What To Do With Leftover Chili

Is there anything more comforting than a warm, savory bowl of chili? Chili is typically made with a hearty mix of beef, onions, tomatoes, chili peppers, and beans along with an assortment of spices. It's a relatively simple dish that delivers big flavors. Part of the beauty of chili is that it can be easily customized while still retaining the core trademark flavors. Vegetarian? No problem: There are plenty of delicious meatless chilis out there that are tasty and highly satisfying. 

Want a leaner form of meat for the mix? By using chicken instead of beef, you can enjoy an equally luscious bowl of chili with less fat and higher protein (via Healthline). You can also easily spice it up to your preferred level of heat, adding jalapenos or other hot chili peppers to your desired taste.

No matter what kind of chili you like, when it's all said and done, there's a good chance that there's going to be some leftovers in the pot. The question is, what should you do with it? Sure, you could always just warm it back up for another bowl, but where's the fun in that? 

Chili's crowd-pleasing ingredients and bold flavor profile make it an ideal choice for repurposing into a wide range of different dishes. From a clever technique to amp up your breakfast to a tasty method that livens up some pasta, there are plenty of mouthwatering approaches to using up all that leftover chili in the most delicious ways possible.

Mac and cheese

Like chili, mac and cheese is another common comfort food served up in a bowl. It's creamy and carb-heavy: Every scrumptious spoonful of mac and cheese feels like it fills the soul with its unctuous, dairy-laden magic. That said, mac and cheese tends to be a bit too simplistic in terms of flavor, and it can be easily improved upon in a number of ways by adding just a few extra ingredients. 

Adding some beefy chili to macaroni and cheese is perhaps the single best way to transform that cheesy bowl of noodles into a truly luscious, full-fledged, protein-packed meal. When the spices and beef from the chili infuse into the noodles and cheese, it tastes like a match made in heaven. Chili mac and cheese captures and combines everything we love about two of our favorite comfort foods in a single dish. 

The chili immediately awakens the silky cheese sauce into a much bolder presence by introducing new notes of spices. Chili also introduces some nice contrast to the noodles: All those little bits of meat, onions, and peppers work wonders in an otherwise texturally tedious dish.

The easiest way to incorporate your chili would be to simply microwave it and then add it to your pot of mac and cheese right at the end of the cooking process. For a thicker result, consider simmering your leftover chili in a pan to steam off some excess liquid before adding it to your cheesy noodles. 

Stuffed peppers

There's something undeniably appealing about stuffed peppers. The dish has all those shades of red, yellow, and green from the bell peppers: It's eye-catching and colorful, but it's also wonderfully delicious, especially considering the fact that it's easy to make. But you know what makes whipping these up even easier? Having some leftover chili on hand that's all ready to go.

Like with many other foods, there are variations of stuffed peppers that feature different ingredients. Common fillings often include sausage, ground beef, pulled pork, or shredded chicken. Because chili tends to be dense with meat, it's an ideal filling option for stuffed peppers. And since chili is often heavily spiced, it brings a hefty dose of flavor that dramatically elevates the flavor profile of stuffed peppers. 

The notes of cumin, garlic, and chili powder typically found in chili are very well-suited for the vessel of a baked bell pepper, proving it to be a fusion that works in seamless, delicious harmony. You can simply mix your chili with cheese and whatever other fillings you want, stuff it all into your peppers, and throw it in the oven. The hardest part about all of this is waiting to dig in while you smell all those stuffed peppers sizzling in the oven.

Shepherd's pie

Shepherd's pie is another classic comfort food that's renowned for its savory scrumptiousness. It's typically made with ground meat, potatoes, onions, carrots, and celery. Shepherd's pie originated in the United Kingdom, and it has gone on to become a popular dish elsewhere around the globe, including the United States. While you may not immediately associate shepherd's pie with chili, the reality is that chili meets all the necessary requirements for a tasty filling in this context, considering it's composed of flavorful ground meat that often includes some minced vegetables.

Another bonus: Because the chili is already made, the prep time to make your shepherd's pie will be reduced significantly. Simply make the shepherd's pie as you normally would, spoon your leftover chili into the dish, and bake it all together in the oven. Depending on how you like your chili, there could be a hint of spiciness in the shepherd's pie, and while that may not be the norm for how it's traditionally made, the tingle from a little extra heat is actually quite pleasant and ends up getting balanced out by the creamy mashed potatoes. All things considered, there's no doubt that shepherd's pie is one of the best ways to put your leftover chili to good use.


