Making chili is an art form by which the creator has spent countless hours of trial and error to sculpt. There is a basic outline in creating a masterpiece that includes beans, tomato sauce, red meat, and spices. What type and how much of these ingredients used, as well as how long you let everything simmer, is completely up to the artist. One must also consider its thickness if it will be eaten plain, if it will include toppings, if it will be used as a topping, and how many people will be eating the chili.
Because of all these factors, not everyone has time to fully immerse themselves into chili cooking mode. Luckily, in a pinch, you can buy chili in a can. Nothing is as good as homemade chili but some of these 15 canned chilis are surprisingly adept competitors.
Price: $1.59 / can
This beanless soup is either hated or loved. For a lot of Texans, who grew up eating only this chili, they absolutely love it. For those who haven't had this in our pantry for 50 years, it may seem either too bland or too spicy. Customers complained that there wasn't enough substance to this chili which is expected to be hearty but was, instead, rather soupy. Some people liked it heated and poured in a bowl. Others would only use it to top hotdogs or as an ingredient for a chili cheese dip. Because of the inconsistencies are wildly varying opinions and with it being one of the more expensive chilis, Wolf Brand Chili gets a C grade.
This particular brand of chili is often part of the dish "Chili 3-Ways" in the famed restaurant. This consists of a pile of spaghetti noodles, Steak 'n Shake chili, and a mound of shredded cheddar cheese. When compiled into between pasta and cheese, any number of chilis would taste delicious. Alone, however, Steak 'n Shake chili underwhelms consumers who claim that it is little more than glorified spaghetti sauce. It lacks spice and has small beans and the tomato sauce was watery.
Campbell's has been in the soup business for nearly 150 years. Their ready-to-eat varieties are a far cry from their condensed version which require adding water or as an ingredient for one of mom's casseroles. This thick and hearty chili raises the bar on canned chilis. People love the hunks of steak and large red kidney beans in this variety from Campbell's. The chipotle pepper sauce mixed in gives it a good kick as a base. More can be added at home if you like it even spicier. It also contains green peppers, red peppers, onions, and garlic which give it a great balance. Between the price and the flavor, this is a great option when you want a nice bowl of chili on a cold wintery day.
With a name like "Chili Man" AND being produced in Texas, the land of chili, you'd better bring your A-game. Chili Man does. Like other brands, many people have been eating this canned deliciousness for decades. The consistency of it makes them come back time and again. Their label prominently reads "With Beans" so there are no surprises there. Newbies to this product expected a little more spice, especially because it's from Texas, and were disappointed in its mild flavor. But most agreed that the chunky hunks of meat were well proportioned to the amount of beans and good consistent tomato based soup.
Hormel has been in the meatpacking business for nearly 120 years and own nearly 20 brands. Because it is so successful, you would expect a quality product which Hormel has created. Unlike other versions, the beef chunks in their version aren't greasy. There is a good balance of acidity from the hearty tomato base and the beans. This particular variety of chilis created by Hormel contains some jalapenos which gives it a nice kick that is associated with chili. The biggest complaint people had was that it was too sweet.
This chili is a local favorite of Cincinnati and that's about it. It lacks beans and has a bland sauce albeit thick. It uses ground beef and, like Steak 'n Shake, is little more than spaghetti sauce. Because it is expensive to ship with poor mass appeal, it gets such a low grade. So if you aren't from Ohio, this probably won't be your first choice.
Campbell's delivers a true competitor to homemade chili. This version contains hunks of steak tips with beans, corn, green pepper, red peppers, and jalapenos which give it a nice kick. It has a good thick sauce and a good balance of veggies, beans, and meat. The recipe for such a good price gives this an A grade.
Much like Gold Star Chili, Skyline Chili hails from Cincinnati. It is also less of a traditional chili (containing meat, beans, and chili powder) and more of a sauce used in conjunction with cheese or as a topping for pasta or hotdogs. If you like a hearty bowl of stew-like chili, this is not for you. And because it is so localized, it is expensive to buy. All of this culminates into a low grade but hey, Ohioans, knock yourself out!
Amy's Kitchen is committed to providing non-GMO products so it is the healthiest option. This variety of chili is made from organic red beans and tofu. It has a thick, medium heat tomato sauce broth that gives you the chili flavor without all of the sodium that meat based version contain. It is reasonably priced which means it's good for your wallet and your health.
Unlike most white meat chilis, Campbell's version of white meat chili is made with a red sauce. The chicken is raised without antibiotics and is coupled with corn, black and pinto beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Its container is microwave safe so you can just open up the lid, pop it in the oven, and eat. This is made for standing on its own, which it does. The thick hearty tomato soup based is a little sweet for some consumers which is its only downfall. Given the quality of products, convenience, and taste, however, it is a great option.
Originating in the Pacific Northwest territory, Nalley's chili is very famous in that region but appeals to a national base of consumers. It is hearty with a simple menu of ground beef, red beans, tomato soup base, and spices. It isn't too spicy or too bland. It has a good balance but lacks the complexity of other chilis.
A subsidiary of Hormel, Stagg makes a two-bean chili consisting of kidney and pink beans. It is a classic recipe with good spice. However, it is a bit watery which can be a turn off when you want a spoonful of a thick, robust stew.
A fan favorite for decades, Ray's originated in New York and is heralded when paired with a famous Coney Island hot dog. It's a no-fuss chili con carne - beans, meat, and sauce. However, it tends to be a little greasy and a little pricey. Some consumers complained it was too bland. So unless you hail from the New England, especially due to the price, you may opt for a different chili.
This affordable chili comes from trusted manufacturer Hormel. By substituting turkey for beef, you would expect it to be a healthier option. However, to give the soup the same taste as their beef variety, they added way too much salt. Perhaps don't dip saltines in this one. Overall, however, it is a good, solid, hearty stew that can be eaten on its own, with pasta, or with hot dogs.
Amy's delivers on fulfilling the consumer's expectations. Clearly labeled, "Black Bean", you know what you are getting. It is chock full of organic beans in a rich tomato base that isn't too sweet or spicy. Knowing that it is simmered with organic ingredients can make you feel good about eating this vegan canned chili.
No dish is as good as anything homemade. With so options of canned chili out there, however, it's hard to know which ones may be the most comparable. Hopefully this guide gives you a clue and can help you decipher which chili you want when the days are short and the nights are long.