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Great for meal prep, as a freezer-friendly weeknight dinner, or for no-fuss comfort food, this Wendy’s chili copycat recipe is even better than the original.
Inspired by the famous chili that the restaurant has been serving as a staple menu item since it opened in 1969, this copycat Wendy’s chili brings the same homestyle comfort and flavor of the original to your kitchen. Deliciously flavorsome and packed full of spices, chili might seem like a strange item for founder Dave Thomas to put on his menu – but it’s arguably what sets Wendy’s apart from other fast food places.
- Ground Beef – I used 90% lean for this recipe – if you’re using a ground beef with a higher fat content, you’ll need to drain the fat while cooking. Famously, Wendy’s chili is made using leftover hamburger patties which you can do as well.
- Olive Oil
- Crushed Tomatoes: These are the base for the tomato sauce – you can use store-bought or make your own with softer tomatoes.
- Tomato Puree: Use store-bought or make your own with leftover tomatoes.
- Kidney Beans: I like dark red kidney beans best, but you can use whatever you have available.
- Pinto Beans
- Celery: Not only will celery bring extra nutrients, but it’s also a great low-sodium way to add flavor to Wendy’s copycat chili.
- Bell Pepper
- Seasonings: Chili powder, garlic powder, cumin powder, oregano, salt and black pepper.
One of the best things about this recipe is adjusting the ingredients and spices to your own taste. You can up the spice with cayenne pepper, chipotle in adobo sauce, or habanero peppers. Or ease the spice levels with a little sour cream or Greek yogurt.
Sautée the Onion: Heat a pan to medium-high heat and drizzle in the olive oil. Add the diced onion and saute until soft and translucent. Sautéing the onions isn’t traditional in a Wendy’s chili recipe, but I like to do it to bring more flavor to the dish overall.
Brown the Meat: Then, add the ground beef and seasoning spices to the pot and cook until the meat is completely brown. Be sure to stir every so often so it doesn’t stick to the pan and mixes with the onions.
Drain Excess Fat (If you like): If you’re using ground beef with a higher fat percentage, you can check for excess fat and drain – it’ll keep the dish leaner. It’s an optional step, but I find it stops the chili from feeling heavy.
Assemble: You can cook this Wendy’s copycat chili on the stove or in a crockpot – whatever you have to hand, it works great either way. Transfer the ground beef mixture to the pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until just combined.
Cook: In a crockpot, cook on LOW for 4 hours. Or, on the stove, simmer in a large pot for about 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so to ensure it doesn’t stick to the pan.
What to serve with Wendy’s Chili
- If you want to fully copycat Wendy’s, you can serve this spooned over a freshly baked potato (another thing they’re famous for), sprinkled with cheddar cheese and green onions, or with a dollop of sour cream to counteract the heat.
- Use it as the basis for a delicious burrito bowl. Serve alongside crunchy tortilla chips, diced avocado, lime, shredded cheese (cheddar or a more authentic Mexican cheese) and sour cream.
- Try it with the ultimate fast-food mash up combo: chilli fries. Just take your favorite French fries (or sweet potato fries) and pour ontop. Serve with some shredded cheese, chopped green onions and sour cream.
How to store the leftovers
Allow your Wendy’s chili to cool completely before transferring it into airtight containers. This will keep it fresher for longer and prevent bacteria from forming.
In The Fridge: Once your chili is cool, transfer to the fridge. It’ll keep for 3-4 days before it starts to turn. There are some people who think that this recipe tastes even better a day or two after you make it – the flavors will have had time to mesh together and you’ll get a more potent taste!
In The Freezer: Transfer the copycat chili into a freezer-safe container or bags. This is a great option if you want to freeze meals for later as it stays fresh for 4-6 months if you store it properly – making it great for meal prep.
To reheat your frozen chili, allow it to defrost overnight in the refrigerator. When you’re ready, add it back to a pot on the stove and reheat slowly, stirring every so often. You might need to add some extra liquid to get the right texture. You can also reheat in the microwave in short 30-40 second bursts.
More comfort food recipes
- Easy Slow Cooker Beef Stew Recipe
- The Best Ever Homemade Chili Recipe
- Quick and Easy Hamburger Casserole
If you try this recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Wendy’s Chili Copycat Recipe
- Crock-Pot or use a saucepan on the stovetop
- 2 lb ground beef used 90% lean
- 28 oz tomato puree 2 cans
- 14 oz chopped tomatoes 1 can
- 14 oz red kidney beans 1 can
- 14 oz pinto beans 1 can
- 1 small bell peppers green, 1/2 cup diced
- 1 medium onion
- 2 sticks celery 1/2 cup diced
- 1.5 Tbsp olive oil
- 2.5 Tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1/2 Tbsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Finely chop the celery, green bell pepper, and onion.
- In a pan, add the olive oil and sauté the onions until soft.
- Add the ground beef and seasoning spices. Cook it until brown. Depending of the percentage of fat in the meat you're using, you can drain any excess fat (if desired).
- Add the meat into either the crockpot or in a large pot on the stove. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, kidney and pinto beans, celery, and bell pepper.
- In the crockpot, cook on low for 4 hours in the crock pot. On the stove, let the chili simmer for about 2 hours, stirring every about 20 minutes.
- Serve on its own with sour cream, avocado, shredded cheese, cilantro, lime, and tortilla chips. Or use it in place of traditional ground meat for chili dogs, as a filling for a baked potato, or for dipping. To turn into a meal, serve with rice or use as a base for a colorful burrito bowl.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.