Fall: ah, the season when I feel like I come to life. Spring’s great, I like summer for the first ten minutes or so, and winter gets old pretty quick when there’s not much snow. But fall – that first taste of crisp, cool breezes; the colorful changing leaves; the ability to wear my favorite boots and a cozy, oversized sweater without breaking into a sweat – that is MY time. It makes me want to drink tea, go on hikes, and curl up with blankets and books and a cat to snuggle.
Growing up, I always looked forward to my dad’s first Crock Pot full of chili each fall; it just feels like a staple of the season. Something warm and spicy to complement the cooler air outside. He passed his recipe on to me, and as an adult, I’ve made a few modifications to make it my own – and now I share it with you, Nerdship.
Of course, since it’s Beer and Bacon Week, you’ll want to think carefully about what kind of beer you’d like to use in the chili, since that’s one of the signature ingredients. I’ll list all my favorite things to use in the chili, but feel free to play around and adjust it to match your own tastes! This isn’t the healthiest meal you’ll ever eat, but you won’t regret it, I promise.
You’ll need a Crock Pot (I use a six-quart) and a skillet or pot to brown the meat. If you want to make it vegetarian, just add a couple more cans of beans in place of the meat.
Beer-Infused Slow Cooker Chili
- 1 lb. lean ground beef
- 1 lb. smoked sausage
- 1 white onion, finely chopped
- 5 cans of beans (I like to use a medley of kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans – go for low-sodium if you can)
- 1 small can or jar of tomato paste
- 2 cans (or equivalent-size package) of diced tomatoes – I usually use the plain ones since I add lots of spices, but you can choose whatever flavor you’d like
- 2 packets of chili seasoning
- Barbecue sauce
- 1 bottle of beer (my favorite is Abita’s Pecan Harvest Ale, but it’s only available for a short time and can be hard to find. Lazy Magnolia’s Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is a good substitute – I like the nuttiness the pecan flavor adds, but you can go with whatever beer you’d like. Brown or red ales are probably best.)
- Couple squares of dark chocolate: I like to get 70% cacao or better
- Various spices: garlic, salt and pepper, cayenne, curry powder, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, whatever you’d like
- Toppings: sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, Fritos Scoops, sliced avocado, whatever else you’d like
This is where the fun begins. Go ahead and start filling up the Crock Pot with your beans (drain them and rinse if you want to minimize the sodium content even further), diced tomatoes, tomato paste, one packet of chili seasoning, barbecue sauce, dark chocolate, and spices (sprinkle them as liberally as you’d like).
Stir everything together and turn on the Crock Pot. Cook time is up to you: last time I made this I did it on High for four hours, but if you have more time you can do it on Low for 6-8; the longer it cooks the more the flavors will blend together.
Pour in your beer. I used to use half a bottle, but recently I’ve been using the whole bottle. It gives it a nice flavor. If you decide to only use half, you can sip the rest while you prepare the meat. Mmm, beer.
Once everything else is in the Crock Pot and warming up nicely, toss your beef and sausage into a skillet or pot and add your chopped onion. I like to spray the meat with a little grapeseed oil, and then sprinkle some garlic, salt and pepper, and heat it til it’s all nice and brown.
Stir your meat mixture into the Crock Pot. The chili’s probably starting to smell pretty good by now, and it’s likely warm enough for you to do a taste test.
Add any additional spices or another packet of chili seasoning if you’d like, and put the lid back on.
At this point, you might need to get out of the house in order to ignore the growling your stomach will be making by now.
Invite some friends over to share your gigantic pot of chili, or hoard the whole thing for yourself – you’ll have enough to eat all week, I promise! I like to add a dollop of sour cream and some cheese, maybe a couple of slices of avocado, then stir it all up and use the Fritos to scoop it into my mouth. Yummmmmmm.
Of course, don’t forget another beer to sip while you eat your chili. Enjoy!