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The big game is nearly upon us and a chili that makes people cry (with happiness of course) is on top of mind. Thing is, you’re already making air fryer wings, football-shaped sugar cookies, and a keto dip. Also, you’d actually like to watch the game. Somehow, you’ve got to find a way to cut corners, so, obviously you think…canned chili isn’t that bad, is it? Lucky for NFL party hosts everywhere, it’s not.

At least, according to Josiah Citrin, executive chef and founder of Mélisse Santa Monica and Charcoal Venice, who knows a thing or two about doctoring up canned chili. Believe us when we say your guests will all assume this wonderful pot of beans and meat must be homemade. (Just be sure to hide those empty, open cans.)

“Always buy low-sodium. That way, you can adjust the salt and add more. If it’s already too salty it’s harder to eat and season properly.” Our favorite? Amy’s Light Sodium Black Bean Chili combined with Amy’s Medium Chili with Vegetables.

Citrin is a big believer in nailing the ratio of spice, meaning keep tasting the chili as you add different spices. Also, pull out these ground spices from your spice rack: cumin, chili spice, chipotle spice, and coriander. “Make sure to saute them up until they get all nice and toasted. You always want to heat up spices like these to get more flavor out of them.”

Citrin’s suggestion to avoid that weird texture of meat often found in canned chili? “Get vegetarian chili with lots of beans. Then add your own browned ground turkey or ground beef.” (Citrin says if you’re really feeling adventurous you could also try duck.) And in the spirit of saving even more time, make the chili up to three days ahead and store it in the fridge. “Letting it sit actually makes it taste better.”

If you want your guests to think, Wow, they put a lot of effort into this!, try elevating your cheese and sour cream game. “I like to use a French cheese called Cantal,” says Citrin. “It’s kind of like a gruyere. You can also add crème fraîche, or you could top with Fage yogurt. It might sound crazy, but cottage cheese could be great because it adds a nice texture.” If you want to stick to the classics, Citrin advises using white cheddar over yellow and slicing up a nice sourdough.

“If there’s one thing you have to do with any canned chili, it would be adding fresh chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and jalapeños. Maybe even some pickled jalapeños. And be sure to dice it all up finely.” As for presentation? “Serve the chili out of a nice pot next to all the fresh toppings on display. This way, it reads fresh and won’t seem like it’s out of a can.”