This super easy chunky beef chilli recipe takes all the fuss out of making a great Mexican chilli con carne, but doesn’t sacrifice on flavour. It’s a simple slow cooker chunky beef chilli that uses diced steak rather than mince to create a delicious melt in the mouth texture. Using chocolate and quality spicing means we get a delicious deep and rich chilli for only 5 minutes of prep.
Where does the recipe come from?
This is (almost) an award winning recipe. If the ultimate inspiration comes from classic Mexican beef chilli, the fine details come from my recollection of a recipe from a Chilli shop in Edinburgh.
The original recipe was an absolutely cracking chunky beef chilli with chocolate that won Scotland’s best chilli recipe (allegedly). I made their recipe was when I started loving chillies, and when I started making my meat chillies with diced steak instead of mince.
I say it’s almost an award winning recipe, because I can’t remember their exact recipe. However, to me this one tastes pretty much the same, and I love it. The keys behind this slow cooker chunky beef chilli recipe are all there in the title! It’s slow cooked, it uses chunky beef, and it uses quality chillies!!
Shortly, we’ll have a long chat about chillies (though do feel free to skip to the recipe at the bottom).
First though, a note on slow cookers and browning meat!
So, I imaging I will be courting controversy by essentially bunging everything in the slow cooker, without sautéing the onions or browning the beef. It goes against everything that we should do, right?
Well, yes. Browing the meat properly does intensify the flavour of a stew. No denying it. It also toughens the meat, which you don’t want. And, in the worst case scenario – which is more common than you’d think – you’re making the meat tougher without any change in taste!
But, very seldom does anyone have the time or effort to brown it properly. And I didn’t even realise, for a long time, that all my alleged browning of the meat was actually meaningless and achieving nothing!
Basically, to brown meat properly you need a high heat and a dry temperature, this means cooking the meat in small batches and it takes a long time. It also means that if there is too much moisture the meat will cook, but not brown and you’ll get badly cooked, not that tasty, tough meat…
The entire point, though, of a slow cooker, is to take away all that faff and washing up and have an easy way to create a traditionally complicated meal. For me, the trade off in time-effort vs taste and likely failure isn’t worth it. And I haven’t really noticed a difference since I went al fresco with my meat.
If you want a more thorough explanation/you don’t believe me just read this post –> on Serious Eat:Stew Science!!!
A note on chillies!
So, I love chillies. More than is good for me I’m sure. But they are great for adding flavour and depth to a meal.
You definitely don’t need to use fresh or fancy dried chillies to get a great chilli con carne. Shop bought chilli powder contains a mix of chillies, as well as typically garlic, oregano and cumin (on top of what you’ll be adding!) so provides a great flavour profile and a good kick of heat.
However, if you do want to use some fun dried chillies it provides two major benefits:
- The opportunity to choose exactly how how and what other flavours you want to get from you chillies
- You get to ramble on and on at the table about different types of chilli and how great they are 🤡
So, what’s so great and different about chillies?
Until recently I thought of chillies as essentially one of three things, chilli flakes, chilli powder (which I conflated with curry powder) and dried chillies (which tend to be bird’s eye chillies).
Little did I realise the depth and complexity of the various chillies, and how choosing the right chilli or combination of chillies has a huge impact on the flavour profile of a dish, far beyond how hot it will be.
This is especially true when you cook something slowly. We can probably all relate to how a curry is often hotter and tastier the second time we heat it up. In this slow cooker chunky beef chilli the chillies have a long time to infuse their taste throughout the stew. This means you get the reheating effect on flavour the first time of eating.
Ultimately, the heat of a chilli is important though:
The hotness of a chilli is, of course, a major part of their difference. The heat of which is measure by the ‘Scoville heat scale’. This all important scale is named after a Mr Wilbur Scoville who was born sometime in the late 1800s and died in 1942. The pinnacle of his career, which is of course the creation of his Chilli scale, was developed in 1912 – essentially, it’s a measure of how much you have to dilute the chilli extract until it becomes undetectable.
Here’s a few of my favourites from the chilli/capsicum family, in order of least to most fun/hot with their respective Scoville heat units listed alongside.
