The Easy Chili Recipe I Grew Up On, How to Use the Leftovers, Plus All the Topping Ideas!

Chili is a cool weather staple in our house — as it was when I was growing up — and I’m sure many of you share in that practice. But what I love the most about chili (in addition to the big bowl of yummy comfort it inevitably provides) is all the subsequent meals it can evolve into. Especially now, when I’m working towards simplifying and minimizing, I have an even greater appreciation for 1. all the on-hand pantry ingredients I get to use that likely need to be thinned out; 2. the economical meal in itself; and 3. the ease of dinner prep — not just for the initial night of chili but for the simplified meals that follow. Today, I’m sharing the easy go-to chili recipe I grew up on (and still use), ideas for all those leftovers, and ideas for chili toppings — as a bonus, they’re fun to pull together in what else but a chili board 😉

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Chili Board & Chili Toppings Ideas (with Chili Recipe and Ways to Use Leftover Chili!)

Sources: Dutch Oven | Round Board | Textured Bowls | Two Largest Bowls on Board | Small Bowls on Board | Tiny Bowl on Board (part of salt and pepper pinch bowl set) |Tasseled Turkish Towel

As simple as the recipe I use is, it’s a proven winner and has stood the test of time. As a matter of fact, my core group of girlfriends request it specifically when I’m hosting.

This homemade chili recipe can easily be altered to suit your personal tastes and preferences. Dave is from Texas where the chili is all about the meat and beans are less common. As far as I’m concerned, the beans are the best part. So, over the past 10 years, we compromise — he lets me stick to one lean ground beef and I cut the beans in half.

In regards to being a “bean” fan, I slightly altered my original recipe to incorporate half dark red kidney beans and half pinto chili beans. My grandmother made her homemade chili with all dark red kidney beans, which adds a nice color contrast to the pot.  Black beans are also a great alternative or add in. You can certainly add more heat and spice to the chili pot as it is cooking, but I’ve found that just making sure I have additional toppings to individually dress each bowl works best for my family (and gatherings, too).

Chili Recipe with Beans -- the Best!

Sources: Textured Bowl | Salad Plate

What ingredients do I use to make my Homemade Chili?

One of the things I like most about making chili at home is I typically have most of the ingredients on hand. My recipe calls for;

  • Ground beef
  • Onions
  • Canned petite tomatoes
  • Canned beans (I like to use a mix of chili beans and dark red kidney beans, but other canned beans, such as black beans or pinto beans can be used.)
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic (I use the frozen crushed garlic cubes, but fresh garlic or garlic salt can also be used.)
  • Salt and/or onion salt to taste

Favorite Easy Chili Recipe with Only a Few Ingredients

Sources: Dutch Oven | Round Board |  Largest Bowl on Board | Small Bowl on Board

What kitchen tools are used to make my Homemade Chili?

Like the basic ingredients, most kitchens are typically stocked with all of these needed tools to make this chili recipe.

Best Chili Recipe with Only a Few Ingredients

Sources: Dutch Oven | Round Board | Textured Bowl | Larger Bowl on Board | Small Bowls on Board |Tasseled Turkish Towel

Fave Chili Toppings and How to Entertain with a Chili Board
5 from 1 vote

Homemade Chili

My homemade chili is easy. to make and can easily be doubled to feed a larger crowd. We typically have leftovers that are even better the next day!

