Anyone who has ever made a giant pot of homemade chili understands that it’s a double-edged sword.
On one hand, it’s the meal that keeps on giving (and giving). On the other, dealing with all of those leftovers can be stressful (cue: Estelle Constanza’s famous leftover paella meltdown on “Seinfeld”). The trick to making the most of leftover chili is to think of it as less of a burden and more as a shortcut to some deliciously cozy meals. Here are some practical (and tasty) suggestions to get you out of your leftover slump.
Consider this a preemptive strike against chili overload. After your initial meal, grab some reusable food containers and portion out individual servings of chili to be eaten at a future date. One way to do it: scoop remaining chili into a muffin tin and freeze, then store the individual portions in Ziploc bags (this post by Crystal Cattle provides an easy how-to). That leftover chili makes the perfect bring-to-work lunch or emergency backup dinner when you just don’t know what to cook!
Leftover chili is the perfect excuse to make Reese Witherspoon’s Cornbread and Chili Pie—a recipe that involves baking a layer of cornbread atop a savory meat and bean mixture. With leftover chili at your disposal, you can easily skip several steps. Just place your chili in a baking or casserole dish. Make the cornbread batter, pour it over the chili, and bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top. Eat and enjoy.
As far as dinners go, this one is ultra easy. Make your favorite mac and cheese recipe, warm up your leftover chili, and mix together. Eat as is, or finish the dish with your favorite chili and/or mac and cheese toppings (think: bacon bits, chopped green onions, diced avocado, and shredded cheese).
When it comes to stuffed peppers, the most time consuming step is making the filling. Streamline the process with leftover chili. Follow this Cheesy Chili Stuffed Peppers recipe or simply scoop out your peppers, fill with chili, top with your favorite cheese (we’re partial to Monterey Jack) and bake for 20 minutes. Optional: top with sour cream, onions, and/or your favorite salsa.
Whoever said “everything tastes better in a tortilla,” is 100 percent, totally right. Chili tends to thicken once left in the fridge overnight. Take advantage. Add some leftover rice and cheese for the perfect burrito filling. Eat them right away or freeze a few burritos for when the craving hits. Alternatively, make a batch of these chili cheese enchiladas.
This recipe combines two of our favorite things—fresh out of the oven cornbread and waffles—with savory chili and a hit of spice. Make this Jalapeno Cornbread Waffle recipe from 12 Tomatoes and top with leftover chili and your favorite fixings. (Note: these cornbread waffles would also work nicely as a base for a twist on classic buttermilk fried chicken and waffles. No, you’re the one drooling.)
Picadillo—the quintessential Cuban dish of ground beef and beans—is made easy with a leftover chili base. Follow the seasoning in this recipe for Picadillo-Style chili or simply warm up your chili with added raisins and chopped green olives. Serve over rice or use it as a filling for these beef empanadas. Which brings us to our next suggestion…
Leftover chili makes the perfect filling for empanadas. Try this Chili Con Carne Empanada recipe which involves buttery pastry paired with a chili filling and a hint of chipotle seasoning. Eat them as a meal or serve them at a party—either way you’ll probably be coming back for seconds (and maybe even thirds).
Kill two birds with one stone (leftover chili and that box of lasagna noodles that’s been kicking around the back shelf of the pantry forever) with some Tex Mex Lasagna. Follow this Chili Cheese Lasagna recipe or easily wing it: Take your favorite lasagna recipe and substitute the usual fillings for chili and Tex Mex inspired toppings (think: melted cheddar and/or Monterey Jack, pickled jalapenos, green onions, salsa, and guacamole).
The beauty of shakshuka—a warmly spiced vegetarian dish typically made with saucy tomatoes, peppers, onions, and eggs cracked right into the mix—is its simplicity. You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make it great. Similar to a frittata, it’s also a convenient way to use up leftovers—including chili. Sub in your leftovers with this easy Ground Turkey Chili Shakshuka recipe and enjoy.
Possibly the easiest option of all: Top tortilla chips with leftover chili and the fixings of your choice for chili nachos. Get our Chili Cheese Nacho recipe.