Stinger Lickin’ Good: Comforting Crockpot chili


Dominique Williams

“Stinger Lickin’ Good” is a weekly food column that showcases budget-friendly recipes for college students. Enough to feed a crowd, these recipes are easy to make and can satisfy those with three roommates or none (we won’t judge). (Graphic made in Canva by Dominique Williams)

Dominique Williams

After spending a week in 80 degree Florida sunshine, I came back to California to sweater weather.

I also came back to a broken heater, so while I waited for a technician to come fix it, I found other ways to keep warm.

While not technically soul food, this chili recipe is good for the soul. It is hearty, warm and comforting. 

This is another one of those recipes that I’ve improved over the years. I started with a base recipe I found on Pinterest and, every time I make it for someone new, they tell me what secret ingredients they use in their own recipe.

The first “odd” ingredient I tried was cream cheese. Once I attempted a batch with that ingredient, it never left my recipe because, I mean, who doesn’t like cream cheese?

Next, I came across the idea to use cocoa powder. I made this recipe with cocoa powder quite a few times before I made it for a friend, told them my secret, and they then told me theirs.

Needless to say, I adopted their secret ingredient — brown sugar. I have to admit, I’m not exactly sure what the sugar does — perhaps it helps balance the acidity. Whatever it does, it works.

The last unusual ingredient I use is a dry ranch packet. This idea came from a vegetarian chili recipe given to me by a friend. 

I can’t think of any other recipe where cream cheese, brown sugar (or cocoa powder) and ranch come together to make a tasty dish, but these ingredients are the stars of my chili. 

How to make chili that will stand out at every potluck:

1. I start by putting the meat and cream cheese in the Crockpot on a high setting because those ingredients take the longest to cook (and melt). I don’t pre-cook the meat because I don’t want it to get tough and I want the spices and flavors from the other ingredients to cook into the meat.

Dominique Williams

2. Prep the veggies. Chop bell pepper, onion and garlic. These take the second longest to cook. Add to the Crockpot.

Dominique Williams

3. Drain the canned corn and beans and rinse the beans. Add to the Crockpot. Tip: WinCo Foods is the cheapest place to buy canned goods, in my experience.

Dominique Williams

4. Add tomato sauce, diced tomato and tomato paste to the Crockpot. 

Dominique Williams

5. Add chicken broth. I use Better Than Bouillon, which is a concentrated chicken base that you add to hot water to form a broth.

Dominique Williams


6. Add all seasonings and stir to combine. I don’t provide measurements for seasonings because everyone’s taste is different and, to be honest, I never measure them. However, I suggest starting with 1 teaspoon each and going from there. I do use only half of a ranch packet and about half of a cup of brown sugar. 

Dominique Williams

7. Prep your toppings, if you choose to use any. This chili has a delicious flavor and can certainly stand on its own, but toppings can add texture and color (and it’s just fun to dress up food). I typically set out shredded cheese, green onion, avocado and sour cream and let people customize their bowl however they want. I also like to pair this chili with cornbread. I use the easy Famous Dave’s boxed mix and add honey and jalapenos to the top before they bake. 


Dominique Williams

Check out my TikTok version of this recipe, where, instead of my usual spice mix, I use a competition-style Texas blend that I bought during a layover at the Houston airport. 

@statehornet #sweaterweather calls for Crockpot chili. Tune into to read Stinger Lickin’ Good, a weekly recipe column that publishes on Monday’s! Ingredients: Carne Asada Block of cream cheese 2 cups chicken broth 1 can diced tomatoes 1 can tomato sauce 2 cans tomato paste 4 cans assorted beans 2 cans corn 1 bell pepper, chopped 1 yellow onion, chopped 4 cloves garlic, diced Chili spice mix #learnontiktok #recipe #chili #crockpotrecipes ♬ Sweater Weather – The Neighbourhood

Same time, same place next week?