Sweet bell pepper – 0
Ancho pepper – 1000 to 2500
Pasilla – 1000 to 2500
Mulato – 1000 to 2500
Jalapeno – 2500 to 5000
Chipotle (aka smoked jalapeno) – 5000 to 10000
de Arbol – 15000 to 30000
Cayenne – 30000 to 50000
Birds eye – 100000 to 250000
What to use in a Mexican beef chilli recipe?
My go to combo is as follows:
One Chipotle pepper, a hot chilli with a delicious smokey flavour. It is in fact a smoked jalapeño, and that smokiness over the course of several hours really exudes into the whole dish. It also packs a punch, adding a good bit of fire to the dish. If you’re a bit spice cautious, try half a chilli or less first and add more the next time you make the dish.
One or two ancho chillies – these are dried chillies that are really sweet and fruity. They are mild in heat, and adding them is much more about their flavour than the spice. But a couple will give a pleasant warmth. They’re also great in Mole – a chocolate-based Mexican stew – thanks to their sweet flavours.
One or two mulato peppers – these are also sweet, but a bit richer and almost chocolate-y to smell. Again mild in spice, but really add depth of flavour to a stew! Another that does well in Mole.
What don’t I add? I don’t add bird’s eye chillies, ever (to stews). These are called Thai chillies though they come from Mexico. They are very hot and they deliver one cracker of a punch. I do love them in Thai food, and I sometimes use them to spice up a curry. But they don’t, for me, any any interest to something that is supposed to be a deep and complex flavour like a chilli. They’re more suited to sweet and crunchy dishes (like papaya salad) where being hit in the face by a wall of spice doesn’t overwhelm all the other flavours and textures.
The reason I say this, is because bird’s eye chillies are the easiest dried chillies to acquire in the UK. They’re the ones that tend to be in the dried chilli pots in the spice aisle.
The same goes for De Arbol, which make a great salsa on the side, but don’t add much for me to a chilli.
Where can you get some chillies??
Just click HERE – this company is amazing. They’re called ‘Spices on the web’ and used to be called ‘Chillies on the web’. They have a huge array of great chillies and spices, they have videos showing you how to prep them.
They also have a big array of recipes that you can use them in. This includes several takes on their own chunky beef chilli recipe. Feel free to browse and experiment – if you find something great let me know.
Either way, when it comes to Mexican chillies… Buy now and don’t look back!
Want more Mexican food? Want a different chilli? Look no further, try these.
Slow cooker chunky beef chilli recipe
- 500g lean beef chunks
- 1 medium onions
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 400g can of kidney, pinto or black beans
- 400g chopped tomatoes
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 cup water
- 1 beef stock cube/pot
- 1 tbsp paprika
- 2 tbsp oregano
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 2 tbsp dark sugar
- 2 tbsp corn flour
- salt and pepper to taste
The chilli options, choose one of these options:
- 1 tsp hot chilli powder
- 1 tbsp mild chilli powder
- 3 chillies, rehydrated, deseeded and chopped (see notes above!)
- Finely chop your onions and garlic, roughly chop your bell pepper. Simply add to the slow cooker/crockpot and
- If you wish, you can brown off your onions and garlic and beef in a separate pan (or the same casserole dish if you wish), however, see my notes above on this.
- Next, simply add all your other ingredients to the pot, except for the flour, and mix well. Make sure you crumble to stock in well, or dissolve in the water first.
- Put your slow cooker on high for 4-6 hours, or low for 8-10 hours.
- An hour before ready to serve, check the consistency – add half your cornflower if the sauce is too thin. Check again in another half hour and add the rest of the cornflour if still needed!
- Serve with rice, tortillas or salad. Garnish with sour cream, salsa or avocado! A little bit of manchego cheese never goes amiss either.
What to do with leftovers?
- This can easily keep in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for a couple of months. Reheating in a pan or the microwave is easy.
- It also makes for a great filling for a burrito, simply ad
- Or use it to top some nachos, reheat then pour over the nachos in an oven proof dish. Grate some cheese on top before grilling for a few minutes until the cheese is bubbling