Casseroles are always a great way to use up leftovers. It doesn't get much easier than mixing up a bunch of leftover ingredients, throwing them in the oven, and making a meal out of them. The beauty of casseroles lies in their loose rules and versatility, making them the perfect dish for some creative fun and experimentation. Chili, with its bold taste and saucy base, is a great way to liven up a casserole since this meaty, tomato-based soup is great at coating and deliciously binding to other ingredients.

This chili cheese tater tot casserole is an ideal example of how to elevate your leftover chili into a new, crowd-pleasing dish. Between premade tater tots and leftover chili, this dish comes together in a snap. After baking tater tots in the oven until they're golden brown and crispy, simply layer over your leftover chili, add some cheese, and bake it all in the oven until the cheese is all melted and bubbly. Top it with a drizzle of sour cream, throw on some chopped green onions, and you have yourself a wholesome meal that comes together in a pinch.


Nachos make for one of the tastiest snacks out there, and they can easily be customized with a wide range of ingredients. Shredded chicken, chorizo, steak, pulled pork, and beans: Nachos can feature various proteins, and all of them work beautifully. Using your leftover chili to make a pan of cheesy oven-baked nachos is a delicious way to transform your remaining spicy stew into a new dish with even deeper flavors.

The inclusion of tortilla chips introduces some textural crispiness that works wonders for chili. And because tortilla chips have a very straightforward flavor profile, nachos really let the taste of the chili shine and take center stage, showcasing its robust spice in all its hearty glory. All you need to do is spoon out some of your leftover chili onto a pan of tortilla chips, smother everything in some cheeses (we'd recommend pepper jack for its rich flavor and soft texture), and toss it all in the oven. 

When the cheese is melted, take it out and top it with some shredded lettuce, sour cream, and jalapenos. For some freshness, squeeze a little lime wedge over everything and add some chopped cilantro. In a matter of minutes, leftover chili can be transformed into some seriously tasty nachos.


Quesadillas are another excellent vessel that can be used for leftovers. Quesadillas are easy to eat and simple to make, and they're always a quick option for lunch or dinner. 

Whether you have leftover chicken, beef, pork, or beans, quesadillas are open to all different types of fillings that can make a truly mighty meal. Chili is, without a doubt, an ideal ingredient for quesadillas: As the cheese melts and mixes with the chili, the tortilla crisps up to wrap everything up in a tasty shell. 

Once you've warmed up your leftover chili, add it to a tortilla with cheese and toast it up in a pan with oil or butter. When the cheese has melted, and the tortilla has a touch of golden brown, you're ready to dig in. 

To add some heft to your plate, you could also add dollops of guacamole, sour cream, and salsa for dipping your cheesy chili quesadilla. This is also the perfect opportunity to bust out some of your favorite hot sauce for a little drizzle to add an extra punch of flavor. Pair this with some elotes and you've got yourself one seriously solid meal. 

Chili cheese dogs

When it comes to hot dogs, it's all about the toppings. Mustard, relish, chopped onions, sauerkraut, and cheese are just a few of the toppings that are commonly smothered over a freshly-grilled hot dog. But to really give the meat between those buns some extra oomph, try adding some chili. 

A meaty stew like chili pairs perfectly with a hot dog. Chunks of spiced meat, beans, onions, and peppers all lend their distinctive flavors that complement and dramatically elevate hot dogs, transforming them from a forgettable mediocrity into a crave-worthy, mouth-watering dish.

Simply warm up your leftover chili and then spoon it onto some hot dogs fresh off the grill. To go the extra mile, add some cheese and caramelized onions, then briefly toss it in the oven until the cheese is melted and the buns are gently toasted. 

The end result is a loaded chili cheese dog that's bound to knock your socks off, and because the chili was all ready to go, this meal is super quick to prep up and get on the table.


Queso is made with a mix of cheeses and peppers, and it is theorized to have been developed in Mexico at some point during the 1800s. Queso is creamy and cheesy with a sparkle of spice, and it can be drizzled over a variety of foods. 

