This well-loved hearty meal is great for feeding a crowd and it’s pretty difficult not to end up with some leftovers. If you’re wondering how long is chili good in the fridge, you’re not alone!
There are so many different chili recipes which only shows how easy it is to make this dish to your liking. It’s one of those meals that reheats well so I’m always happy to have some leftovers!
🌶️What Is Chili?
According to the Britannica Dictionary, chili is a stew made with hot peppers or chili powder, ground beef, and “usually beans”. This definition is very broad, right?
I dare say, the meat can be something other than beef, and not always ground. I used the classic option for this amazing smoked chili, but I also did a brisket chili and a beer brat chili. They were all fantastic!
Let’s not forget chili is a very flavorful dish. Other than fresh or dried chili, you’ll often find other spices and ingredients added such as garlic, onion, cumin, and tomatoes or tomato paste.
However you analyze it, chili is a delicious and satisfying dish that can be easily scaled up when you have more people to feed.
🏷️How Long Is Chili Good In The Fridge?
Here’s the short answer: chili made with meat stays good in the fridge for 3-4 days, and meatless chili can last up to 7 days.
In a hurry? Here’s a handy chart with the shelf life for different types of chili.
|Type of chili||Countertop||Fridge||Freezer|
|Canned Chili (Unopened)||Check the label for the expiration date.||–||4-6 months|
|Canned Chili (Opened)||1 hour at temperatures over 90°F, 2 hours at temperatures under 90°F||up to 7 days||4-6 months|
|Homemade Chili (Meat-based)||1 hour at temperatures over 90°F, 2 hours at temperatures under 90°F||3-4 days||4-6 months|
|Homemade Chili (Meatless)||1 hour at temperatures over 90°F, 2 hours at temperatures under 90°F||up to 7 days||4-6 months|
Compared to homemade chili, canned chili lasts longer. Check the expiration date and storage recommendations on the label.
Refrigerated canned chili leftovers stay safe to eat for up to 7 days.
Note: Sometimes cans can become damaged during transportation. Do not eat the canned chili if the can is heavily dented, bloated, or leaking.
For your homemade chili to last for 4 days in the fridge, there is one rule you will always need to follow: don’t leave it on the counter for more than 2 hours after cooking.
Between the temperatures of 40°F and 140°F, is what the USDA calls “the danger zone“. Bacteria thrive at these temperatures, making any cooked food spoil faster. The only way to slow down their multiplication rate is to store cooked food in the fridge, at temperatures under 40°F.
In fact, if the temperatures are 90°F or higher, your homemade chili shouldn’t stay outside for more than one hour.
As you can see, how long is chili good in the fridge depends a lot on its type, time spent on the counter, and whether it was stored correctly. For longer-term storage, there’s always the option of freezing chili leftovers.
🧊How Long Does Chili Last In The Freezer?
Chili lasts up to 4-6 months in the freezer at temperatures below 0°F if stored properly.
Technically, it stays safe to eat for longer, but you should consume it within 4-6 months if you want to enjoy it at its best.
🍱Storage Tips To Keep Chili Fresh For Longer
Knowing how to store leftovers is very important if you want to prevent food waste. Here’s how to properly refrigerate chili and keep it fresh for as long as possible:
- Don’t leave leftover chili outside for more than 2 hours if the temperatures are under 90°F, or 1 hour if the temperatures are over 90°F.
- Store chili in airtight containers. Ideally, you should portion the leftovers in small, shallow containers that would allow the chili to cool faster.
- Place the chili in the coldest part of your fridge (usually at the back of the bottom shelf).
- Label the container so you know how long it’s safe to eat.
- Open the container only when needed. Each time you open it, the temperature on the inside will increase and speed up bacteria growth.
- Always check the leftover chili for signs of spoilage before reheating and eating.
- Reheat chili to an internal temperature of 165°F, before serving.
👎How To Tell If Chili Has Gone Bad
Like all cooked food, chili will eventually spoil, even if you took all the precautions when storing it. Here’s what to look for if you suspect your chili has gone bad:
Color changes and mold growth are obvious signs of spoilage. Mold looks like white or green fuzzy patches. Dark or brown-colored areas also indicate your chili is not safe to eat anymore and should be discarded.