Course Dinner, Luncheon
Cuisine American
Keyword Canned Beans, Ground Beef, tomatoes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 8


  • 1.5 lbs Ground Beef I prefer 93% lean
  • 2 Onions peeled and chopped
  • 2 Frozen Garlic Cubes fresh garlic or garlic salt may be substituted
  • 1 large can Petite Diced Tomatoes undrained
  • 1 small can Petite Diced Tomatoes undrained
  • 1 cans Pinto Chili Beans drained
  • 2 cans Dark Red Kidney Chili Beans drained
  • 3 Tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • Onion Salt to taste


  1. Add ground beef to dutch onion and break apart with large spoon. Set stove temp to low.

  2. Peel and chop onions and add to dutch oven.

  3. Add garlic (I use frozen cubes) to the dutch oven and stir mixture to incorporate.

  4. Continue cooking ground beef mixture on low until the ground beef is no longer pink and the onions are translucent.

  5. Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and either drain in a colander in the sink over paper towels or use a strainer to drain the grease into a discardable container. As a tip, I like to line a bowl with tin foil and drain the grease into that. Once it has cooled and hardened, it is easy to throw it in the trash.

  6. Return the Dutch oven (and ground beef mixture) to the stove and add the cans of tomatoes (undrained.)

  7. Add chili powder, salt and onion salt and simmer for 20 minutes.

  8. Drain the canned beans and add to the chili mixture.

  9. Simmer for another hour and stir regularly. The longer it has to marry, the better.

Recipe Notes

Additional salt, pepper or garlic may be added to taste.

If you don't have canned chili beans, you can also use regular canned beans.

Serve the chili with the add in's and toppers of your choice.

Fave Chili Toppings and How to Entertain with a Chili Board

Sources: Textured Bowl | Salad Plate

Ideas for Chili Toppings

More than the chili itself, what I love about serving chili at home, to the family or to guests, is the way you can serve it – bar-style with a mini buffet of accompaniments. I put a LOT in my chili and have a few things I have to have on hand, but here’s a comprehensive list of ideas for chili toppings.

  • Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • Cheese
  • Saltine crackers
  • Oyster crackers
  • Tortilla chips
  • Tortilla strips
  • Fritos
  • Black olives
  • Green onion
  • Diced white or purple onion
  • Jalapeños (fresh or pickled)
  • Serrano peppers
  • Red Pepper Flakes
  • Banana pepper rings
  • Diced avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Diced Tomato
  • Corn
  • Salsa
  • Variety of hot sauces (Frank’s is my fave; Dave’s is Tobasco)
  • Cornbread/corn muffins

Chili Toppings on a Chili Board (with Ideas for Chili Leftovers)

Sources: Dutch Oven | Round BoardTwo Largest Bowls on Board | Small Bowls on Board | Tiny Bowl on Board (part of salt and pepper pinch bowl set) |Tasseled Turkish Towel

General Tips for a Variety of Chili Toppings

You don’t have to have them all (although, if you’re serving chili for an easy make-ahead dinner, the more variety, the better) but I think there’s a few general categories to make sure you’re covered so each bowl can be customized to individual preferences… When you’re going through your chili toppings, try to include at least one things from each category.

  • Heat — hot sauce, peppers (anything to spice it up)
  • Creamy — sour cream, Greek yogurt (brings down the spice; adds tang; thickens consistency; tames the tomatoes)
  • Cheesy — bare minimum. No explanation needed 😉
  • Salty — crackers, chips (especially salty with a crunch)
  • *Optional Sweet (on the side) — corn, sweet corn muffins, (a contrast to the spicy and savory)

Chili Charcuterie Board (& The Best Chili Toppings!)

Sources: Larger Bowl on Board

Chili Toppings and Chili Charcuterie Board Ideas (with An Easy, Yummy Chili Recipe)

This chili toppings board contains winners for our whole fam and we each dress our bowls of chili differently. My perfect bowl? Shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips, Greek yogurt, banana peppers, black olives, green onions, Frank’s hot sauce, with a sweet corn muffin on the side.

