Christmas Eve Chili

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This warming beef chili will become a winter staple in your home. Make it in the slow cooker or Instant Pot!

Something I never get tired of when the holidays roll around is seeing how all of my friends celebrate. The most important part of any celebration is the food, right?

When I was a kid we would either spend Christmas Eve at home, or at my grandparents’ house a few hours away. No matter where we were, though, chili was on the table that night.

Beef chili in two mugs with cheese and jalapenos

We didn’t question it, even though as a child I refused to eat the kidney beans or whatever random ingredient my grandmother decided to add that year. (One time it was corn, which I’ve never gotten over.)

Now that my brother and I are grown and we all live in different states, it’s up to us to keep this tradition alive. We’re more than happy to — who doesn’t enjoy a warm bowl of chili on a cold night?

ingredients for beef chili

My family never really followed a recipe. That resulted in a few clunkers among the chili batches over the years. A few years ago I started writing down what I did, and now I have our standard family recipe.

Chili needs chili powder (of course). I also use cumin, ginger, smoked paprika, oregano, and cocoa powder. Trust me, the cocoa powder does not make the beef chili taste like chocolate!

I recommend increasing the heat incrementally, depending on who is eating. We often serve this chili to kids, so we keep it on the milder side with hot sauce on the table for adults.

Make sure to mix the spices together before adding to the chili. This helps them get evenly distributed and fully flavors the chili.

Kidney beans always featured in the chili I had as a kid, but I prefer black beans. Feel free to use black beans, kidney beans, or pinto beans in your chili. You can even use chili beans, which come in a spicy sauce, if you prefer.

Overhead chili in two bowls

how to make chili in the slow cooker

When it comes to making beef chili on Christmas Eve, the slow cooker is my go-to.

Although we try to get everything done for the holiday in advance, somehow we always end up running around on Christmas Eve. Having the chili simmering away all day ensures I don’t somehow forget we need to eat.

Plus, I love the aroma of chili cooking all day. It definitely makes any cold day feel warmer!

If you don’t have a slow cooker with a sauté option, you’ll need to use the stovetop to brown your meat first. I also like to sauté the onions a bit before adding the other ingredients.

Mix in the spices before adding the rest of your ingredients to ensure it gets evenly distributed. Transfer it all to the slow cooker, add the remaining ingredients, and set it for 4-8 hours, depending on when you want to eat.

beef chili close up with cheese and jalapenos

how to make chili in the Instant Pot

On weekdays or busy weekends I turn to the Instant Pot to make this beef chili. It’s especially great if I have to cook the beans from scratch, which takes about 40 minutes total.

Sauté the beef and onions right in the Instant Pot, then mix in the spices and stir vigorously. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, close the lid, and set to Meat/Chili.

It will take about 40 minutes, including the time it takes to get to pressure. If you’re not ready to eat when the timer goes off, don’t worry. The Instant Pot will default to the Keep Warm setting until the dinner bell rings!

beef chili in white bowl

what to serve with beef chili

While you don’t need to go all out and turn this into 5-way Cincinnati chili, a few things are a must to have on the table when serving chili.

As a Wisconsinite, grated cheddar is essential. As an adopted Texan, you can’t forget the pickled jalapeños! You can also add corn chips to make this into Frito pie.

If you prefer your carbs on the side, try my buttermilk herb rolls or hatch cheddar biscuits!

Don’t like beef? Try my pumpkin turkey chili instead!

Beef Chili

This warming beef chili will become a winter staple in your home. Make it in the slow cooker or Instant Pot!
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 8 hrs
Total Time 8 hrs 10 mins
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 386 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1/2 cup dried black beans, or 1 15-ounce can
  • 1 1/3 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 28 ounces diced tomatoes, or diced tomatoes with chiles
  • 1/2 cup diced bell pepper

Instructions

  • Cook beans according to package directions and set aside.
  • In a saute pan over medium high heat or slow cooker on saute mode, cook ground beef until browned, about 8 minutes. Halfway through, add onions.
  • Stir together spices in a small bowl then scatter over the meat. Stir to incorporate fully.
  • Pour meat and onion mixture, beans, tomatoes, and bell pepper into slow cooker. Cover and set for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low.

Nutrition

Serving: 1 gCalories: 386 kcalCarbohydrates: 22 gProtein: 33 gFat: 19 gSaturated Fat: 7 gCholesterol: 89 mgSodium: 675 mgFiber: 7 gSugar: 7 g
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