Any kind of off-putting smell indicates chili is spoiled. Keep in mind, reheating it won’t make it safe to eat. The safest choice is to throw it away.
It’s not a good idea to taste chili if you suspect it’s spoiled. If you unknowingly took a bite and it has a weird texture, sour or strange taste it’s not safe to eat anymore.
Note: Does your chili look and smell good even if it’s past its recommended shelf life? Don’t eat it!
Bacteria might be present without altering the taste and smell of food. Always follow the recommended time limit and discard food that goes past it.
❄️How To Freeze Chili
I think chili is an excellent meal-prep food and it’s worth making extra just to portion and freeze it.
When frozen, chili will maintain its best quality for 4-6 months but stays safe to eat for much longer.
In general, all frozen food that was stored properly at 0°F remains safe to eat indefinitely.
How you freeze leftovers will impact how long they preserve their flavor and texture.
Here’s how to properly freeze chili:
- Portion the chili and place it in airtight containers or heavy-duty freezer bags.
- Shallow containers are best since they stack easily.
- When using freezer bags try to push out as much air as possible before sealing and flattening them. This will make the bags easy to stack.
- Frozen chili containing hot peppers might taste hotter after thawing and reheating. In some cases, the freezing process can make peppers hotter.
💧How To Thaw Chili
Frozen chili can be easily thawed. You can choose between three safe methods:
Overnight in the fridge – This is the safest way but also the most time-consuming. The refrigerator will allow for slow thawing while slowing down bacteria growth.
Cold water method – Place the container or freezer bag with the chili in a bowl of cold water. To speed things up, you can replace the water every 30 minutes.
Note: Don’t use warm or hot water to thaw cooked foods. This will raise the temperature in the “danger zone” and the outside can spoil before the inside is fully thawed.
Microwave method – If the chili is in a microwave-safe container or bag, you can place it directly in the microwave and use the defrost setting. Otherwise, transfer it to a microwave-safe bowl first.
♨️How To Reheat Chili
Once your chili is fully thawed, it’s time to reheat! Whether you use the stovetop or microwave, or another appliance to reheat your leftover chili, make sure it reaches 165°F internal temperature.
The best way to make sure your food is reheated properly is to use a food thermometer. It’s also useful to cook foods at the perfect temperature, so it’s definitely worth investing in one.
⛔What Could Happen If You Eat Expired Chili?
Consuming spoiled food, including chili, can lead to food poisoning. Some of the most common symptoms are nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, cramps, and diarrhea.
Make sure you always use ingredients that are not expired when making chili, and check if it looks or smells bad before eating it.
Unopened canned chili is good to eat for 3-5 years when stored correctly.
It actually stays safe to eat for longer but after 3-5 years, the original flavor and texture will be affected, even if the chili is not spoiled.
The canning process is what preserves the chili so well. All canned foods are heated to a high temperature which kills all bacteria and also seals the can.
As long as the can is not damaged, or bloated, the food should be safe to eat.
To stay safe, always check for signs of spoilage before eating canned chili.
Chili thawed in the fridge will remain safe to eat for another 3-4 days if refrigerated. If you thawed the chili in cold water or the microwave, you should reheat it and eat it right away.
Meatless chili and opened canned chili stay safe to eat for up to 7 days in the fridge. Meat-based homemade chilis kept in the fridge only last for 3-4 days. If your chili contains meat and it’s been in the fridge for 5 days, you should discard it, even if it looks good.
For meatless and opened canned chili, the 5-day mark is under the recommended shelf life, so as long as you stored it properly and no spoilage signs are visible, it should be safe to eat.
Reheat meat-based chili only once. The meat is prone to spoiling at temperatures between 40°F to 140°F and repeating this process is risky.
Chili without meat that was properly stored in the fridge, can be reheated 2-3 times.
Any type of chili can stay safe to eat in the fridge for up to 4 days. As long as it was stored correctly in an airtight container, it’s safe to freeze anytime within that time frame.
Before freezing, it’s a good idea to check if the chili looks or smells off.