How To Freeze Chili (Storage & Reheating Tips)

The easiest and most satisfying meals are soups and stews that only get better as they cook and the flavors combine.

Chili con carne is one of the best meals for cooking in large batches and saving for a later meal. The great news is that chili is easy to make and freezes well.

Generally speaking, you can freeze chili with beans for up to 3 months when stored properly.  Kidney, pinto, and black beans are great additions to chili, and all of them freeze well for 3 months. Any beans that are in the chili will begin to lose their texture after 3 months in the freezer, but will still be safe to eat.

On the other hand, chili made with a tomato-based sauce and meat without any vegetables will freeze the best, up to 6 months.

Continue reading to find the best way to store chili for the freezer, some options for chili recipes, and creative alternatives to extend the freezer life of your chili.

Freezing Homemade Chili With Beans

Chili con carne is a delicious tomato-based stew that is made with primarily ground meat.

Increase the flavor of your homemade chili con carne by adding pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, or an assortment of your favorites, simultaneously increasing your fiber and vegetable intake and reducing the cost of making the chili.

Does Chili Freezes Well?

Beans and other vegetables don’t freeze as well as meat does. Therefore, when you include beans in the chili, it will stay good in the freezer for up to 3 months.

After that, the beans will begin to lose their texture in the freezer and may become mushy, although they will still be safe to eat.

It is a good idea to save it in portion sizes so that you can thaw only the amount you plan to use, whether that is 2 cups for topping off chili dogs, or a quart for a chili dinner night.

When you use a container, fill it nearly full, leaving about half an inch for the liquid to expand as at freezes, but not so much room that there is a lot of air to cause freezer burn.

Heavy duty freezer bags are convenient because you can squeeze all the air out of them before you put them in the freezer to ensure that there is no air to cause freezer burn

Be sure to write the date on the bag so that you use it within 3 months. 

Defrosting And Reheating Frozen Chili With Beans

Chili is not only a flexible and easy meal to make, it is equally easy and forgiving when it comes to defrosting and reheating. 

The first method for defrosting chili is to put the frozen chili in the refrigerator overnight or in the morning before you head out to work.

Then when you are ready for dinner, you can dump it in a saucepan and heat it up to your desired temperature.

A quicker option is to drop the bags in a bowl of cool water. This works well for bags of chili and is faster than the refrigerator method.

When the chili has thawed enough to get it out of the bag, pour it into a saucepan and heat it up.

The third and fastest way to defrost chili is to pop it in the microwave for a minute. If you froze the chili in zip-top bags, only heat it long enough to get it out of the bag, as most bags are not made to hold up to the microwave.

If you froze it in containers that can go in both the freezer and microwave, you can not only defrost but reheat the chili all in one container. 

Be sure to stir the chili every couple of minutes to ensure that it heats evenly.

Vegan Bean Chili

When you reheat the chili, if it has become runny, you can thicken it up by adding a bit of cornstarch to the mixture.

If you want more flavor, you can make a paste from equal parts masa harina and water and then add that to chili mix.

Alternatives For Freezing Chili

Chili with beans freezes well for up to 3 months because the beans begin to lose their texture after that.

If you want to freeze chili for a longer time, make the chili without beans and add them when you reheat the chili.

When your recipe is only meat, tomato sauce, and seasonings, it will freeze well for up to 6 months. 

Another choice is to cook and season the meat and only freeze that. Then when you are ready to have chili for dinner, you can assemble it in about 15 minutes since the meat is already cooked.

All you need to do is add the meat, tomato sauce or juice, and beans to a pot on your stovetop and bring it to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until everything is heated through. The meat will be good in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Basic Homemade Chili 

This basic chili recipe offers you the opportunity to add just about anything you want to the chili.

Freeze homemade chili with beans for up to three months or without beans up to 6 months.

In a large pot, brown 2 pounds of ground beef along with ½ cup of chopped onion. Add your favorite chili seasoning.

You can use a store-bought packet or make your own.

Next, add in one 8 ounce can of tomato juice and a can of cooked tomatoes. Finally, add one can of kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed. 

Simmer everything together for 20 minutes. Serve it with cornbread, corn chips, shredded cheese, sour cream, or any of your other favorite toppings.

Homemade Chili Seasoning

The following recipe makes enough seasoning for 2 pounds of meat. You can make this mixture up ahead of time in large batches and keep it in a cool, dry, air-tight container.

