This copycat Wendy’s Chili recipe is super simple and a crowd favorite! You only need 15 minutes to prep this homemade chili before it simmers all day for the best comfort dish.
I have used many different recipes in my life, but this chili recipe is the one that gets requested the most. It tastes JUST like Wendy’s chili, I swear!
This is the perfect stick-to-your-ribs kinda meal you want when tailgating for the big game in the bitter cold. You can count on two things at my house for the big game — this hearty beef chili and my Chicago style shredded Italian beef.
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!
- Ground beef
- Bell peppers — You can use any color for this recipe! I choose whichever ones look best at the store since they all have the same basic flavor.
- Stewed tomatoes
- Rotel tomatoes
- Tomato sauce
- Chili seasoning packets
- Dark red kidney beans
- Pinto beans
How to Make Copycat Wendy’s Chili
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. You can also cut this recipe in half! There’s no end of variations for this copycat Wendy’s chili recipe.
- First, brown the beef. Drain any extra grease, and dump the meat in your large pot.
- Then, add your celery, onions, green peppers, red peppers, garlic, canned tomatoes, and seasonings to the pot. Stir everything together and cover to simmer for a couple hours. The longer it simmers, the thicker it will be.
- When it’s nearly done, add the beans and let it simmer another half hour. Serve and enjoy!
How to Modify Chili
I love a simple chili with beef, beans, tomato sauce, cheese, and a dollop of sour cream. But there are tons of ways to change up chili recipes to make it perfect for your palate!
I love a beefy chili, but sometimes I want a lighter, whiter meat.
Substitute the beef with ground venison, turkey, bison, chicken, or any other protein you choose to use! Any ground meat will work in a copycat Wendy’s chili recipe once it’s seasoned and simmered for hours.
I have been known to use half ground pork and half ground beef whenever I can find a meatloaf mix on sale. Chili is a budget meal for a reason! Use what you have.
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 and help it stand up to the thick tomato sauce during the cooking and as leftovers. Because let’s be real, you’ll ALWAYS have leftover chili.
Chili Without Beans
If you don’t like beans, leave them out! This is the Texas way to make chili, and it’s not a bad method in my opinion.
If you’re going to ditch the beans, I would add more ground beef or your chosen protein to the mix. Otherwise, this recipe will make less servings than listed.
Stewed tomatoes are sweeter than diced tomatoes and will help balance out the flavors. These canned tomatoes are perfect for chili!
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, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, or whatever you like.
You could also use a spicy version of Rotel tomatoes. I use mild because overly spicy isn’t our thing.
The Best Chili Toppings
When serving my copycat Wendy’s chili, I set out a few extra seasonings like chili powder, crushed red pepper, cumin, cayenne pepper, and, for those brave souls, hot Mexican chili powder.
I also like to offer finely minced white onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, lime wedges, oyster crackers, and tortilla chips so people can top their chili the way they like it.
Why is Chili So Thick before I Cook It?
There’s nothing better than a thick, chunky chili soup recipe, and this copycat Wendy’s chili is the perfect consistency. But why is it SO thick?
It looks so thick because the peppers and onions haven’t had time to break down yet and release some moisture. As the peppers and onions start to wilt they will give off enough liquid to make this chili the perfect consistency!
Avoid the temptation to add more tomato sauce or any water until it’s done. Trust the process, there are a lot of vegetables in this recipe!
How to Store Leftover Chili
Chili is a great Sunday night dinner because it can last up to 3 days in the fridge for days of homemade comfort food with no work.
It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Be sure to cool it to room temperature before freezing. I like to store it in single servings for an east thaw-and-eat meal.
How to Reheat Chili
Frozen copycat Wendy’s chili will reheat the best when it is allowed to thaw before reheating. Reheating chili from its frozen state may result in busted beans or a cold middle.
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.
You can also use a microwave to reheat chili in a pinch! Cover it with a paper towel so it doesn’t splatter. Use full power, stirring every minute or so, and continue cooking until heated through.
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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.