A chili rich in beans and tomato paste, served over rice or with biscuits, boasts a high carb count. But, if you pare down the recipe to its essentials -- meat and spices -- you've got a low-carb meal sure to satisfy. Vary the meat, sauce and vegetable ingredients to create different versions of this Crock-Pot meal.
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Low-Carb Chili Ingredients
Ground or cubed beef is commonly used in a red chili. But, when you're on a low-carb diet, just about any meat will do. Consider using ground turkey, chicken thighs or game meat -- such as elk or bison -- to change up your chili's flavor.
Remember that other carb-containing ingredients are spread out over multiple servings so you only consume a fraction of their carb contribution. Chopped red and green bell peppers add about 1.6 gram of "net" carbohydrate per 1/4 cup. Onions contribute 5 grams per 1/4 cup, cooked, and garlic adds about 1 gram per clove. "Net" carbs are the ones you worry about on a low-carb diet. They're figured by subtracting a food's fiber grams from its total carbohydrate grams.
Tomato sauce has 3 to 4 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup, and tomato paste contains about 5 grams of net carbs per 2 tablespoons. You need at least one of these products to give your chili its tomato flavor. If you use canned, diced tomatoes, too, they'll cost you 2 grams of net carbs per 1/4 cup.
Spices commonly used in chili, including chili powder, cumin and coriander, have only the slightest trace amount of carbs per tablespoon, so you can liberally add them.
Basic Slow-Cooker Chili Method
Make a slow-cooker chili with classic flavors of tomato and peppery spice. You first sauté ground meat in olive oil until brown and transfer it to the slow-cooker vessel. Sauté chopped onions and garlic until soft, then add them to the ground meat. Top with at least 1 tablespoon of chili powder and a generous pinch of cumin and coriander. Add a cup or two of water and a can of diced tomatoes. Stir in two tablespoons of tomato paste for thickening, and set the slow cooker to low heat. Allow the chili to simmer three or more hours.
If you serve four people with the recipe, each person will take in about 7 grams of net carbohydrates.
Serve with an ounce of grated cheddar cheese and 2 tablespoons of sour cream -- together, these add about 1 gram of net carbohydrate. Minced fresh cilantro and sliced jalapenos make a tasty addition as well, with only a trace of carbs.
Green Chicken Low-Carb Chili
Use tomatillos in place of tomato for a tangy change of pace for your chili. Tomatillos look like small green tomatoes but have a denser texture. They're often used to make salsa verde and marry well with the milder flavors of chicken or turkey. With about 3 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup, they'll fit into your low-carb chili recipe.
To prepare the chili, peel the papery shell off your tomatillos and chop them into dice-sized pieces. Sauté them in olive oil with onions, green peppers and garlic. Toss the vegetables into a slow cooker. Brown skinless, boneless chicken thighs in olive oil, or use ground turkey, and add to the slow cooker. Add water or chicken broth to cover. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Cook for four or more hours over high heat. Serve topped with cheese and sour cream.
Veggie-Packed Low-Carb Chili
Use any type of ground meat in a chili that packs in extra vegetables, without adding a lot of carbs. Prepare the meat, onions and garlic as you would a classic chili, but add chopped zucchini, with about 1 gram of net carbs per 1/2 cup; finely chopped cauliflower, with 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup; and diced eggplant, with 2 grams of net carbs per 1/2 cup.
Place the whole browned mix in the slow cooker and top with chili powder, cumin, tomato sauce and a little water. Cook for several hours over low heat to allow the flavors to meld.