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Warm and filling, the heat of this Tex Mex chili can easily be adjusted to your taste.

This Southwest chili is hearty, filling, and a little bit spicy. Enjoy a piping hot bowl on a cold day!

Thick and spicy Southwest chili, loaded with big chunks of beef and red kidney beans, gets kicked up a notch with jalapeños and fire-roasted green chiles.

Most recipes start with the basics—meat, beans, tomatoes, and onions—and after that, the creativity begins. This slow cooker Tex Mex chili combines all of that and more into a thick and hearty stew.

If you’re looking for something a little milder, try my easy ground beef version instead. I also have a creamy white chicken chili that can be made in the Instant Pot in just 30 minutes!

a bowl of slow cooker southwest chili garnished with green onions and cilantro on a plate.

Key ingredients & substitutions for Southwest Chili

  • Beef — Lean stew meat becomes incredibly tender in the slow cooker, which makes it perfect for this recipe! If the pieces are large, cut them into smaller 1-inch chunks.
  • Tomatoes — You’ll need diced tomatoes, as well as sauce and paste, to create a savory base for this dish.
  • Chile peppers — Be sure to remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapeños, unless you like your Tex Mex chili extra spicy! You can also use fewer jalapeños and mild versus fire-roasted green chiles to suit your palate.
  • Kidney beans — Drain and rinse the beans to remove the excess salt before adding them to your slow cooker.
  • Corn — The sweetness from the kernels helps balance the heat and spice. Feel free to use fresh corn when it’s in season. One can typically contains about 2 ears’ worth of kernels.
  • Spices — I use plenty of chili powder, which is a blend of ground red chile peppers, garlic and onion powder, oregano, and cumin. Some versions also contain paprika, cinnamon, and even cocoa powder! Use your favorite store-bought version or homemade blend.

tip

  • I recommend wearing disposable gloves when handling hot peppers like jalapeños. These contain an oil (capsaicin) that can be irritating to the skin and eyes, and it’s easy to miss a few spots when washing with soap and water.

How to make Tex Mex chili?

process steps for making slow cooker southwest chili: brown stew beef; saute onions, jalapeno, and garlic; add tomato sauce, tomato paste, green chilies, and spices; pour into slow cooker.

STEP 1 | Brown the meat

Heat oil in a large skillet, then cook the beef until it’s browned on all sides. This extra step helps to lock in the juices and adds another layer of flavor to the dish.

STEP 2 | Cook vegetables

Transfer the beef to the slow cooker, then add the onion, jalapeño, and garlic to the same pan. Saute until the onions are softened and translucent.

STEP 3 | Simmer the sauce

Stir the green chiles and diced tomatoes into the mixture with the sauce, paste, and spices. Simmer for about 5 minutes.

STEP 4 | Cover and cook

Pour the skillet mixture over the beef, then add in the drained kidney beans and corn. Set the slow cooker to Low for 6 hours, then serve up this Southwest chili with all your favorite toppings!

top down view of a bowl of southwest chili with cheddar cheese on top.

tips

  • Short on time? You can certainly skip the stovetop portion and add everything straight to your crockpot. However, you’ll miss out on loads of flavor!
  • If you know you’ll be in a rush, brown the meat and cook the sauce the night before. Store them in the refrigerator in sealed containers, then combine everything in the crock as you head out the door.

a spoonful of slow cooker southwest chili being lifted out of a bowl.

Frequently asked questions

What is lean stew beef?

It’s a combination of several cuts—typically chuck or shoulder—with some marbling and lots of connective tissue. These cuts would typically be very tough, but cooking them low and slow breaks down that connective tissue for perfectly tender bites.

You can find packages labeled as stew meat in the meat case or ask your butcher to prepare some for you.

What’s a good substitute for kidney beans?

This Southwest chili recipe is quite versatile, so you can easily add or replace whatever you would like. Black, pinto, or even cannellini beans would all taste just as delicious.

Can I freeze leftover chili?

Yes! While leftovers are good for about 3 days in the refrigerator, you can store them for up to 6 months in the freezer! Allow the stew to cool, then transfer to freezer-safe containers or storage bags for storage.

Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and reheat in the microwave or on the stove.

a bowl of slow cooker southwest chili garnished with green onions and cilantro with a corn muffin on a plate.

Serving suggestions

Sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese, green onions, or cilantro over the top of each bowl. You could even add a dollop of sour cream or crema!

This slow cooker Tex Mex chili pairs wonderfully with my Mexican cornbread muffins. Or, add a simple green salad for a lighter side.

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or on your favorite Pinterest board!

a bowl of slow cooker southwest chili garnished with shredded cheese sitting on a plate.

Slow Cooker Southwest Chili

Thick and spicy Southwest chili, loaded with big chunks of beef and red kidney beans, gets kicked up a notch with jalapeños and fire-roasted green chiles.
4.23 from 9 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 6 hrs
Total Time 6 hrs 15 mins
Course Soups & Stews
Cuisine TexMex
Servings 6 servings
Calories 487 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. lean stew beef cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large onion diced
  • 1-2 medium jalapeño peppers seeded and diced
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • 3 8 oz. cans tomato sauce
  • 1 6 oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 4 oz. can diced fire-roasted green chilies
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 15 oz. cans light red kidney beans rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn drained

Instructions
 

  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and cook and stir until browned; about 10 minutes. Remove the beef with a slotted spoon and place in the bottom of slow cooker.
  • In the same skillet, add the diced onion, jalapeño peppers, and garlic. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Stir in the tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato paste, and green chilies. Add the spices and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
  • Pour mixture into slow cooker. Stir in the kidney beans and corn.
  • Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. If desired, serve with shredded sharp cheddar cheese, diced green onions, or cilantro.

Notes

  • I recommend wearing disposable gloves when handling hot peppers like jalapeños. These contain an oil (capsaicin) that can be irritating to the skin and eyes, and it’s easy to miss a few spots when washing with soap and water.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 487kcalCarbohydrates: 47gProtein: 52gFat: 12gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 112mgSodium: 762mgFiber: 14gSugar: 8g
Keyword chili, crock pot, kidney beans, slow-cooker, southwest chili, stew beef
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
sheila thigpen in her kitchen

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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