There’s nothing better than a big bowl of warm and spicy chili on a cold winter’s night. But it’s also a great idea to have a can of chili on hand year-round! There’s nothing that’s as flavorful and filling as chili—whether you have a can that’s pre-made or are using some chilies to make your own.
We used our taste buds to make our way through the best canned chili options we could find. We’re bringing you our top 12 options and will also give you some interesting background on chili as well as some tips for picking out the best can for you and your whole family.
Ortega Peppers Whole Green Chiles are one of the best ingredients we can add to our homemade chili, full of flavor and just the right kind of spice!
When we’re looking for a full, complete meal without breaking the bank, we like to grab a can of Hormel Chili Chunky Beef Chili with Beans.
Quick Comparison: 12 Best Types of Canned Chili
1. Ortega Peppers Whole Green Chiles
While not chili per se, these whole green chiles are great to add to homemade chili! We also love using them for nachos, or in any Mexican dish like tacos or enchiladas.
We also love that Ortega is such a well-known and respected name when it comes to authentic Mexican taste. In fact, it has a history that’s nearly as old as chilli’s! The Ortega brand was started more than 150 years ago when Maria Conception Jacinta Domiguez Ortega moved to California and started making delicious Mexican meals with her homegrown ingredients.Using a small charcoal-burning stove, she made what would become the whole green chiles we know and love today. Her California home had the perfect climate to grow chiles and she quickly discovered how to process them in a way to preserve their amazing flavor. In the late 1890s, her chile business became the first commercial food business in California!
2. Hormel Chili Chunky Beef Chili with Beans
Hormel is America’s #1 chili brand, and they’re loved so much for a few reasons. Their chili is a great and affordable way to get a hearty meal in next to no time at all. With chunks of real beef and tender and juicy beans, this chili is perfect on its own or as a topping for chili dogs, nachos, or baked potatoes.
This thick chili is great for someone in the mood for a real meal. You won’t find a runny, soupy product here. Whether you eat it in a bowl or with crackers or tortilla chips, you’ll love all of the flavor and texture. It’s spicy, but not too spicy, and with big chunks of meat, the whole family will feel satisfied!
3. Amy’s Organic Chili with Vegetables
When you purchase something from Amy’s, you’re getting a product that was designed to provide a delicious and nourishing organic convenience food to health-conscious people.
Amy’s was started when the founders were expecting a daughter, and so they know first-hand what it takes to ensure that their family eats some of the world’s healthiest foods—all produced without the use of genetically-modified ingredients, insecticides, and other harmful chemicals.
The family owned and fiercely independent business wants to make organic food available to more people—and they’re achieving this goal through products like their organic vegetable chili. It contains a range of tasty vegetables, like organic carrots, corn, potatoes, and bell peppers. Plus, it tastes like something you’d cook at home!
If you’re trying to incorporate more plant-based meals into your diet, we definitely recommend this one! It’s so good you’ll forget that it doesn’t have meat in it!
4. Campbell’s Chunky Chili, Hot & Spicy Beef & Bean Firehouse
This chunky chili is perfect for a chunky appetite. You won’t feel hungry after this meal. It’s great on its own but we also love adding it to freshly baked cornbread!
The kidney beans are combined with pork and beef to provide a huge amount of protein and satisfy any craving. Peppers and onions are combined with chipotle pepper and paprika seasonings, providing a burst of flavor perfect for eaters who like a little heat.
5. Wolf Brand Homestyle Chili with Beans
Wolf Brand, who we’ll discuss later, was the first chili company in the world! Suffice it to say that they’ve got more than 100 years experience in making their chili perfect. And we love it!
If you’re looking for legendary flavor, you’re looking for the chili from Wolf Brand. It was developed in 1895 and has some of the most authentic flavor you’ll find anywhere! This chili is a great choice for a quick dinner or to be used as a topping for nachos.
You might even want to try a DIY chili bar! Just make a few batches of this chili and have a table set up with toppings like tortilla chips, shredded cheese, chopped green onions, fresh diced tomatoes, sour cream, and avocado. Yum!
6. Skyline Chili
If you haven’t tried the authentically delicious flavors of Skyline Chili from Ohio, you’re missing out! Fortunately, we can all enjoy this from wherever we are in the world. This is one of the world’s favorite types of chili options because it has an uniquely authentic flavor that is known and celebrated around the world.
A little tip for you, to get it to taste like the real thing, let it simmer in a pot on low heat for at least 20 minutes. The product will thicken and it’ll taste exactly like it does when you get it from a Skyline Chili restaurant in Cincinnati, Ohio! Just add it to spaghetti and top with some sharp cheddar cheese.
7. Joan of Arc Spicy Chili Beans
While it’s not a type of prepared chili, these chili beans are great for making your own chili meal! They’re also great to either have as a snack with tortilla chips or to add to salads, casseroles, or tacos. Dried beans take forever to prepare, so this is an easy way to add some healthy nutrition to any meal!
When you take your first bite, you’ll be able to taste that these beans were cooked in the traditional manner in a brick oven. They’re bursting with the spicy flavors we all know and love, yet aren’t too hot so everyone will still enjoy them.
