It’s fall in my neck of the woods… well, as fall as it gets here at home in Jacksonville, Florida. Temps haven’t been below about 80 yet, but that’s pretty nice for us. Still, can we just have a few snow flakes this year, please? Cold front, where are you?!
The moment it drops below about 68, you know what time it is for this thin-skinned Florida girl. Boots, scarves, jeans, a bonfire out back and yes, homemade chili! I cook great big vats of it as soon as it cools off and invite everyone over for a taste. Clearly this year we won’t be having our usual big get-togethers for SEC football weekends, but maybe I’ll be open the window for to-go orders – ha!
Chili for Everyone
Anybody with a stove can make a decent pot of chili, right? It’s pretty easy to throw some sort of liquified tomato paste/sauce/juice/soup in a sauce pot/crock pot, mix in some browned ground beef and some kidney beans. Basic stuff that any college kid could whip up on a whim. (Or, you could do what I did in college and eat a 99 cent cup of Wendy’s chili every single day of freshman year because, well, tuition is expensive and it’s hard to cook anything in a dorm!)
Basic Chili Recipe? Not On My Watch.
Taking an easy chili recipe from basic to next level can be a lifelong quest. I’m fortunate that I found the most incredible chili recipe as a kid, because it was handed down through the generations by my Great Grandma Gloria. I have no idea where the recipe came from, whether she learned it from her mother or if perhaps it’s just something she came up with one freezing cold Wisconsin winter, but whatever the circumstances, I’m just glad I live in a world where Gram’s Carrot Chili is still a mainstay of the season for me.
I remember being so excited when Mom would make this unique chilli recipe when I was a kid. Coming home from school, chucking my backpack on the floor and running to the stove to see my favorite recipe bubbling up in the pot is one of my enduring memories from childhood. And leftovers the next day were even better. I could seriously eat on a pot of carrot chili for a week and be totally satisfied with my whole entire life. Ah, simpler times!
Flip the Script on Your Simple Chili Recipe
If you’re thinking, “Angie, carrots do not belong in chili and I’ll thank you to stop promoting this culinary heresy,” trust me – I hear you, carrots-in-chili skeptic. I do.
Flipping the script on traditional chili can be a daunting prospect. Usually we make chili in such big batches, we don’t want to try something new that makes it all taste weird, right? And chili is definitely comfort food, so the last thing you want to do is make it taste different. I get all that. All I can say is that you have to trust me on this and know that I’ve sampled chili around the world and none compares to this family recipe.
There something about the familiar taste of chili – the tomato base, the sizzling ground beef, the onions and spices, meshed with the sweetness of tender carrots that’ve been simmering all day with all those other ingredients that will knock your socks off. It’s an incredible taste of fall you didn’t know you were missing.
Best Chili Recipe Ever
The fun thing about chili is how you can customize every single batch. Some like it spicy with copious chili powder and even red pepper flakes; others love it with beans (no thank you); some like to make it a little healthier with ground turkey instead of ground beef. The good news is that no matter how you customize, the carrots are the secret ingredient that make this chili recipe better than any other I’ve had.
Crockpot Carrot Chili Ingredients
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef. Note it doesn’t have to be lean but that works best so the chili isn’t too oily.
- 2 lb. fresh carrots, chopped whatever size you like but preferably the same size. Great Gram used to peel and slice the carrots into little circles by hand, but I’m a big fan of buying either baby carrots or carrot chips/coins and just dumping them straight in the crockpot. It saves a ton of time.
- 70-85 oz. of tomato base. Gram’s recipe used old school Campbell’s tomato soup, but I have used tomato paste, canned roasted tomatoes, Chili Fixin’s-flavored Rotel and tomato sauce with great success. This part is totally up to you and you can absolutely mix and match based on whatever you have in the pantry.
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 tbsp. Garlic powder
- 1-3 tbsp. Chili powder, to taste
- Salt & pepper to taste
- 2 lbs. lean ground beef
- 2 lbs. fresh carrots
- 70-85 oz. of tomato base
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- Garlic powder
- Chili powder
- In a frying pan, brown the ground beef and onions. Drain excess grease and add to crockpot.
- Add 70-85 oz. of tomato base to crockpot, depending how soupy you like your chili. Can use tomato sauce, paste, Campbell’s tomato soup, spicy Rotel, chunky roasted tomatoes, etc.
- Add chili powder, onion powder, salt and pepper as desired.
- Stir in fresh, raw carrots.
- Cook on high for 4 hours or until carrots are tender.
- Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, diced green onions, avocado slices or no toppings at all!
STOVETOP DIRECTIONS - 60-90 minutes
Brown ground beef and onions as directed in initial recipe. While cooking, bring carrots to a boil for 30-45 minutes. When tender (but not mushy) drain in a colander, reserving a bit of the water in the bottom of the pot. Return carrots to the pot; add tomato base, ground beef, onions and spices. Simmer for up to an hour on low and serve.
Easy Carrot Crockpot Chili Recipe Notes
Unlike many traditional chili recipes, I find that this one doesn’t need much cheese, sour cream or other toppings, but you do you, Boo! I tend to customize each batch based on what I have on hand, so here are some of my favorite secret ingredients to make your chili extra special.
- Make spicy chili! Chili powder is the quickest way to add flavor to your carrot chili recipe, and I love testing out different variations. We use ancho chili powder for smoky flavor and chipotle jalapeno chili powder for a kick.
- Make healthier chili! Substitute ground turkey with ground beef to make it a bit healthier without sacrificing a whole lot of taste.
- Make veggie chili! I don’t like beans in my chili, but white beans, kidney beans or even black beans are all a great way to get extra protein and flavor. If you’re feeding kids or picky adults who avoid vegetables, making a pot of chili is a super excuse to hide those vitamins. Chop up a sweet potato into the same-sized chunks as the carrots for a disguised dose of Vitamin A. You can also dice zucchini or add fresh roasted peppers, too.
- Make southwest carrot chili! Mix in a can of corn and 2 tablespoons of Tajin with the carrots for a southwest flair.
- Make gluten free chili! This recipe is gluten free, but keep an eye on what tomato base you use. Campbell’s tomato soup actually has gluten, so be sure to read the label.
Kitchen Supplies You Need to Make Gram’s Award Winning Chili
- Crock Pot (I bought this one for Rae) or Stock Pot (also what we use to make my healthy homemade dog food recipe)
- Frying Pan
- Ladle (This Loch Ness Monster one is the cutest!)
- Carrot Peeler (But seriously, buy a fresh bag of baby carrots and save yourself an extra 30 minutes!)
- Sturdy storage containers for freezing leftovers
Will Great Grandma Gloria’s World Famous Carrot Chili become your new favorite chili recipe? I don’t make any guarantees, but I’d sure like to know your thoughts in the comments if you give it a shot!