Summer is officially on the horizon, and that means outdoor barbeques and cookouts are likely in your future. One of the best aspects of summer is coming together with family and friends for a meal enjoyed al fresco in the backyard, on the patio, or a rooftop (if you're so lucky).
And while good old-fashioned chili may be be more associated with fall and winter than summer cooking, it's actually a great option for warm weather entertaining. It's always a crowd pleaser, and it's an easy main course to whip up in large batches for parties. It's also an incredibly versatile dish, meaning you can throw together a recipe that meat-eaters will love or one that vegetarians will appreciate (Or both!). Oh, and did we mention that you can make it all in your handy slow cooker?
This summer, try your hand at one of these crazy easy slow cooker chili recipes. From smokey barbecue chicken chili to a veggie-packed lentil creation, there's something for everyone. Ahead, discover 10 mouthwatering slow-cooker chili recipes perfect for a relaxing summer afternoon or even a neighborhood chili cookoff.
Turkey and White Bean Chili
The Recipe: Healthy Slow Cooker Turkey and White Bean Chili
The Hero Ingredient: Surprisingly, the secret ingredient in this healthy chili recipe is apple butter. It gives the dish a touch of sweetness that works to balance out the other spicey flavors.
Pro Tip: Don't forget to brown the ground turkey on the stove before you toss it in the slow cooker. "I know that this extra step is a bit of a pain, but trust me, when working with ground meat, it's a step you have to take," Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest explains.
Why We Love It: This is one chili recipe that you can enjoy knowing you've made a healthy choice. Instead of red meat, it calls for ground turkey, bell peppers, and white beans.
White Chicken Chili
The Recipe: Crockpot White Chicken Chili
The Hero Ingredient: Fire-roasted green chiles give this dish its powerful flavor. The chili wouldn't be the same without them.
Pro Tip: This chili is so hearty and thick, Chelsea Lords of Chelsea's Messy Apron says you can use it as a dip. "Fill up a bowl with it and serve with a bag of chips and you’ll have the ultimate game day food," she writes.
Why We Love It: It will only take you about ten minutes to get this chili prepped and ready to go. From there, all of the work is done directly in the slow cooker so you can simply set it and forget it.
BBQ Chicken Chili
The Recipe: BBQ Chicken Chili
The Hero Ingredient: The star of this recipe has to be liquid smoke. Although it sounds like magic, you can pick it up at the grocery store (usually near the barbecue sauce). It's what gives this chili its intense smoked barbecue flavor.
Pro Tip: "If you don’t have a slow cooker or don’t have time to wait because you want to eat the chili right now, then you just add the step of browning the chicken for a couple minutes then proceed to add the ingredients to your Dutch Oven/soup pot and simmer away," explains Jennifer Sattley, the cook behind Carlsbad Cravings.
Why We Love It: The ultimate comfort food, this BBQ-inspired chili is both smokey and sweet. It offers the taste of a day-long barbecue with a fraction of the effort.
Moroccan Lamb Chili
The Hero Ingredient: Harissa gives this Moroccan-inspired dish a signature spicy kick that's reminiscent of flavors found in a traditional lamb tagine.
Pro Tip: Phoebe Lapine of Feed Me Phoebe suggests you whip up this chili for a special occasion that calls for celebrating.
Why We Love It: No ordinary slow-cooker chili, this recipe calls for bold flavors and ingredients like ground lamb, harissa, cumin, tomatoes, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and kale. It's healthy and completely unexpected.
The Recipe: Crockpot Paleo Chili
The Hero Ingredient: A slowly braised chuck roast creates the base of this hearty chili. Its tender texture will have you going back for seconds.
Pro Tip: "Chili in itself can be a relatively healthy meal, but much of the dieting community frowns on legumes, so as much as I love them, we've chosen to omit them here," Natalie Mortimer of The Modern Proper explains.
Why We Love It: This recipe will help you put together an easy, healthy dinner in a snap. Its paleo-friendly lineup calls for ingredients like chuck roast, ground beef, zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, and plenty of seasonings.
Turkey and Sweet Potato Chili with Quinoa
The Hero Ingredient: Quinoa makes this chili recipe stand out from the rest and adds a boost of healthy protein.
Pro Tip: Although you can cook the turkey and vegetables in a slow cooker, in a skillet or Dutch oven, Heidi Larsen of Foodie Crush notes that she prefers to make it quickly in an Instant Pot.
Why We Love It: As tasty and comforting as this slow-cooker chili recipe is, it's also quite healthy, thanks to the use of lean ground turkey, kidney beans, and quinoa. It's sure to keep you full and satisfied.
Coconut Lime White Chicken Chili
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Coconut Lime White Chicken Chili
The Hero Ingredient: Coconut milk acts as the base for this slow cooker chili recipe. It's what gives the mixture its smooth texture and subtle coconut flavor.
Pro Tip: You can use frozen chicken breasts right out of the freezer without even letting them thaw first. "This soup is a busy mama's dream come true," according to Melanie Bauer, the author of Melanie Makes.
Why We Love It: This recipe requires hardly any work. You don't even have to chop up the vegetables or brown the meat before tossing all of your ingredients into the slow cooker to let it do its thing. Plus, this dish is bursting with delicious flavors to boot.
Chipotle Chicken Tamale Chili
The Recipe: Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Tamale Chili
The Hero Ingredient: An unexpected ingredient, cornmeal is what makes this chili thick and creamy. Gerard recommends using Bob's Red Mill Cornmeal.
Pro Tip: "If you guys like tamales and you like chicken tortilla soup, then this is your kind of chili. It’s basically a cross between those two recipes and it is delicious," Gerard writes.
Why We Love It: Although this chili is inspired by the Mexican flavors found in traditional tamales, it's not nearly as complicated to make as tamales are.
Lentil Chili with Black Beans, Pumpkin, and Kale
The Hero Ingredient: Lentils are the star of this vegetarian chili. They add a kick of healthy protein to the veggie-packed dish.
Pro Tip: Top this chili with lime wedges, fresh cilantro leaves, diced avocado, sliced jalapeño, a dollop of Greek yogurt, or shredded cheese, Lapine suggests.
Why We Love It: Despite its vegetarian-friendly ingredients, even ardent meat-eaters will appreciate this chili's hearty texture and robust flavors. It calls for ingredients like kale, pumpkin puree, black beans, green lentils, tomatoes, and traditional seasonings.
Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili
The Recipe: Easy Crockpot Creamy Chicken Enchilada Chili
The Hero Ingredient: The right enchilada sauce is the hero of this chili. Your choice of mild, medium, or spicy will dictate just how spicy the dish turns out.
Pro Tip: "You could add in some jalapeños or extra green chilis—whatever you like that gives a chicken chili more 'spice' should work well in this soup," according to Lords.
Why We Love It: This simple chili recipe calls for all of the classic enchilada ingredients like tomatoes, green chilies, chili beans, corn, and chicken. Once it all comes together in the slow cooker, you can top it with your choice of add-ons like sour cream, cheddar cheese, avocado, or fresh lime juice.