Chili Recipes to Warm You Up This Winter


Warm up with our first annual Crocktober Fest winning chili recipes. Kristen Dunn's Beef Chili and Catherine Hamilton's Savory Vegan Chili stole the show, and we're spilling the beans on these mouthwatering creations.

After a day of working or playing outside in the Vermont winter cold, there’s nothing like a hot bowl of chili to get you warmed up again. To find the most flavorful slow cooker chili recipes, we recently held a contest among employees here at Blue Cross Vermont. Our volunteer chili makers brought in their best creations for the judges and coworkers to taste in our first annual Crocktober Fest event. In this article, we’re sharing the first-place winning recipes in both the meat and vegetarian categories.

Crocktober Fest Chili
Blue Cross VT employees preparing to taste the chili recipes

Beef Chili, Submitted by Kristen Dunn

Kristen loves that this chili has a bit of heat, but not too much. “With a nice slice of cornbread, it’s absolutely delicious,” she says.

The recipe may look complex, but it’s actually easy to make, she says. “Ninety percent of it is ‘dump and go,’ so it really makes you look like you worked much harder than you did!”


1.5 lbs. of ground beef

3 tbsp (1/4 stick) of salted butter

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

1-2 poblano peppers, finely diced with seeds removed (this is a mild pepper and if you can’t find one,

you can use a green bell pepper)

1 small jalapeño pepper, finely diced with seeds removed (optional, as this is a medium hot pepper)

1 small habanero pepper, sliced in half with seeds removed (optional, as this is a very hot pepper)

1 tbsp of crushed garlic

1/2 cup of beer

8 oz can of tomato sauce

14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes

10 oz can of Rotel

1 tbsp of hoisin sauce

1/4 cup of taco sauce

1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp of Italian seasoning

1 tsp of dried cilantro

2 tbsp of cumin

1/2 tbsp of chili powder

1 tsp of seasoned salt

1 tsp of celery salt

1 tsp of Creole Seasoning (optional)

Two 15.5 oz cans of red kidney beans, drained & rinsed (leave this out if you want it “Texas” style)

2-4 tbsp of Chili Better Than Bouillon (hard to find in stores, but can be found online at less than $8 for an 8 oz. jar. It’s not 100 percent necessary to use, but it really sends this chili home!)


  1. Add the butter to a pan, heat over medium high. Once the butter’s melted, add in the onions, poblano, jalapeño and habanero peppers and stir & set for 5 minutes until softened. Then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Remove only the habanero pepper when done and discard.
  2. Next, add the ground beef and stir until it cooks down and crumbles and becomes a slightly browned in color (about 3 minutes – it doesn’t need to be fully cooked yet). Its juices will be released while cooking and this is a good thing – keep them in the pot and do not drain.
  3. Add in the beer, diced tomatoes, Rotel, tomato sauce, taco sauce, Worcestershire sauce and hoisin sauce. Stir well and deglaze (scrape) the bottom of the pot.
  4. Now, add the Italian seasoning, cumin, chili powder, dried cilantro, seasoned salt, celery salt and Creole seasoning (if using). Stir again until well combined. Lastly, add the drained and rinsed kidney beans, but DO NOT stir them in with the rest. Just lightly smooth them out as they rest on the top of the chili.
  5. Cook for 4-8 hours in a slow cooker pot on low. When the lid comes off, give everything a good stir, add in the Chili Better Than Bouillon and stir again. Allow it to cool down to a warmish-hot, but not scalding temperature (about 10-15 minutes, as chili tastes even better once it cools down a bit and the flavors have a chance to meld!)

Savory Vegan Chili, Submitted by Catherine Hamilton

Crocktober Fest Trophies
Crocktober Fest Trophies

This healthy chili is completely plant-based, says Catherine. “It provides warmth and comfort on a chilly day,” she says. “I often deliver containers of this chili to friends and it brings me joy every time.”


Two sweet potatoes – peeled and cubed

Two 16-ounce jars of stewed tomatoes

One 16 ounce can of black beans (rinsed)

One 16 ounce can of pinto beans (rinsed)

One 16 ounce can of chili beans (rinsed)

One onion (chopped fine)

Two cloves of garlic, pressed

Two tablespoons of non-dairy butter

Three tablespoons of chili powder – or more to taste

1 tablespoon of chipotle chili powder

1 teaspoon of smoked paprika

1/8 cup of Vermont’s finest maple syrup

8 ounces of smoked tofu (SoyBoy) or baked tofu crumbled


  1. Stir fry the onions and garlic in the vegan butter. Once translucent, add the spices to taste.
  2. Steam the sweet potatoes until partially cooked.
  3. Combine beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, garlic and onion, maple syrup, tofu and stir.
  4. Set slow cooker at low for 10 hours or at high for six hours.
  5. Enjoy!

Thanks to Kristen and Catherine for sharing your award-winning recipes, and we also thank all the employees and judges who participated in our first Crocktober Fest. We’re looking forward to holding it again next year!