Let me guess — when chili is on the docket, you blindly reach for a can of diced tomatoes and the jar of red chili powder. I'm no different, but this time around we're going to shake things up with a vibrant chili verde from the slow cooker. Fill your shopping basket with tomatillos, jalapeños, poblanos, cilantro, and oregano, and set aside the ground beef to reach for a pork shoulder instead. With a chili this pleasantly spicy and surprisingly fresh, you will be thankful to have a new take on a weekly favorite.
What Is Slow Cooker Chili Verde?
Chile verde is a pork-based stew simmered with green chiles and tomatillos. Sometimes called Colorado or Denver Green Chili, this stew gets its emerald hue from two types of green chiles (jalapeño and poblano). You'll often see chile verde recipes calling for New Mexico or Hatch chiles and though they are becoming more widely available (thanks, Trader Joe's!), here we rely on chiles that are easy to find anytime the craving strikes.
Expose the chiles to a blast of heat from the oven before slow cooking to maximize the chile flavor, while tempering the spice level by removing the seeds and inner membranes. Green tomatillos form the foundation of this chile just as their red tomato counterparts do in traditional chilis. The flavor is vegetal, mild, and slightly sour. Simply remove and discard the thin, papery husk before broiling.
More on green chiles: How To Roast and Freeze Green Chiles
Chile vs. Chili
Is it chile or chili? There is much debate, and even more confusion, surrounding these terms and their spellings. Still most agree that chili (sometimes spelled, "chilli") is the familiar spicy stew of meat and sometimes beans. Chili powder is a dried spice mix that may include garlic and other spices in addition to ground dried chile peppers. Chiles are the hot peppers you pick up in the produce department, while chile powders are dried and ground chile peppers (and nothing else).
Broil First for Better Flavor
This slow cooker recipe starts with a trip to the oven. Sure, you could skip this step altogether, adding this stew to your repertoire of dump-and-stir dinners, but a major failing of slow cooker meals are flat, one-note flavors. Part of the strategy to combat this pitfall is to take the pork and vegetables for a quick trip under the broiler. The intense heat initiates the Maillard reaction, resulting in rich, caramelized flavors in the pork and a deep, smokiness in the vegetables. After that, leave the slow cooker to do what it does best — tenderizing tough cuts of meat and coaxing all the best flavors from the ingredients held within.
Learn more about the Maillard reaction: Nathan Myhrvold Explains the Maillard Reaction
For Your Information
- Buy a 3-pound boneless pork shoulder, often called Boston butt. If your market only offers bone-in, ask the butcher to remove the bone for you.
- For a verde (or green) chile you need a basket of verdant veggies — 2 jalapeños, 2 poblano chiles, 2 pounds tomatillos, a bunch of fresh cilantro, and a few sprigs of fresh oregano.
- Pick up 2 cans of great northern beans, an onion, garlic, and some chicken broth if your pantry staples need a refresh.
Key Steps for Slow Cooker Chile Verde
- Broil the pork. Cut the pork into generous 2-inch pieces. Arrange the pork on a baking sheet, leaving room to breathe so the meat browns. The pieces are large enough (2-inch) to keep this task from feeling meticulous. The pork will not be completely cooked or tender at this point; it takes time to tenderize a tough cut like pork shoulder.
- Char the vegetables. Once the pork has browned and is in the slow cooker, arrange all the vegetables on the baking sheet. It is OK if the pieces touch. I was able to fit all the veggies onto one sheet pan, but depending on the size of your chile peppers, onion, and tomatillos you may need to do two batches. Charring the vegetables develops flavor and preps the peppers for the next step.
- Steam the peppers. Transfer the jalapeños and poblanos to a bowl then cover tightly to steam. This prepares the peppers for skin removal. Blistering the skin under the broiler's heat helps to separate the skin from the flesh of the chile, while steaming helps to soften the skin. The skin should peel right off in large pieces, although holding the pepper under a slow drizzle of water sometimes helps to remove stubborn bits. The skins can be bitter and tough when left on, but do not fret if you haven't removed every piece.
- Slow cook. Fill a large slow cooker with the blistered veggies, browned pork, garlic, broth, cilantro, oregano, and salt. Set the lid on top and click it on to cook. The low-and-slow braise tenderizes the pork and coaxes out all the vegetal goodness. While you can certainly do all the prep in one day, you can also prep, broil, and steam the night before and refrigerate. The next morning just transfer to the slow cooker, set it to LOW, and come home to tender pork and a rich, spicy sauce.
Serving Slow Cooker Chile Verde
Other iterations including this one from Kitchn are served as braised meat with a chile verde sauce. In this variation, we're making this more of a chili-stew hybrid you eat with a spoon. First, remove all of the pieces of pork from the slow cooker. Blend the vegetables and broth that remain in the slow cooker to desired consistency (I like a smooth sauce, since the pieces of vegetables are reasonably large and hard to fit on a spoon) An immersion blender keeps this all in the pot, or blend (in batches) in a blender. Once cool enough to handle, use two forks or your fingers to pull the pork into bite-sized pieces. Stir the meat back into the blended sauce and add the beans. Ladle into bowls and serve with chopped fresh cilantro and a wedge of lime.
How To Make Slow Cooker Chili Verde
Serves 6 to 8
What You Need
boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into large (2-inch) pieces
kosher salt, divided
tomatillos, husks removed, halved
fresh poblano chiles, halved lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
jalapeños, halved lengthwise, seeds and ribs removed
yellow onion, diced
cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2 cups
low-sodium chicken broth
fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped, plus more for serving
fresh oregano leaves, coarsely chopped
2 (15-ounce) cans
great northern beans, drained and rinsed
Lime wedges, for serving
Measuring cups and spoons
Knife and cutting board
Plastic wrap or aluminium foil
6-quart or larger slow cooker
Slotted spoon (optional)
Broil the pork. Arrange a rack in the upper third of the oven and heat the broiler to high. Place the pork on a rimmed baking sheet and season with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Broil until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip the pork and broil for 2 minutes more. Transfer the meat to a 6-quart or larger slow cooker.
Char the vegetables. Arrange the tomatillos, jalapeños, poblanos, and onion skin-side up in a single layer on the same baking sheet. Use the heel of your hand to flatten the jalapeños and poblanos slightly. The vegetables can touch, but should not overlap. You may need to broil in two batches. Broil until slightly charred, 2 to 4 minutes.
Steam the peppers. Use tongs to transfer the jalapeños and poblanos to a medium bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Let sit to ‘steam’ for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skin. Transfer the peeled peppers and any accumulated liquid to the slow cooker.
Add charred vegetables, broth, and seasonings to slow cooker and slow-cook. Add the charred onion, tomatillos, and any accumulated liquid to the slow cooker. Add the garlic, broth, cilantro, oregano, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook until the pork is tender, 7 to 8 hours on the LOW setting, or 4 to 5 hours on the HIGH setting.
Shred the pork. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to transfer the pork to a cutting board. Shred into bite-sized pieces with 2 forks.
Blend the sauce. Purée the sauce directly in the slow cooker with an immersion blender until smooth or to desired consistency. (Alternatively, blend the sauce in a regular blender.) Return the pork to the slow cooker and add the beans. Stir to combine until beans are heated through. Ladle into bowls and serve with chopped cilantro and lime wedges.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To freeze, cool completely before dividing into freezer bags. Freeze flat and for up to 3 months.