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If you’re looking for an easy homemade chili recipe, look no further! I’ve perfected this recipe over the last 10 years, and it’s easily one of my top go-to meals when it comes to hosting another family for dinner. It’s also a great basic chili recipe for feeding a crowd.
Top Secret Recipes
After college, many years ago, I lived in Togo, West Africa for a couple of years. And while I was there, my friends and I longed for American food (although Togolese food is really tasty, but that’s another post for another day). Taco Bell, Olive Garden, Pizza Hut — those were restaurants we could only dream about. If I wanted to eat something American, my only choice was to recreate it at home. The internet was only just starting to catch on, so we didn’t have access to online recipes like we do today.
Thankfully, one of my friends had a Top Secret Recipes cookbook. In it, Todd Wilbur recreates copycat restaurant and product recipes so people can cook them at home. I used that cookbook to make copycat versions of Pace Picante sauce, Applebee’s appetizers, and Pizza Hut crust. And for a short while, the tastes and smells took me home.
But my favorite recipe in the book was Todd’s version of Wendy’s Chili. I’ve always loved Wendy’s Chili — in fact, it’s what I order any time I go there. Being able to make it at home makes me happy.
My Changes to TSR’s Wendy’s Chili
Over the past 20 years, I’ve tweaked Todd’s recipe to make it my own. First, I change up the spices a little. I half the chili powder to keep it kid-friendly even though I, myself, would love to keep it spicy. I have the bad habit of spice-ing out my family, so, I’ve learned to take it easy in order to keep the masses happy. I also add some garlic powder because in my opinion, everything is better with garlic. And my guests seem to agree.
Second, I’ve stopped adding onions. Why? Because so many kids don’t like them and most of the people we invite over have kids. It’s just one more way to make the chili kid-friendly. But another reason is that it speeds up the recipe. If I don’t include onions, then I don’t have to take the time to cut them up or saute them, saving myself 5-7 minutes, which may not sound like a lot but can really make a difference. Onions do add a lot of flavor, though, so to make that up, I add onion powder.
And third, I simplify by using a can of tomatoes and green chiles (Rotel or generic) and use crushed tomatoes for a little texture.
Make it in your slow cooker!
When I’m fixing chili for company, I often fix it in the slow cooker or the Instant Pot. It’s so nice not to have to worry about cooking last-minute when people are arriving. To fix it in your slow cooker, just brown the ground beef in a skillet and then add it and all the other ingredients to your slow cooker. You can cook it on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours. So easy!
I plan to publish my Instant Pot version in the next few weeks.
The perfect meal for entertaining
Chili, while it may feel a little casual, is the perfect meal to serve friends who come over for dinner. It’s easy and fast to make — only 15 minutes of hands-on time and all you have to do is brown some ground beef, open some cans, and shake in some spices!
Both kids and adults love it, and it’s a great meal for feeding a crowd. Just set out a stack of bowls, the pot of chili, and all of your favorite toppings and let everyone walk through buffet-style to make their perfect bowl.
Here are some toppings you may consider providing:
- tortilla chips (these happen to be my favorite)
- rice (I had never heard of this until a friend volunteered to bring some to a chili night — apparently, it’s a thing!)
- grated cheddar cheese
- sour cream
- chopped onions
- sliced avocado
- chopped or pickled jalapeños
Looking for other great recipes for your next dinner party? Read 13 Best Cookbooks for Entertaining!
Make sure to pin this recipe to try later and let me know how you like it!
Easy Homemade Chili
Filled with hearty ground beef, tomatoes, two kinds of beans, and the perfect blend of spices, this chili is easy but so tasty. You can make it on the stovetop or in a slow cooker -- try it today!
- 2 lbs. ground beef
- 1 29-oz. can crushed tomatoes
- 2 14-oz. cans kidney beans (with liquid)
- 2 14-oz. cans pinto beans (with liquid)
- 1 10-oz. can tomatoes with green chiles
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1.5 Tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1.5 cups water
Brown ground beef in skillet. Drain fat and add the ground beef to an 8-qt. stockpot.
Open cans of tomatoes, kidney beans, pinto beans, and tomatoes with green chiles and pour them into the pot.
Add all of the spices.
Add water and stir thoroughly.
Bring to a simmer and let cook for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
Serve with cheese and your choice of toppings.
Slow Cooker Instructions: Brown ground beef, add all the other ingredients, and cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high.