The Best Steak Chili (for Slow Cooker or Instant Pot)
This chili recipe is, hands down, the best chili I’ve ever eaten.
And apparently a lot of you feel the same way because it has won a lot of chili cook offs! (More on that later.)
This was also the first chili I’ve eaten that uses steak (or stew meat) instead of ground beef. It’s like the Lexus of chili.
Or Cadillac of chili? (I see a chili loving old guy driving a Cadillac over a Lexus. Or am I overthinking this?)
What’s the Best Type of Steak for Chili?
Using steak in chili can seem like an indulgence, right?
It doesn’t have to be!
If you want to use steak, I’d highly recommend a cheaper cut of steak — like round steak or sirloin. Save those filet cuts for the grill.
You could also use stew meat. I actually use that the most often. Because you’re cooking it really slowly for a long time, it’ll soften up and be just as tender as great steak.
If you get grass-fed beef shares like us, then high-quality beef is pretty affordable! I always reserve a package of steak or stew meat to make this chili at least once every winter.
Does Chili Need to Have Beans?
If you’re looking for a classic bean chili, this isn’t it. Most chili recipes have kidney beans or black beans, but this crock pot chili — no beans. (In some parts of Texas putting beans in chili is frowned on — go figure!)
It’s a nice homemade chili recipe to have if you’re eating paleo or avoiding legumes. And it’s gluten free as is.
Do You Have to Sear the Beef Before Slow Cooking?
Short answer: No.
Alternate short answer: Yes, if you have time.
Also, this isn’t a “done in 30 minutes” kind of chili. It does require some prep work like chopping and searing beef chunks, but it makes quite a big of chili, and I love having leftovers.
Most of the time chili is better the second or third time you warm it up. (And the beef gets more tender, too.)
The ingredients aren’t hard to find either. It has a familiar chili powder base in the spices, but you may need to get some cumin seeds. (If you want, you can substitute a lesser amount of ground cumin — probably a Tablespoon will do.) And instead of tomato sauce, it calls for a mixture of tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, which I like. I’m not a fan of big tomato chunks in my chili.
And ALLLLL of the spice action in this chili just blows me away. Not spice as in spicy-hot, but a complex mix of seasonings that give it such richness and depth. More than any other chili I’ve ever made. It’s well worth opening a few extra jars, I promise. You can absolutely make it spicy if you like — just shake in a little extra cayenne pepper.
Can You Freeze Chili?
This Slow Cooker Steak Chili is one of those recipes you put together on a lazy Saturday morning that will feed you a few times the next week. It’s a great meal prep recipe in that regard.
AND IT FREEZES BEAUTIFULLY.
It’s also a good one to take someone who is sick or just had a baby or needs a little love. Or is super overwhelmed with life. Cozy comfort food meals are great for that. And sometimes meals say exactly what we want to say when we don’t quite know what words to use.
Award Winning Steak Chili!
I’ve loved hearing about all of the chili cook-offs this recipe has won over the years! Yay for amazing chili! And yay for making chili in a slow cooker! Let me know if you enter this into a contest and win. It seriously makes my day.
Can You Make Steak Chili in an Instant Pot?
Most things that you make in a slow cooker you can adapt for Instant Pot.
And the nice thing is that if the slow cooker requires meat being browned on the stove, you can just use the Saute setting on your Instant Pot!
Converting cooking times might be a little trickier though. It totally depends on the type and thickness of meat you have. For this recipe, using steak or stew meat would only require about 20 minutes of pressure cooking time.
If you feel like this is too long you can play with the timing.
If you love this, you may love the other chili recipes on my blog — Hearty Winter Chili (A great, quick chili with a BBQ flavor! And comes together really quickly) or Paleo Vegetarian Chili (for those meatless Mondays!).
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 2 Tablespoons whole cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons dried Mexican or regular oregano
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons coconut sugar or honey
- 4 pounds steak, cut into 1-inch cubes (can also use boneless chuck or stew meat)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons Kosher salt
- 3 Tablesoons heat-safe oil (avocado or coconut)
- 4 cups chopped onions (3 medium or 2 large)
- 1 1/2 cups chopped celery (about 4 ribs)
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and roughly chopped
- 1 1/2 cups stock (beef, chicken, or vegetable will do)
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 ounce semisweet or dark chocolate chips
- 3 Tablespoons masa harina (corn flour, not cornstarch -- optional)
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups chopped butternut squash (optional)
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- Grated cheddar, chopped green onions, and sour cream for garnish
- Combine the first 7 ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
- Add the beef to a large bowl and season with the black pepper and 1 Tablespoon of the salt.
- Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet or saute pan over high heat. Add about 1/3 of the beef to the skillet. Let the meat sit for a minute or so, then stir them up. Cook for another couple of minutes, then transfer the meat to the crock of a 6-quart slow cooker.
- Repeat with remaining beef, adding it to the skillet in two more batches and browning them in spots. Add more oil between batches, if necessary.
- When you're finished with the beef, add the onion, celery, and 1 Tablespoon of the remaining salt to the skillet and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add garlic, jalapenos, and spice mixture and cook for another minute.
- Pour in the stock, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes and simmer for 3 minutes. Stir in the chocolate, masa harina, and another couple large pinches of salt and cook for another minute.
- Transfer this mixture to the slow cooker with the beef. Add the water and the squash cubes (if using).
- Cover and cook on high for 5-6 hours or low for 7-8 hours, stirring only once or twice, until the beef is very tender.
- Remove the bay leaves and stir in the cilantro and parsley. Serve the chili with garnishes.
Nat's Notes: The original recipe had 1 teaspoon of cayenne. I thought 1/4 teaspoon was plenty spicy, and perhaps a little too much for my 4-year-old who filled her chili with cornbread and sour cream.
Instant Pot Adaptation:
- Omit the water and reduce the broth to 1 cup.
- Do all the searing in the Instant Pot using the Saute mode.
- Cook at high pressure for 20 minutes and let the cooker sit for 15 minutes before releasing the steam manually.
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