Wendy’s Copycat Chili Recipe is easy to put together and a crowd favorite.
This one can be made without beans, simply omit them.
I have used many different recipes in my life, but this is the one that gets requested the most and the one you are likely to find in my freezer all winter long. It tastes just like Wendy’s chili!
You can easily double this recipe. We usually get at least 15 large bowls of chili out of this recipe. When I say large, I mean hungry man-sized bowls. I do double this recipe for gameday playoff parties.
You can count on two things at my house for “The Big Game.” 1 – This hearty beef chili and 2 – my Chicago style shredded Italian beef.
I make this in large batches since it provides me with a few quick painless dinners over the winter, and it is a favorite of impromptu visitors to our house.
It can also be easily reduced. There may be some minor differences between the smaller cans of sauce and tomatoes. No worries.
If you have too little or too much of a can of something, it will be fine, if you have too much of something in a can, just dump it in.
Why is it so thick before I cook it?
It looks so thick because the peppers and onions haven’t had time to break down yet. As the peppers and onions start to wilt they will give off enough liquid to make this the perfect consistency.
Avoid the temptation to add more tomato sauce or any water. Trust the process, there are a lot of vegetables in this recipe!
There will also be liquid from the cans of beans. You really want to use this liquid rather than water for thinning. One, it has a bit of flavor, and two it is thicker than water.
I know I said not to add any liquid but if you do not use beans you won’t have the bean liquid for thinning this out. Use a small can of tomato juice or tomato sauce if necessary.
A slow simmer is the best way to make this.
I do not add the actual beans until the peppers, onions, and celery are soft. Once the beans have been added it may begin to stick to the bottom of the pan if it is not stirred frequently.
If you don’t like beans, leave them out.
You might find that you won’t have as many bowls though. 4 cans of beans equals about 7 cups of volume.
Substitute the beef with ground venison, same with bison or any other protein you choose to use.
I have been known to use half ground pork and half ground beef whenever I can find a meatloaf mix on sale.
This is one of the most forgiving recipes we offer.
Whatever meat I use I like to let some of it cook until it is crispy and dark brown. Browning will add some additional flavor.
Stewed tomatoes are sweeter than diced tomatoes and will help balance out the flavors.
Break up the tomatoes with a fork or by hand. I pulse them a few times in my food processor to avoid huge chunks of tomatoes.
If you like larger chunks of tomatoes only pulse the tomatoes for 1 to 2 seconds a few times.
I like mine to just a tad smaller than petite diced tomatoes from a can. Don’t drain any of the liquid, dump it straight in.
Make it Spicier
If you want it a touch spicier, add more chili seasoning mix, chili powder, cayenne, cumin, or whatever you like.
You could also use a spicy version of Rotel tomatoes. I use mild because overly spicy isn’t our thing.
When serving I set out chili powder, crushed red pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, and for those brave souls hot Mexican chili powder.
I also like to offer finely minced onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and tortilla chips so people can top their chili the way they like it.
Covered in bowls, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
It can also be stored in the freezer, in freezer-safe bowls, for up to 3 months. One it has cooled down, it can be placed into freezer bags. Hot food items have the tendency to rupture the seals on baggies. Just trust me on this.
I would place the bags onto a cookie sheet until the chili is frozen before placing right into the freezer shelf, otherwise, you might find your bags of chili frozen around the racks. Ask me how I know?
Frozen chili will reheat the best when it is allowed to thaw before reheating. Reheating chili from its frozen state may result in busted beans.
Microwaving – Use a microwavable bowl and cover it with a paper towel so it doesn’t splatter. Use full power, stopping and stirring every minute or so and continue cooking until heated through.
The best way to reheat leftover chili is to use a small saucepan over low heat. Allow it to come to simmer and continue cooking until heated through.
Prefer Soup? Try one of our soup recipes instead!
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Copycat Wendy's Chili
- 5 pounds ground beef
- 4 stalks celery thinly sliced
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 bell peppers green, red, or yellow, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic finely minced, optional
- 2 28-ounce cans stewed tomatoes broken up into bite-size pieces
- 1 28-ounce can original Rotel tomatoes
- 1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
- 4 chili seasoning mix packets
- 2 14-ounce cans dark red kidney beans do not drain, optional
- 2 14-ounce cans pinto beans do not drain, optional
- Brown ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until some has turned dark brown. Transfer to a large pot.
- Add celery, onion, bell peppers, garlic, canned tomatoes, and chili seasoning to the pot.
- Simmer for an hour or two over low heat. The longer it simmers, the thicker it gets.
- Add the beans with the liquid from the can. Simmer another 30 minutes or until beans are heated through.