If you do make it in large batches, use 2 tablespoons of the mixture per pound of meat.

Chili with Different Seasonings

Combine 2 tablespoons of chili powder, 2 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp onion powder, 2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp approximately freshly ground pepper.

Whisk these ingredients together so they are mixed well and store them in an airtight container.

Ground Turkey Chili With Beans

Ground turkey is a healthful alternative to ground beef because it is lower in saturated fats than ground beef.

Turkey is very lean meat and can dry out quickly, so using it in a soup, like chili, is a good option.

It has a milder flavor than beef, so you may want to adjust the seasonings that you use in your chili to compensate.

Otherwise, ground turkey can be used pound for pound like lean ground beef.

In a large pot, sautee 1 cup of chopped sweet yellow onion. Add one pound of ground turkey and brown.

Next, add 1 tablespoon of chili seasoning (your favorite storebought or homemade),  ½ teaspoon of salt, about 15 ounces of tomato juice, one can of cooked diced tomatoes, 2 cans of kidney beans drained and rinsed, and one can of sweet corn, drained.

Simmer all for 20 minutes and serve with your favorite sides and toppings.

You can freeze turkey chili the same way you would freeze beef chili. Place it in air-tight containers or zip-top freezer bags.

Note the date on the bags and store it for up to 3 months with beans or up to 6 months without beans.

Making And Freezing Vegetarian Chili

If you love the flavors of chili, but you don’t eat meat, you can make a delicious chili with only vegetables.

Vegetarian chili will freeze well up to three months in an air tight container or zip top freezer bag.

In a large pot, sautee one chopped onion and 3 minced garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Add one 28 ounce can of cooked crushed tomatoes, one 4 ounce can of chopped green chiles, one 15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed, one 15 ounce can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed, one 10 ounce bag of frozen sweet corn, and a can or diced potatoes.

Add a package of your favorite store bought chili seasoning or 2 tablespoons of homemade chili seasoning and a cup of vegetable broth or water. Simmer the chili until all the flavors are blended and it is heated through.

Serve it topped with sour cream, sliced avocado, shredded cheese or tortilla chips.

Substitutions And Additions To Chili

Try some of these ideas to add some variety to your chili. 

While ground beef is a go-to choice for chili, ground turkey or a mixture of half ground beef and half pork also make a nice base for chili. 

Tomato-based chili obviously needs tomatoes. You can use whole, cooked tomatoes, tomato juice, tomato sauce, or even tomato paste plus some water and broth. 

Beans add extra protein, fiber, and nutrients to your chili. Due to their bulk and low price, they also make chili an affordable option for feeding large crowds.

Kidney beans are a classic choice for chili, but also consider the humble pinto bean or black bean. You might even want to try a combination of all three. 

Many chili recipes start by sauteeing a chopped onion. Experiment with your favorite onion variety.

Sweet yellow onions help balance out some of the heat from cayenne peppers while a white onion will add a bit of a sharper taste.

For a mild onion flavor try adding red onion instead.

Some people prefer a spicier flavor in their chili. You can increase the amount of cayenne pepper in your chili seasoning to increase the heat.

Chopped jalapeno peppers add a nice kick to your chili as well.

You can chop them and cook them with the onion or serve them sliced and raw on top of the chili.

A teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes is another option that adds delicious but not overwhelming heat to your pot of chili. 

Three Unusual Add-Ins For Chili

Try adding some beer to your chili. Reduce the liquid you normally use and add in some beer instead. It will highlight the flavor of the meat and bring out the spices. 

If you want to make the chili a little more like a stew, use black beans and chunks of sweet potato. The slightly sweet taste of the sweet potato will add depth to your chili. 

For a real hit of sweetness and acidity, try some drained pineapple spears. Chili powder, lime juice, and sea salt are often served on fruit, so putting pineapple in your chili is not as strange as it seems.

Concluding Thoughts

Next time you are craving a warm bowl of chili, make double the amount and freeze some so you have a quick meal later.

You can freeze chili with beans in an airtight container or zip-top freezer bag for up to 3 months.

Freeze it into portion sizes so you only defrost what you need for each meal. Reheat your chili in the microwave or on the stovetop and top it off with shredded cheese or a scoop of sour cream. 

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