In the mood for a hearty, healthy, Whole30-friendly beef chili recipe packed with cubes of tender chuck roast that you can set and forget in your Instant Pot? Look no further than my Instant Pot Cowboy Chili!

Overhead shot of Instant Pot Cowboy Chili topped with diced onions, cilantro, and sliced radishes.

An Instant Pot version of a Nomster fave!

My original recipe for Southwest Cowboy Chili debuted in our first cookbook, Nom Nom Paleo: Food For Humans, and is a longtime Nomster favorite. It’s a comforting no-bean chili with tender chunks of beef enrobed in a smoky, mole-like, bacon-y sauce. The only drawback? The stovetop version takes about 4 hours to make.

But after numerous requests from readers and some diligent tinkering in the kitchen, I finally came up with a variation that cooks in an Instant Pot in about one-third the time!

What kind of meat should I use?

My favorite cut of beef for this recipe is chuck roast ’cause it’s inexpensive and gets fabulously fork-tender no matter if you cook it quickly in a pressure cooker or slowly in a crockpot or dutch oven. Cubed boneless beef short ribs and brisket also work well in this chili recipe. Not a beef-eater? You can substitute cubed pork shoulder and keep the same cooking time and ingredients.

As cheaper and quicker alternatives, I’ve used ground beef, pork, and dark meat turkey with great success—just decrease the cooking time to 15 minutes under high pressure. (Looking for another even easier ground meat chili? Make my Instant Pot Ground Beef Chili!)

Can I substitute the ancho chile powder with chili powder?

Yes…but with reservations. Ancho chile powder is made from dried poblano peppers and is used extensively in traditional Mexican cooking because of its smoky, sweet, and moderately spicy flavor. Chili powder, on the other hand, is a combination of chile peppers and a blend of other spices, so the flavor can change depending on the spice maker. If you have a salt-free chili powder that you love, feel free to use it in place of ancho chili powder, but be forewarned that the final dish probably won’t have the same depth of flavor. Once the chili is done cooking, you may need to adjust the heat with some cayenne pepper.

Can I make this beef chili in a slow cooker or Crockpot?

Yes! Prepare steps 2 through 6 in a large pot on the stovetop and transfer the ingredients to a slow cooker or Crockpot in step 7. Cook on low for 8 to 10 hours.

Ingredients

For the chili:

For the garnish:

  • White onion
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Radishes
  • Limes
  • Full-fat coconut yogurt (optional)

How to make Instant Pot Cowboy Chili

In a large bowl, toss the cubed beef with the salt and set aside.

Cubes of beef chuck roast are seasoned and tossed with kosher salt.

Turn on the sauté function on your Instant Pot, and when the metal insert is hot, toss in the sliced bacon.

Thinly sliced bacon is cooked on the sauté function in the Instant Pot.

Stir the bacon occasionally to ensure even browning. Once the bacon bits are crunchy, transfer them to a paper-towel lined platter with a slotted spoon.

Crispy bacon bits are removed from the Instant Pot with a slotted spoon and transferred to a paper towel-lined plate.

Dump in the onion and tomato paste…

Diced onions and tomato paste are added to an Instant Pot.

…and sauté until the onions are softened, about 2-3 minutes.

Overhead shot of diced onions and tomato paste cooked until softened in an Instant Pot.

In the meantime, combine the ancho chile powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, and the broth in a small bowl or measuring cup.

Cowboy Chili spices are added to chicken broth in a glass liquid measuring cup.

Mix until smooth…

The Cowboy Chili spices are mixed with the broth until combined.

…and then stir in the chocolate shavings.

Shaved unsweetened chocolate is stirred into the Cowboy Chili/broth mixture.

When the onions are softened, stir in the garlic and chili-chocolate mixture.

Minced garlic and the spice-chocolate-broth mixture are added to the Instant Pot.

Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.

The Cowboy Chili Sauce and onions are cooked in the Instant Pot on sauté for 1 minute.

Add the salted beef, cooked bacon, and lime juice. Stir well to combine.

The salted beef and crispy bacon bits are mixed into the Instant Pot.

Cancel the sauté function. Lock the lid and program your Instant Pot to cook under high pressure for 35 minutes.

The lid on the Instant Pot Ultra is locked and it is programmed to cook for 35 minutes under high pressure.

