This Lamb Chili recipe features ground lamb, three types of canned beans, lots of veggies, and tons of great flavor. It’s a big batch recipe you can make on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Use it for meal prep, an elevated weeknight dinner, or whenever you’re serving a crowd and want to impress.
It wasn’t long ago that I was a total novice to cooking with lamb. It just wasn’t something I grew up eating. A big part of me thought lamb was reserved for holiday meals, special occasions, or a night out at a fancy restaurant.
Then I was invited to attend a culinary workshop that was all about cooking with lamb. It was a sponsored event, so I took the opportunity to have my expenses covered to be able to attend and get a whirlwind introduction to this new-to-me protein!
And wow, did I learn a lot.
After coming home I started looking for lamb at my regular grocery store. And no, it’s not nearly as easy to find as beef, which is still a much more popular protein. But anytime I found it on sale or saw a different cut available, I tried to experiment with new recipes.
One of the first things I made was a lamb chili. It just seemed like a low stakes challenge, since chili is such a familiar dish and I was confident I could (at the very least) churn out something edible.
Well, it was more than edible. It was delicious! My partner couldn’t stop raving about it and we battled over who got to eat the last of the leftovers. With a few minor tweaks, I landed on this version of my 3-Bean Lamb Chili.
Let’s get into it!
Why You’ll Love This Lamb Chili Recipe
If you’re already a fan of lamb (or chili) you probably need no convincing. But here are just a few reasons I think you’re going be crushing hard on this one-pot meal:
- If you’re new to lamb recipes, it truly does not get any simpler than this. Lean ground lamb is an easy cut to start with, and after it’s browned you just dump everything into a big pot or slow cooker and let the heat do its thing!
- It only takes one bite to know you’re digging into something special. Lamb has a unique, rich flavor but it’s not overly gamey, so totally approachable if you’re open to trying it.
- Did I mention this is a big batch recipe? Bring your appetite, a hungry crowd, or plans for eating your way through leftovers all week (which is just a slightly less fancy version of meal prep).
This is also a great recipe for the next time you’re challenged to a chili cook-off. We’ve done a few that were either organized at work or in the neighborhood. Who doesn’t love a little friendly competition that ends with an amazing meal?
Lamb Chili Ingredients
Start by gathering up these ingredients to make this three-bean chili. You may already have some items in your pantry, but if not, you can set up a convenient grocery delivery for the ground lamb and anything else you need. I partner with Instacart to make a ready-to-shop list so you don’t waste any time!
- American ground lamb. Whenever possible, I try to source American lamb to support the ranchers right here in the United States. However, that may not be available where you shop so if not, you’ll be just fine with options from Australia or New Zealand.
- Canned beans. While there’s nothing wrong with dry beans, I just prefer the convenience of opening a can and dumping them in. I use a mix of dark red kidney beans, black beans, and chili beans (pinto beans or red beans in a seasoned sauce).
- White or yellow onion
- Green bell peppers
- Jalapeno pepper
- Fire-roasted or crushed tomatoes (canned)
- Low-sodium beef broth or chicken broth
- Your favorite chili spice blend. I always use ground chili powder, smoked paprika, and ground cumin
- All-Purpose MSG Seasoning or salt and pepper
And I think any good chili worth its weight comes with loads of toppings. So pull out the sour cream, cheddar cheese, and green onions, plus any other toppings you like to use, for whenever you’re ready to add the final touches.
Swaps and Substitutions
One of my favorite things about chili is how forgiving and customizable it is. And this lamb chili recipe is no different! There’s literally endless possibilities for swapping out the types of beans, tomatoes, or seasonings to result in a brand new version.
Of course, the challenge here is that if you land on a particular combo you love, you better write it down! Sometimes it’s hard to make the exact same version twice.
But here are just a few of the options you can try. I’ve experimented with all of these for various chili recipes in the past, and there’s nothing holding you back from getting creative if you want or need to:
- Stir in a scoop of tomato paste for even more rich, savory flavor
- Swap a red onion or red bell peppers if that’s what you already have
- Add extra veggies like diced or cubed sweet potatoes
- Mix in a splash of Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, or fish sauce (yes, trust me on this one!)
- Experiment with harissa, chili peppers, or cayenne pepper for a more spicy lamb chili
And you can use pretty much any types of beans you want! I personally don’t love garbanzo beans or butter beans in a chili (although they’re great for this Creamy Corn Pasta recipe). Instead, I’m hooked on these pre-seasoned Bush’s Beans that are made specifically for chili.
Street Smart Nutrition Tip: Shop for “low sodium” or “no salt added” beans if you’re watching your sodium intake. However, if that’s not available you can significantly reduce sodium by rinsing canned beans under running water. Just be sure not to do that with these chili beans if you use them (because you’ll wash away all the sauce) and check out my post on How to Make a Low Sodium Diet Taste Better for more tips on reducing salt without sacrificing flavor.
How to Make Lamb Chili
If you’re cooking with lamb for the first time, don’t be intimidated! If you can brown ground beef, you can do the same with ground lamb. This lamb chili recipe is intentionally easy so it can be as fool-proof as possible.
Follow these simple steps to cook lamb chili on the stovetop. This process takes about about one to 1 1/2 hours total, but if you have more time, try the slow cooker option (instructions in the next section or recipe card).
- Start with the knife prep by roughly dicing or chopping the onion, bell peppers, and jalapeño pepper. There’s no need for perfectly uniform pieces, as they’re going to cook down quite a bit. Mince the garlic cloves if you’re not using the prepared version. This is also the time to measure out the spices and seasonings.
