Slow Cooker Chili con Carne

Chile con Carne
Slow Cooker Chili con Carne

It is 5am but I have given up on sleep. I awoke from a nightmare at 4am, and have been up since. Writing this post seemed like the thing to do when I finally gave up on sleeping, because in the quiet it's easy to write, and because the warmth of my own kitchen was exactly the comfort I needed in that moment. It is a bit to early to eat Chili con Carne, so I'm drinking coffee as I write this instead, and it'll do. 

I knew it was a dream, because I wasn't me, and I didn't know the people I was with. Still, it was vivid. I drove down the highway, with a passenger--a man- in the seat to my right, and two people in the back. I saw it as it happened, some twenty cars ahead of me: a collision. And then before I even had time to blink an eye, the car in front of me had halted. It seemed bigger than it had before. Is that possible? Either way, the vehicle in front of us was closer to my windshield than felt possible, and even though I was already braking it was too late. I felt myself flying forward, now in slow motion, and wondered for a split second if the airbags would go off, and what they would feel like. 

I woke then, with a start. My heart racing, panic in my breath, and a scream in my throat. For a few minutes, I could still picture it perfectly, and wondered their fate. But I knew. It seemed an odd dream to me: I had no idea who the people were, and for the life of me I couldn't remember the beginning of the dream, the part that gave some context. I hardly ever remember my dreams, once a year at most. 

And there I was, back in my own room, under the covers (which were much too warm), with no sounds but the wind lapping the window and my own elevated heart rate. I rolled over and checked the time: 4am. I knew I wouldn't be able to get back to sleep, but I tried anyways. For an hour I laid there, thinking first of the dream and then letting my mind wander. It stumbled straight to this chili con carne. Perhaps it was just the growing anxiety that I needed to write this post and was procrastinating, or perhaps I was seeking comfort. The kitchen--cooking- has always been comfort to me. And what is more comforting that a steaming bowl of spicy stew? Plus, my tummy rumbled.

My mind hovered there for several minutes: guajillo chilis aren't very spicy but they have solid flavor, especially when turned into a sauce. This particular slow cooked chili con carne also calls for a tablespoon of cocoa powder--something my roommate was skeptical of- but it lends a smooth, rich note that you wouldn't otherwise get. There's no taste of chocolate, just an added richness that provides the chilis with a backdrop. 

Sauce aside this stew is simple, and exactly what it sounds like. Meat in chili sauce. You put beef chuck in your Instant Pot/Slow Cooker (affiliate link), and you add the sauce. That's it! I also like to add some red kidney beans, but this is completely optional (skip them for Paleo). And since the stew is so simple, it gives you time and room to play with toppings. Fresh cilantro, avocado, slices of lime, or minced red onion. Cheese is pretty good too (duh). 

Slow Cooker Chili con Carne
Slow Cooker Chili con Carne

Slow Cooker Chili con Carne

Published January 9, 2018 by
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Serves: 6   |    Total Time: 12.5 hrs


  • 4 dried guajillo chiles (find them in the ethnic food isle, or online here (affiliate link))
  • 3 cups broth (beef or chicken)
  • 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
  • 1 tablespoon ancho chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional, adds spice)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice 
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil 
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cubed
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves 
  • Optional: 1 14-ounce can red kidney beans, strained and rinsed (skip for Paleo-friendly)
  • For serving: cilantro, red onion, avocado, limes


  1. Heat a skillet over medium heat, and toast the chiles until they are fragrant. Then, carefully remove the stems and place the chiles in a blender jar along with the broth, chipotle chiles, chili powder, optional cayenne, salt, black pepper, can of tomatoes, cumin, oregano, coriander, allspice, cocoa powder, and lime juice. Blender until smooth, and set aside.
  2. Set your Instant Pot or Slow Cooker to the Sauté setting, and heat the coconut oil. Once it glistens, add the beef chuck, browning the pieces on all sides (about 3 minutes each side). Add the onion and garlic, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. (Note: if your slow cooker does not have this setting, use a skillet on the stove over medium heat, and then transfer meat, garlic and onions to your slow cooker).
  3. Pour sauce into slow cooker over meat, and add two bay leaves. Add red kidney beans at this time if using. Stir and then secure lid on pot. Set to medium heat and cook for 12 hours.
  4. When ready to serve, garnish with cilantro, red onion, and lime wedges.