When the chili is finished cooking, let the pressure drop naturally. If you’re impatient, wait 15 minutes after the chili is finished cooking before you manually release the pressure.

Overhead shot of Instant Pot Cowboy Chili after it is finished cooking in the Instant Pot.

Taste the stew and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Top the chili with your favorite garnishes, such as white onions and cilantro, radishes, coconut yogurt, and/or lime juice.

Side close-up of Instant Pot Cowboy Chili in a cream colored ceramic container.

What do I serve with this chili?

As with all of my meaty main dishes, I serve this chili with one or two vegetable sides. I suggest a big green salad, roasted broccoli and bacon, fried green plantains, or simple cauliflower fried rice. It also tastes great ladled on top of cooked spaghetti squash or a baked sweet potato! You can garnish the chili with traditional toppings and I’ve suggested a few in my recipe. (Your secret is safe with me if you choose to top it with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.)

How do I save leftover chili?

You can store the chili in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days in the fridge or you can freeze it in a sealed container for up to 3 months.

What are some good leftover-makeovers I can create with this chili?

The possibilities are endless! I use the leftover chili to stuff southwestern omelets, paleo meat pies, and lettuce-wrapped tacos. You can also dilute the leftover chili with equal parts bone broth to make a hearty soup, adding baby spinach at the end to squeeze in some extra veggies.


Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022).


PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE CARD

Instant Pot Cowboy Chili

4.79 from 19 votes
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Instant Pot Cowboy Chili is a hearty and healthy Whole30-friendly beef chili recipe that’s packed with cubes of tender chuck roast in a smoky sauce!

Ingredients  

  • For the chili:
  • 4 pounds beef chuck roast cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt use 1 teaspoon if Morton’s brand
  • 4 slices bacon cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 1 medium yellow onion cut into ½-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cup bone broth or chicken broth
  • 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate shaved
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled and minced
  • Juice from ½ small lime
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • For the garnish:
  • ½ medium white onion cut into ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup minced fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup julienned radish
  • 2 limes cut into wedges
  • plain full-fat coconut yogurt optional

Instructions 

  • In a large bowl, toss the cubed beef with the salt and set aside.
  • Turn on the sauté function on your Instant Pot, and when the metal insert is hot, toss in the sliced bacon. Stir the bacon occasionally to ensure even browning. Once the bacon bits are crunchy, transfer them to a paper-towel lined platter with a slotted spoon.
  • Dump in the onion and tomato paste and sauté until the onions are softened, about 2-3 minutes.
  • In the meantime, combine the ancho chile powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, and the broth in a small bowl or measuring cup. Mix until smooth and then stir in the chocolate shavings.
  • When the onions are softened, stir in the garlic and chili-chocolate mixture. Cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
  • Add the salted beef, cooked bacon, and lime juice. Stir well to combine. 
  • Cancel the sauté function. Lock the lid and program your Instant Pot to cook under high pressure for 35 minutes. 
  • When the chili is finished cooking, let the pressure drop naturally. If you’re impatient, wait 15 minutes after the chili is finished cooking before you manually release the pressure.
  • Taste the stew and season accordingly with salt and pepper. Top the chili with your favorite garnishes, such as white onions and cilantro, radishes, coconut yogurt, and/or lime juice.

Nutrition

Calories: 520kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 47g | Fat: 34g | Fiber: 3g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Like this? Leave a comment below!

About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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Recipe Rating




15 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I love this recipe so much and since I don’t have an instant pot I am using my slow cooker. I have made it about 4 times since discovering it last Christmas and it is cooking right now. So yummy exactly as written. Leftovers put in omelets by itself or with mushrooms or olives and cheese makes the most delicious omelets I have ever tasted.

    1. If you double the recipe, you have to make sure your Instant Pot isn’t more than 2/3 full. If you cut the beef into smaller pieces, the cooking time is still pretty much the same because chuck roast needs adequate time under pressure to break down the collagen.

  2. Would adding finely chopped mushrooms or carrots change the flavor? Looking for more ways to sneaking veggies for my kids. I absolutely love this recipe!

  3. 5 stars
    Folks, I just won best in show at a friend’s chili cook-off with this recipe. Over 20ish entries, this was the winner. I don’t even like chili, but this was exceptional. Thanks, Michelle, I opted for your recipe because I’ve LOVED every single one of your others so far. Your recipes are gold. Thank you for what you do.