- Drain the black beans and kidney beans, but do NOT drain the tomatoes or chili beans. These components help make for a more flavorful broth base for your lamb chili and add liquid volume for the stewing process.
- Grab a large stockpot or dutch oven. Begin browning the ground lamb over medium-high heat. Resist the urge to stir too often, as those brown bits add so much flavor! At this point, you can stir in half of the spices and seasonings to thoroughly season the lamb with chili flavor.
- Once the ground lamb is browned and cooked through, add in the rest of the ingredients.
- Bring to a low simmer, then drop the heat on your burner and cover. Let it cook for at least 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the veggies are softened and the broth thickens and turns deep red in color, you’re ready to serve!
Street Smart Nutrition Tip: Ground lamb (unless otherwise noted on the label) is usually about 80-85% lean. You can drain the excess fat after browning, but remember that fat carries flavor! It’s a great way to develop a rich, meaty mouthfeel, but it comes down to personal preference and your individual dietary needs.
Slow Cooker Instructions
Personally, I think this is the way to go. I love that long, slow, relaxed process and the cooked-all-day flavor is so worth the wait!
To make this lamb chili recipe in the slow cooker, start with the same process of prepping your veggies, seasonings, and canned ingredients. Then follow these instructions for the CrockPot version:
- In a large skillet, brown the ground lamb using the same process as the stovetop version. Mix in half of the seasonings towards the end of cooking to develop more brown bits and added flavor.
- Once the lamb is cooked, transfer it into the bowl of your slow cooker. Add in the remaining ingredients, give it a good stir, then program the slow cooker to cook on the HIGH heat setting.
- Cook for 4-6 hours, at which point your kitchen should be smelling fantastic. Give it another stir before serving, and enjoy!
Street Smart Nutrition Tip: Make sure your slow cooker is a 6-quart capacity size or larger. I use this oval version from CrockPot because the locking mechanism on the lid ensures a tight seal. Plus, it’s programmable so I don’t have to worry about overcooking anything (it just flips over to the KEEP WARM setting). While I have not tested this lamb chili for pressure cooking in an Instant Pot, you can also use the slow cooking setting on that appliance to achieve similar results.
Time to grab those toppings!
I love piling up the shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and green onions for my bowl. It’s just enough to balance out the spicy stew and get a little creaminess and freshness in each bite.
But you do you! If you’re more of a chili purist, dig right in and skip the toppings and focus on the sides.
Cornbread is a natural fit, as are cheddar bay biscuits (from a box or homemade). And being the dietitian and salad lover that I am, I also try to work in some extra veggies by making a simple Caesar salad or mixed greens salad.
This is also a great time to break out a bagged salad kit for an extra convenient option you don’t have to think about!
Storage and Meal Prep Tips
In my opinion, chili is one of the best things to make for planned leftovers or meal prep. It holds its flavor and quality much better than other recipes.
To store, let the lamb chili cool before transferring it into an airtight container. This helps prevent the hot chili from heating up the inside of your fridge. Just be sure not to let it sit at room temperature for more than two hours as a food safety precaution.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4-5 days.
To reheat, simply pop it in the microwave and heat until it’s piping hot again, stirring occasionally to make sure it heats evenly. You can also reheat it on the stovetop using low heat if you’re rewarming a larger amount.
If you plan to freeze your leftovers, seal tightly and label with the date. Store for up to three months. When you’re ready to eat, thaw it in the fridge for 1-2 days before reheating in the microwave or on the stove.
Three Bean Lamb Chili
- large stock pot, dutch oven, or slow cooker
- cutting board and sharpened knife
- measuring cups and spoons
- strainer or colander
- spatula and ladle
- 2 lbs ground lamb
- 1 large white or yellow onion, diced, about 2 cups
- 2 green bell peppers, roughly diced
- 1-2 medium jalapeno peppers, sliced or chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced, or about 1 1/2 tbsp
- 2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 cans chili beans in seasoned sauce, undrained
- 2 cans fire roasted or stewed tomatoes, undrained
- 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 cups low sodium beef broth or chicken broth
- 1 tbsp chili powder or chili seasoning
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp All-Purpose MSG Seasoning, or salt and pepper to taste
Garnishes (optional, but recommended)
- shredded cheddar cheese
- sour cream
- sliced green onions
- Prepare the veggies by roughly dicing the onion, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, and mincing the garlic.
- Measure out the broth and chili seasonings. Open the canned ingredients, draining the black beans and kidney beans but leaving the chili beans and tomatoes undrained.
- In a large stockpot or dutch oven, brown the ground lamb over medium-high heat. Drain excess fat if needed, then stir in half of the chili spices.
- Once the lamb is browned and cooked through, add in the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a low simmer, stir to combine, then reduce heat and simmer. Cover and cook for 45-60 minutes or until the chili broth is thickened and veggies are softened and cooked through.
- Serve with your desired toppings and enjoy!
Slow Cooker Version
- Use a large skillet to brown the ground lamb over medium-high heat using the same process as the stovetop version. Drain excess fat if needed, then stir in half of the chili spices.
- Once the ground lamb is seasoned and cooked through, transfer to the bowl of your slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Program the slow cooker to cook on HIGH for 4-6 hours.
- Stir before serving, topping your bowl with your desired garnishes. Enjoy!
Is this or is this not the best lamb chili recipe you’ve ever made? Hats off to you if this is the FIRST lamb chili you’ve ever made! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do, as it’s been a highly requested meal as of late.
And as always, thanks for stopping by the Street Smart Nutrition blog! For more posts like this, follow along on social media (Instagram, YouTube, and all the rest). And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter so you never miss a new recipe.
Cheers to more fearlessly nourishing meals!