Joan of Arc only uses high-quality beans so you can be assured that they contain as much nutritional value as they did when they were picked. They have a taste and texture that makes them a perfect addition to any meal, and they’re even great as a substitute for meat!
8. Bush’s Best Canned Chili Magic Chili Beans Starter
Bush’s Beans has been in the bean business for more than 110 years! They know how to bring the best meals together, and with this Chili Magic Chili Starter you have all you need to get started making the best homemade chili.
You’ve got all of the spicy flavor you need with these beans, just add meat and diced tomatoes and you’ll have some tasty homemade chili in no time. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you can just leave the meat out and you’ll have a plant-based meal that’s full of protein!
When you use this product, you have all of the flavor you need in chili—garlic, onion, oregano, cumin, and chili powder—and you can cut down your prep time tremendously! With only 100 calories in every serving, you can even have a nice low-calorie snack when you mash this with avocado and eat with tortilla chips.
9. Hatch Chili Company Hatch Whole Green Chilies
When you buy these Hatch whole green chilies, you get what you pay for. Green chile peppers are added with water and salt and then a little bit of citric acid and calcium chloride to keep them fresher longer.
When you bite into these green chilies, you’ll get a little bit of spice and a burst of smoky flavor. This makes them perfect to blend into sauces, incorporate into dips like queso, hummus, or salsa, top a pizza or a burger, or bake into a casserole or enchilada. It may sound strange but we even added these to an apple pie and loved it! So for an interesting take on an American favorite, you should try it too!
Even better, these hatch green chilies are vegan, and are suitable for anyone on any type of diet.
10. Cattle Drive Gold Beef Chili with Beans
Sometimes you just want something quick and filling and don’t want to deal with the hassle of going to the grocery store and preparing a meal. That’s why having a can of Cattle Drive Gold Beef Chili with Beans in our pantries is always a great idea.
With this product, you get all of the delicious flavor you would find in chili—paprika, jalapeno peppers, onion, green peppers, red peppers, and sea salt. But then you also get a real protein punch. In this can, you’ll find beef, cooked beans, and textured soy protein, providing a three-fold source of protein. You won’t be hungry after eating this!
Even better, this chili tastes great in nearly any type of meal. We enjoy it plain, just with tortilla chips, but we also like to incorporate it into breakfast. Here’s what we do for a protein-packed morning meal, simply scramble some eggs, toss in some of this chili, and add some crumbled bacon on top. You’ll be feeling full for hours.
11. Nalley Original Chili Con Carne with Beans
A Texas favorite, Nalley Original Chili Con Carne with Beans has been a favorite for years for people all around the United States. It’s great as a topping for nachos, or simply on its own!
We personally like to add it to walking tacos—just open up a bag of corn chips, dump some chili in, and sprinkle some cheese on top! It’s a favorite snack for kids and adults alike.
12. Las Palmas Whole Green Chilies
Green anaheim chilies are a staple in authentic Mexican food and if you want to incorporate all of the favorite flavors you find in a Mexican restaurant, you can easily do so with green chiles like those sold by Las Palmas.
The whole chilies are de-skinned and ready to eat right away. If you want to enjoy some of the finest ingredients to incorporate into Mexican dishes (or any dish that can use a little heat), we recommend that you keep a can of these chilies in your cupboard.
Things to Consider When Buying the Canned Chili
Canned chili is wonderful. It’s filling, satisfying, and convenient. Like other canned foods, it has a long shelf-life, making it a great thing to have in any pantry.
We realize that there are a lot of canned chili options out there, so in order to help you find the best canned chili, we’ll give you a few tips. Just for fun, we’ll share the interesting history of chili, too!
The History of Chili
Have you ever wondered who came up with the delicious combination of beans, tomatoes, meat, and spices? Well, we have. So, we did a little research to discover the origin of chili and why it’s one of the most loved foods in America.
First, let’s start by addressing a common misconception: even considering its name and its heat, chili, or chili con carne as it’s commonly known by, did not originate in Mexico.
In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find the dish served in Mexico today. Looking for a bowl of chili in Mexico would likely require you to travel to an area that caters to American tourists as it’s a meal that isn’t commonly passed down from generation to generation in Mexico.
As one culinary expert put it after searching for chili in Mexico, they call it diccionario de mejicanismos—which roughly translates to “detestable food passing itself off as Mexican, sold in the U.S.”
So then, where did it originate?
There are several different stories commonly associated with the origins of chili. Most of the earliest accounts trace back to around the 17th century, where chili was thought to be a common meal for some of America’s poorest people as it supplemented a lack of expensive meat with an abundance of affordable peppers.
This early version of chili was also reportedly inspired by a Spanish nun who ended up in the United States. Sister Mary of Agreda, or “lady in blue” as she was called, brought her Spanish heritage to the United States and Southewestern Native Americans by sharing her recipe for chili.
The first recipe called for antelope or deer meat, tomatoes, onions, and chile peppers. It’s safe to say that our modern recipes have evolved a little bit!
In the 18th century, there are reports of people visiting Texas and being exposed to a spicy “Spanish” stew which is now understood to be chili.
