlier in the cooking process.
It's also naturally gluten free, making it a great choice for those of us who can't eat gluten.
You can find a package of masa harina in the Mexican section of your local grocery store, in the natural foods section, at your local food coop, or it can be purchased online.
What Is A Substitute For Masa Harina?
Corn starch may be substituted for masa harina. Use the corn starch in the same way you would masa harina, adding ¼ cup of it to 1 cup of broth. This mixture creates a slurry and is added to the chili 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Alternately, you can use tomato paste instead of masa harina or corn starch. Simply add 2 Tbsp. tomato paste to the chili 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time and stir until combined.
Feel free to add even more tomato paste if necessary, until the chili reaches your desired thickness.
What To Serve With Beef Chili
After the chili has reached your desired thickness and all of the ingredients have cooked through, it's time to serve.
If you ask me, it's illegal to serve chili without toppings. For this recipe, I recommend some shredded cheese that melts easily, sliced avocado, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime.
Pepper Jack, Monterrey Jack, sharp cheddar, or Fontina are all cheeses that melt nicely. Queso fresco is a Mexican cheese that may be crumbled on top of the chili and is a great choice of topping.
Other tasty toppings include diced onions, jalapeno peppers, guacamole, scallions, sour cream, or tortilla chips.
This recipe is perfect served with corn tortillas or some homemade corn bread. The corn flavor of these items lends itself to the masa corn flavors in the chili.
Love hearty meals like this? Don't Miss These Recipes!
- Classic Hearty Beef Stew
- Red Wine Pot Roast
- Slow Cooker Barbacoa Tacos
- Instant Pot Pot Roast
- Dutch Oven Short Ribs
How Long Does Chili Last In Fridge?
This recipe makes a big batch of chili and is great for leftovers.
Allow the chili to cool completely before transferring to the fridge. Store in an airtight container for 4-5 days.
Can It Be Frozen?
Chili makes a great freezer meal!
How To Freeze:
- Prepare as directed and allow the chili to come to room temperature before freezing.
- Once cooled, place in heavy-duty freezer bags or airtight glass food container, label with the date, and freeze up to 3 months.
How To Thaw:
- Thaw overnight in the fridge and reheat on the stove top.
- You can also place the frozen soup in a Dutch Oven or heavy-bottomed soup pan, add some water or broth, thaw and reheat on the stove top.
- Once the chili has re-heated go ahead and add your favorite toppings (freeze chili without the toppings and add just before serving).
Love chili? Check out these recipes!
Looking For More Hearty Slow Cooker Meals? Don't Miss These!
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Crockpot Teriyaki Turkey Meatballs
- Slow Cooker Chicken Potato Soup
- Slow Cooker BBQ Chicken
- Crockpot Buffalo Chicken
- BBQ Turkey Meatballs
- Chicken Corn Soup
Looking For More Slow Cooker Beef Recipes?
Slow Cooker Beef Pho
Slow Cooker Korean Beef
Slow Cooker Pot Roast
Ground Beef Chili (Slow Cooker)
- Slow Cooker
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 onion any color
- 1 jalapeno seeds and membranes removed
- 1 bell pepper any color
- 1 poblano pepper seeds and membranes removed
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef or ground meat of choice
- 1 15 oz. can kidney beans
- 1 15 oz. can black beans or pinto beans
- 2 cups frozen corn
- 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups crushed tomatoes
- 3 Tbsp. chili powder
- 2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. cumin
- 1 tsp. kosher salt split
- 1 tsp. pepper split
- 3 cups low sodium beef broth
- ¼ cup masa harina
- Toppings such as queso fresco, avocado, cilantro, lime optional
Sauté The Ground Beef:
- Mince 6 cloves of garlic and 1 onion (any color). Mince 1 jalapeno pepper (remove seeds and membranes for less heat). Feel free to keep the seeds and membranes for a spicier chili.Alternately, you can leave out the jalapeno pepper altogether.
- Dice 1 bell pepper and 1 poblano pepper (remove seeds and membranes for less heat).
- Add 2 lbs. lean ground beef (or ground meat of choice) to the skillet along with ½ tsp. each of kosher salt and pepper. Break the meat apart with a spatula as it cooks.
- Sauté the ground beef for 10-12 minutes on medium-high, or until it is completely cooked through. Drain the excess fat from the meat and discard.
Prepare The Slow Cooker Chili:
- Drain and rinse 1 15 oz. can of pinto beans and 1 15 oz. can of black beans (or pinto beans) to remove any excess salt.
- Place the cooked ground beef mixture in the slow cooker, along with the diced bell and poblano peppers, the drained and rinsed beans, and 2 cups frozen corn. Pour 1 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes (drain any liquid from the can of tomatoes first) and 2 cups of crushed tomatoes into the slow cooker.
- Add 3 Tbsp. chili powder, 2 Tbsp. smoked paprika, 2 tsp. cumin, and ½ tsp. each kosher salt and pepper to the slow cooker.
- Pour 3 cups low sodium beef broth into the slow cooker and stir all of the ingredients together until completely combined.
- Place the lid tightly on the slow cooker and cook on 'High' for 4-5 hours or 'Low' for 6-7 hours.
- Remove 1 cup of broth from the slow cooker with a measuring cup. Add ¼ cup masa harina to the broth and stir together with a small whisk or fork until combined (these two ingredients will form a paste).Pour the masa paste into the slow cooker 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time and stir until completely combined. Replace the lid and cook for another 30 minutes or until ready to serve.
- To Serve: Serve with toppings of choice such as shredded cheese or queso fresco, sliced avocado, cilantro, diced onions or scallions, sour cream, tortilla chips or corn tortillas, and a squeeze of lime (optional).
I made this yesterday and it was absolutely delicious! The smoked paprika and chilli powder really work well together.
Hi Kate - So glad you enjoyed it! That smoked paprika is everything. 🙂