Chili Board and Ideas for Chili Toppings (+ The Best Easy Recipe)

Sources: Dutch Oven | Round BoardTwo Largest Bowls on Board | Small Bowls on Board | Tiny Bowl on Board (part of salt and pepper pinch bowl set) |Tasseled Turkish Towel

Chili Topping Ideas (Plus, How to Use Chili Leftovers)

Sources: Small Bowls on Board

Fave Chili Recipe (Plus, How to use the Leftovers), with the Best Chili Toppings

Sources: Dutch Oven | Round BoardTwo Largest Bowls on Board | Small Bowls on Board | Tiny Bowl on Board (part of salt and pepper pinch bowl set) |Tasseled Turkish Towel

How to Use Homemade Chili Leftovers

Of course, one of the best ways to use chili leftovers is to have another chili bowl the next day. And, chili makes a phenomenal freezer meal — multiply the ingredients and freeze batches for later. The flavors are typically better than the day it was made! But, if you’re looking for fresh ideas or your family isn’t fans of leftovers of the same meal, here are some ways to use every bit of the chili you’ve made, so it doesn’t go to waste. Some of these dishes are so good, you may want to increase the size of your recipe so that you can plan to have one of more of these dishes for a follow up meal. Plus, you’ll be able to continue to use those chili toppings. Here are several ideas, featuring some of my favorites!

  • Chili Salad — just top your favorite salad greens with a spoonful or two of warm chili and the toppings you prefer.
  • Chili Pot Pie — Spread chili in a casserole dish, top with cornbread batter and bake in the oven according to the cornbread instructions.
  • Chili Stuffed Baked Potatoes
  • Chili Nachos
  • Chili Stuffed Peppers — HERE are some other stuffed pepper ideas!
  • Chili Queso Dip
  • Chili Stuffed Pasta Shells
  • Chili Sloppy Joes
  • Chili Frito Pie — For the purist, top a small bag of Fritos with warm chili and eat right out of the bag!
  • Chili Mac
  • Chili Dogs
  • Chili Burgers
  • Cincinnati-Style Chili

The Best Chili Toppings (& How to Serve them on a Chili Board)

Sources: Textured Bowl | Salad Plate | Tasseled Turkish Towel

Here’s a tip!

In you’re in “cooking mode” and want to plan ahead for the week or to make extra meals for the freezer to serve later, you can make chili and spaghetti sauce at the same time, by double batching the quantity of ground beef, onions, canned tomatoes and garlic. Once the ground beef, onions and garlic have been sautéed and drained, add the canned tomatoes to incorporate. Then divide this mixture into two batches to add each recipe’s signature ingredients. For the spaghetti sauce, I add a large jar of marinara sauce and Italian spices. For the chili, I add the beans and chili powder. Both recipes freeze beautifully and also make a great gift to share with others.

Best Chili Toppings (& An Easy Chili Board) + Fave Chili Recipe & How to Use Leftover Chili

Sources: Textured Bowl | Salad Plate | Tasseled Turkish Towel | Round Board | Larger Bowls on Board | Small Bowls on Board | Tiny Bowl on Board (part of salt and pepper pinch bowl set)

Does your chili recipe resemble mine? Have a secret ingredient that you swear by? Are you a chili purist or do you prefer lots of chili toppings? For more easy family recipes and entertaining ideas, subscribe to emails at the bottom of this post!

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  1. 1.27.23
    Cindi said:

    5 stars
    This is almost exactly like the “recipe” my family has been making for forever! I use quotes because we don’t measure anything. The toppings are they key though!

    • 1.27.23

      Cindi, Thank you for taking the time to visit and for your note. You are so right…the toppings are key!

  2. 1.27.23
    Cindy said:

    Kelley, I make my Chili very similar to your recipe but I always add a beer.

    • 1.27.23

      Hi Cindy, I love that and really appreciate you taking the time to visit!

  3. 1.28.23
    Sally said:

    Yes to batch cooking this – only one session of onion chopping if nothing else! I always add in some cumin to mine and a good amount of Worcestershire sauce to ramp up the umami levels. We also often eat ours with rice rather than tortillas which seems to make it seem like more of a meal than a snack 🤷🏻‍♀️.

    • 1.30.23

      Hi Sally, Thank you for taking the time to stop by and sharing what you do with your chili! And yes, this is definitely a good dish to batch cook!