Making Chili When It’s Chilly

We got the big snow that we usually get at the beginning of February. But it feels nice and cozy inside because of the smells wafting from my slow cooker. Chili isn’t on today’s menu because I made some just a week and a half ago when it was super cold. I just realized, however, that I haven’t shared my chili recipe here even thought I posted my White Chicken Chili recipe a few months ago. So I’m going to take care of that right now. Chili is good at any time of year, of course, but I especially like to cook and eat it when it’s chilly outside.

Gathering Garden Ingredients for Chili

Chili is also a great way to use the garden vegetables that I froze. However, my chili recipe did not start out as a way to use garden vegetables. I’ve adapted it from the recipe that originally came with my first slow cooker over 25 years ago. I’m actually a recipe tinkerer, not a recipe developer! Almost from the beginning, I substituted ground turkey for the ground beef, dried pinto beans for the canned kidney beans, and a salt-free herb blend for the salt. Later as a beginning gardener, I realized that chili is a great way to use the end-of-season tomatoes that were ripened indoors and then frozen whole. Those tomatoes don’t taste as good as the ones ripened outdoors, but they’re still homegrown organic tomatoes. The spices in the chili kick up their flavor. Since I grow more things in my garden now, I use my homegrown tomatillos, peppers, onions, and garlic, too, whenever possible. You could make adaptations like mine with your own favorite chili recipe if you get any of the ingredients from a garden, farmers market, or CSA.

Before Adding Beans

If you have to buy tomatoes from a supermarket, then I recommend that you get canned ones, diced or whole. Those will be tastier than anything in the fresh produce department. I also recommend that they be organic. I also recommend choosing organically grown bell peppers, hot peppers, and anything else on the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list.

I don’t grow beans for drying, but if I did, I would also use them in this chili. I prefer the firmer texture of dried beans that are slow cooked. If you like your beans softer, then use canned beans. Another option for softer beans is to pressure cook dried beans.

Garden Chili

2 pounds ground beef and/or turkey
1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup organic green pepper, chopped
2 whole garlic cloves, minced
32 ounces organic tomatoes, canned (undrained) or frozen (from the garden)
16 ounces dried pinto beans or 32 ounces canned kidney beans
2 teaspoons salt-free seasoning
2 tablespoons chili powder 
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

Optional garden additions: If I have tomatillos and jalapeños or other hot peppers from my garden, I add them, too. I don’t grow squash, but I know that some people add squash puree to their chili. You can use whatever you like! If you don’t have a freezer full of garden goodies, you can still make this recipe with store bought ingredients.


  1. *The night before: Sort and rinse the beans, and then leave them in a large bowl of water to soak overnight. Drain the beans before you add them to the chili. (*You can skip this step if using canned beans or if you’re going to pressure cook the chili.)
  2. Preheat a pan on the stovetop.  Add ground meat and brown. Drain the liquid, and add the browned meat to the slow cooker pot.
    • NOTE: If your slow cooker is like the Sear & Cook (my favorite) and has a nonstick aluminum pot that can be used on the stovetop, you will not need to use another pan to brown the meat on the stovetop. If using an Instant Pot or other multi-cooker, you may use its sauté setting to brown the meat right in its pot and then use its slow cooker function to cook the chili.
  3. Add everything else to the browned meat in the slow cooker pot and stir to combine. Cover and slow cook on LOW for 7 to 10 hours. Keep warm for serving.

I usually serve this chili with cornbread. You can top it, if desired, with cheese, avocado, or sour cream.

Slow Cooked Garden Chili

I hope this chili will warm you up this winter! Let me know if you make it and like it.

I may earn commissions for purchases made through any Amazon links in this post. See disclosure here.


Published by Debbie Rea - The Gardener Wife

Helping you to GROW SOMETHING, something beautiful—even better, something to eat! Speaker, Writer, and Influencer—available for speaking engagements on gardening and/or Christian faith topics and for collaborations on home and garden products

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