A slow cooker might be synonymous with late-fall comfort foods or chilly winter night stews, but we’re here to say that a slow cooker deserves a spot in your trunk or suitcase when you’re headed to the beach.

By Kimberly Holland
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Make vacations easier, and give yourself a break from the hassle of a kitchen with this do-it-all slow cooker recipe.

The best slow cooker dish for the beach

Our favorite one-pot meal when we’re at the beach is Slow Cooker Chicken Mole Chili. While you might think a toasty, spicy chili has no place on a warm summer night, this recipe will convince you otherwise.

Yes, chili is a classic food for cooler months, but it’s also an endlessly versatile dish that makes everyone happy when they have a bowl in hand. Plus, chili is endlessly versatile to every diner’s preferences and picky palates, and you can spend more time with your toes in the sand instead of slicing, dicing, and sautéing dinner.

Start the chili as soon as you’ve slathered on your sunscreen and are gathering your towels for your day by the water. Eight hours later, you’ll return to a dinner that will fill the house with spicy notes of cumin and adobo and fragrant notes of savory cinnamon and tomato.

Related: Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken Tamales with Ranchero Sauce

If you spend any time fussing over this dish, use it to make a toppings bar. The original recipe recommends creamy avocado, crunchy radishes, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Don’t stop there, however. Serve up fresh cilantro leaves, sweet summer corn, luscious Greek yogurt, and even a hit of Mexican cheese. We like cotija, a salty, fresh cheese that resembles feta but has less briny tang.

Utilize the freshest local foods you can find—perhaps you can visit one of the Coast’s Best Farmers’ Markets—to turn this slow-cooked classic into a bowl of healthful, flavorful dinner option.

Courtesy of Hamilton

What size slow cooker do I need?

If you’re cooking for a family of six people or fewer, a six-quart slow cooker will be more than enough. If you’re feeding a larger crowd, you might want to look for a larger version, like the Hamilton Beach 8-Quart Slow Cooker and double this dish.

Leftovers are even better the next day. You can also use remaining chili to make tacos—just warm and serve a scoop or two between toasted corn tortillas with a sprinkling of cheese and radishes. A taco salad is also a great way to convert leftover chili into a new-to-you dish for finishing up leftovers. Warm the remaining chili, scoop over butter lettuce, and top with any remaining chili toppers.

Smaller slow cookers, four quarters and under, are great for smaller families or a couple. You can also use them to make a variety of dishes for a buffet of easy slow cooker dinner options when feeding a group of hungry folks.