Killer Slow Cooker Chili
Mains,  Meals & Planning,  Recipes,  Special Diets

No Beans About It – Killer Slow Cooker Chili

It’s chilly outside, which makes me think of the other chili. Specifically, a chili with no beans, that was easy to make, is steaming hot, yummy for my tummy, and makes me the opposite of chilly. Now that I’ve confused myself, let’s talk about an amazing, meat-and-veggie heavy chili.

For me, chili has traditionally been a bean-and-meat affair, with a somewhat spicy, somewhat tomato-y sauce that bubbled on the stovetop for a couple of hours. This recipe skips the beans, has more meat, more vegetables, and took me no time to put together in the slow cooker. The spice profile is still classic Southwest-inspired.

cumin chili powder pepper salt
Cumin, chili powder, pepper, salt – yummy.

Why This Is My Go-To No-Bean Chili

1. It’s Beanless Chili

Nothing against beans. Add them if you want! I’d prefer nutrient-dense vegetables and meat stand in for beans. Plus, I just like meat and veggies better than beans.

2. Easiest Chili to Prep. Thank You Slow Cooker!

Chop a few veggies (5 minutes) and put it all into your slow cooker on low heat. Ignore for 8 hours. Eat. Love!

This chili is substitute-friendly! Add different vegetables, swap out the meats, make it on the stovetop (it will take about an hour). It’s chili – make it your own.

3. Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Diabetic-Friendly

A lot of homemade chilis are gluten- and dairy-free as written. Since this recipe doesn’t have beans, it is also lower in carbs, with just ~10 g net carbs per serving.

4. This Chili is Nutritious (and Delicious)

First, red meat is full of complete protein – a 4-oz serving of ground beef has over 20 grams.

Also, beef is an excellent source of multiple B Vitamins (including B12), zinc, and selenium; and a good source of iron. All of these nutrients are essential for our bodies but often lacking, especially in women’s diets.

Vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and celery are full of antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber.

5. Chili For Athletes?

Oh yeah. If you’re an athlete, this chili makes the perfect post-workout meal with one modification. That is, increase the carbs. Delicious and easy ways to add some carbs:

  • Carby Veggies: add 2 cups or so chopped sweet potatoes, white potatoes, winter squash, or corn to the slow cooker.
  • Carbs on the inside: Add a can of beans or cup of quinoa or rice to the slow cooker.
  • Carbs on the outside: Enjoy chili with corn chips, corn bread, or wrapped in a tortilla.
Brrr! She could use some No Bean Slow Cooker Chili to warm up after this jog!

The nutrition profile for this chili – high protein and sodium, plus a few carbs – is ideal for rebuilding muscle and replenishing glycogen after a hard workout.

Health Matters: What’s the Beef With Beef?

We’ve all heard about or read studies where red meat causes everything from obesity to cancer. In my opinion, there are multiple factors, other than red meat, that influence a person’s chronic disease risk. Check out my post on why people should eat meat for more info.

Aside: What’s “red” meat anyway?

The culinary definition of red meat is: the meat from adult or “gamey” mammals (for example, beef, horse (!), mutton, venison, bison, boar hare).

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), all meats obtained from mammals, regardless of cut or age, are red meats because they contain more myoglobin (a protein that holds oxygen in the muscle) than fish or chicken.

Confusing? A little. For the purpose of this recipe and post, just know that beef is red meat.

Why are beef and red meat blamed for health problems?

It’s complicated, but here’s the gist. A lot of red meat consumed in the US is in the form of processed meats. Examples of processed meats include sausages, salami, jerky, and deli meats. The biggest red meat health risk comes from chemicals that are added or created during the preservation process of these meats. Not to mention the fact that non-meat ingredients like starches, binders, sugar, etc. are mixed in. Additionally, a lot of red meat is consumed alongside true bad actors like soda, alcohol, cheese puffs … need I say more?

So, stick to unprocessed red meat as much as possible. That is to say, meat that only has one ingredient … the meat.

If you are able to find and afford it, buy grass-fed beef. Studies have shown that grass fed (and finished) beef is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function (and lacking in the Standard American Diet).

Ready to tuck into a nourishing and delicious bowl of chili? Here’s what you do:

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small bowl of chili

No Bean Slow Cooker Chili

  • Author: Brook Hagen
  • Total Time: Variable
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


This delicious chili takes about 30 minutes to put together, and it is full of classic chili flavors and vegetables. Simply toss all the ingredients into the slow cooker in the morning, turn it on low, come back at dinnertime, and enjoy!

The nutrition information is based on using 85% lean ground beef. 

This recipe was inspired by Bison Chili.



2 lbs ground beef (or bison, turkey, pork)

1 large onion, chopped

4 stalks of celery, chopped

1 tablespoon of jarred, minced garlic (or 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced)

1 4-oz can of green chiles

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

12 oz of jarred salsa (I like Pace Picante, medium)

2 teaspoons cumin

2 teaspoons thyme, dried

2 teaspoons chili powder

1 teaspoon salt

pepper to taste


  1. Grab your slow cooker. Grease or nonstick spray the bottom and sides.
  2. Put the meat in the slow cooker. Optional: Use your hands or a spatula to break up the meat into small chunks. I usually just put it in as-is and leave it. 
  3. Add all the other ingredients to the slow cooker. On top of the meat, I add the fresh veggies, followed by the spices and herbs, and the canned/jarred ingredients go in last.
  4. Optional Stirring: Stir if you want. I usually don’t
  5. Set your slow cooker to low for 8 – 10 hours, or high for 4 – 6 hours.
  6. Stir: At the end of cooking (or anytime you feel like it during), stir the ingredients. The meat will be fully or partially cooked, which will help it to break apart.
  7. Serve.


Meat variations:

I’ve used ground pork, venison and elk, with great results. I’m sure bison would work great as well. Although I’ve not tried ground poultry, chicken or turkey would be other options.

Vegetable substitutes and variations: 

My family is not a huge fan of celery, so sometimes I leave it out. Favorite substitutes for celery are:

  • Cubed sweet potatoes or squash
  • Sliced mushrooms
  • Chopped bell peppers
  • Broccoli or cauliflower florets

Sometimes, I’ll add more vegetables if I want to add bulk to the recipe or feel like I need more veggies in my life that day. The recipe is very flexible.

Serving suggestions:

  • I like it just as it is.
  • Tortilla chips on the side or for dipping.
  • Add a chopped avocado or a spoonful of guacamole (my favorite add-in).
  • Dairy options – top the chili with shredded cheese or sour cream.


This chili makes awesome leftovers! Wrap it in a tortilla (burrito), spoon it over tortilla or veggie chips and broil (nachos), or reheat and put it on top of a salad for a quick lunch.

  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 – 8 hours
  • Category: Main, Soups & Stews
  • Method: Slow Cooker


  • Serving Size: Approx. 1.5 cups
  • Calories: 386
  • Sugar: 7.7 g
  • Sodium: 1225 mg
  • Fat: 23.1 g
  • Saturated Fat: 9.4 g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 13.7 g
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Carbohydrates: 15.0 g
  • Fiber: 4.4 g
  • Protein: 29.7 g
  • Cholesterol: 100 mg

Keywords: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Grain-free, Diabetic-friendly

A little cilantro, lime, and jalapeño on top – yes, please!

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling warmer already!

If you try this recipe, including any variations, please rate it and let me know what you think!!


Red Meat

Why is beef called a “red” meat?

Processed meat and cancer: What you need to know

ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life