The history of chili gets a little more interesting in the 19th century when records indicate that priests were wary of reports of people consuming chili as it contained chile peppers, which were considered to be aphrodisiacs. In fact, it was as one point considered the “soup of the devil,” which ironically led to even more people consuming it!
It was around this time that chili started to contain beef, or sometimes goat meat. Still a typical meal for impoverished people, chili was a common meal served in prison.
In 1893, chili left Texas for the first time to be introduced to people in the rest of the United States. It happened at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where someone from Texas set up a San Antonio Chili Stand that impressed crowds.
Fast-forward a few years and Wolf Brand Chili (which made our list) became the first chili company in the world. Fun fact: in 1895, their chili sold for just five cents a bowl, and it included unlimited crackers to go with it!
After this, chili continued to pop up around the United States, famously making its way into what could be considered the food trucks of the late 1800’s! Here, Latino women nicknamed “Chili Queens” fed hungry railroad workers, army men, and cattle ranchers their beef and dried red chile stew, called “chili.”
By the 1920’s, chili joints began appearing all over the west coast. Chili was cheap and filling and would continue to be loved by all Americans all over the country.
Is Canned Chili Healthy?
With chili so ubiquitous across the country, it has many people wondering if it’s a healthy meal.
As with any type of food, this isn’t exactly an easy answer as there are some options of chili that are very healthy, and there are others that should be avoided.
Generally speaking, chili is pretty healthy. It’s packed with protein and is an easy way to get a filling and hearty meal. Plus, most canned chili is filled with tasty beans, tender meats, and vegetables—all high in nutrition!
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all chili is healthy, here’s why.
Are There any Health Concerns with Canned Chili?
There are quite a few health concerns when it comes to canned chili. The most pressing concern is one that is found in a lot of different foods: sodium.
Any canned product will typically have added salt to preserve what’s in the can. For people suffering from cardiovascular issues or high blood pressure, this could be a problem. So, it’s important to look for the sodium content and choose one that’s relatively low.
Another concern that’s also common with many different foods is BPA. Bisphenol-A is a known carcinogen that’s found in plastic and the lining of some cans. You might want to try to avoid this as well.
How to Choose the Best Chili
Here are a few other considerations you should make when shopping for chili:
- Ingredients: It’s important to look for the right ingredients in your chili. You’ll likely want a mix of meat, beans, and tomatoes. Or, if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’ll want to find one without meat. Sometimes tofu or soy protein will be used instead.
- Heat Level: Chili is generally considered to be a spicy food, but this isn’t necessarily the case 100% of the time. Some brands of chili will sell products with different levels of heat (mild, medium, hot) or will include certain types of chile peppers that are even hotter. If it’s not hot enough, you can always add hot sauce or extra spices (like chili powder, red pepper flakes, or garlic).
- Nutritional Values: In order to get the best bang for your buck nutritionally, it’s helpful to read the nutrition labels before making a purchase. Nearly all canned chili will be high in protein, but you can also find some versions that are high in calcium, magnesium, fiber, iron, vitamin A, and vitamin C, too.
- Sodium Content: As one of the downsides to canned chili, high sodium levels are generally found. As a recommendation based on government guidelines, try to stick with less than 800 mg of sodium per meal—so less than that per serving of chili if you’re enjoying it with crackers or bread.
- BPA-Free Packaging: Many brands are aware of concerns around BPA and will label their cans to let consumers know that they’re BPA free. Look for these labels when shopping.
How to Store Canned Chili
Canned chili can be stored after opening! You can move it to a separate glass or plastic container to store for three to four days in the refrigerator. If you want to extend the life even longer, you can put leftover chili in an airtight freezer bag or a freezer-friendly container and keep it in your freezer for up to six months.
As with any food, if you notice any strange smell or appearance, you should probably throw it away to avoid any potential mold.
Spice Up Your Canned Chili in a Recipe
What Can Canned Chili be Added to?
We love adding chili to many different things. It’s such a versatile way to add extra protein and flavor to any meal!
Try adding chili to hot dogs to create your own chili dogs. It’s also great to add to spaghetti (replicating the Cincinnati-Style chili). Chili can be added to french fries, it can be poured over a baked potato, it’s a great topping for nachos, and can even be eaten as a chip dip!
If you want to start your day with some flavor and hearty protein, you can even add chili to your scrambled eggs for breakfast!
How to Make Your Own Chili
Chilli is one of America’s favorite comfort foods. Canned chili is great because it’s so convenient and delicious. However, if you have the time and all of the ingredients on hand, you should try to make your own version of canned chili!
Chili’s great because you can generally add whatever you have available. It’s a versatile dish meaning that whether you have beef, ground turkey, or just beans you can make chili from scratch.
Just add onion, jalapeno (or other chile peppers), garlic cloves, chili powder, cumin, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, broth, and tomato paste and you’re all set! You can even add brown sugar or beer if you’re feeling adventurous!
Here are a few of our favorite recipes:
- Here’s an easy and affordable ground beef chili recipe for beginners
- Here’s one with Italian sausage that doesn’t go light on the spice!
- And here’s a recipe that’s vegan and vegetarian-friendly