Slow-Cooker Black Bean Chili
Black beans go into the slow cooker with an army of flavorful ingredients, but the result is often a muddied mess. In our recipe, the big flavors of ham, bacon, and chiles perfectly complement the creamy, rich black beans.
Why This Recipe Works
In a slow-cooker black bean chili recipe, black beans go into the slow cooker with an army of flavorful ingredients. So why is the result so often a dull, muddied mess? To build assertive flavor, we started our chili recipe by sautéing chopped onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeños in a Dutch oven; beginning the sauté with bacon fat, rather than the usual oil, also helped amplify the meaty richness of the chili. When the vegetables were tender, we added chili powder, plus cumin and oregano, and let the spices bloom in the hot pan. We opted for the salty richness a small smoked ham lent to the chili as it cooked; removing the ham at the end of cooking and chopping it provided plenty of meat. Dried beans added to the slow cooker at the outset were still too hard by the time the chili was done. To speed the cooking, we simmered the beans in the Dutch oven for 15 minutes before transferring the contents to the slow cooker. For the right combination of creamy whole beans and a thick, rich chili, we mashed a can of black beans into the base of slow-cooked dried black beans.