Nachos, tacos, burritos, and even a basket of crispy french fries are all drastically improved when paired with this luscious cheese sauce. Using your leftover chili to beef up some queso is a great way to add a little extra heartiness and protein to this dippable and delicious melted cheese.

The best way to do this is on the stovetop. Warm up your leftover chili in a pot until it's bubbling, then stir in your queso until you reach your desired consistency. Pour it into a bowl, rip open a bag of tortilla chips, and get busy living the good life. 

Pro tip: Adding some extra pickled jalapenos on top is a good way to give the queso a little vinegary bite to cut through all the richness of the chili and cheese. This dish might not be big enough for a proper dinner, but there's no doubt that it still makes for a very delicious and filling snack. Once again, the combination of chili and cheese reigns victorious.


The omelet is a classic breakfast dish that can be stuffed with a wide variety of toppings. Mushrooms, ham, spinach, bacon, onions, sausage: All of these ingredients and more can be added to an omelet to delicious effect. The cheeses often get changed up, depending on the omelet's style: Cheddar, swiss, American, pepper jack, feta, and others are often tucked inside with other meats and vegetables to create big flavors. While it may not have occurred to you to use leftover chili in an omelet, the truth is that this pairing works remarkably well.

The best way to do this is to warm up your chili and then spoon it into the center of the omelet before you seal it shut, which captures the chili in the middle of the omelet. This allows for a nice contrast between the soft and silky outer egg and the meaty chili on the inside. 

Your other alternative would be to mix it all together frittata style, but this method might drown out the flavors of your chili since it would disperse all of the chili throughout the eggs rather than it simply being concentrated in the center as a distinct filling. However you choose to make this happen, the end result delivers a truly scrumptious omelet that's bound to get your day started off on a good foot.

Loaded baked potatoes

While a loaded baked potato is typically pushed off as a side dish in service of a bigger entrée, the truth is that it has the potential to be the star of the show, considering it can be as filling as a full meal, especially when paired with a fresh salad. Most of the time, baked potatoes are dressed up with fixings like sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, butter, and chives. But if you only stick to those commonly-used tried-and-true toppings, you're missing out on worlds of flavor that can take those spuds of yours to the next level. There are plenty of other ingredients that feel right at home in a baked potato, and chili is definitely one of them.

Cook your baked potato as you normally would, and then top it with some of your warmed-up leftover chili. Be sure to fluff up the inside of your baked potato with a fork first so that the chili can drizzle down into all the nooks and crannies of your spud. It makes for a highly satisfying bite when the spiced chili meat mixes with the creamy potato, almost reminiscent of a simplistic, partially-deconstructed shepherd's pie. Top it with a lump of sour cream and some chives, and you're in business.


Spaghetti is one of those crowd-pleasing comfort foods that sustains us pretty much from cradle to grave. From the time we first learn to use a fork up until our more seasoned golden years, there's just something undeniably satisfying about a bowl of succulent, sauced-up noodles. 

Spaghetti's easy preparation and simple ingredients also happen to make it a dish that's easy to reinterpret. Of course, you could always strictly stay within the realm of tradition and stick to a classic bolognese, but the reality is that a saucy beef bolognese isn't really all that drastically different from chili.

Both bolognese and chili are beef-based and typically stewed with tomatoes, garlic, and onions. Sure, there are differences in the spices used and a few other ingredients, but at the end of the day, chili makes for an excellent spaghetti sauce. In fact, the entire premise of cincinnati chili is based on this delicious epiphany, which is ladled over a steaming bowl of pasta and topped with cheese.

Most of the time, we tend to eat chili with rice, which is an ideal companion that perfectly soaks up all of its juices. But every once in a while, it's fun to switch it up and swap the rice for a bowl of noodles. The combination works seamlessly, especially with some shredded cheese mixed in to bind everything together.


Sometimes the best answer is the most obvious one. Burritos are such a suitable vessel for chili that it's no wonder we can find chili cheese burritos on countless menus across the globe. These delicious mini-missiles of cheesy protein are easy to eat and deliver a tasty, filling meal. To make these chili burritos, simply fill a large tortilla with your leftover chili (we'd also recommend adding some cheese, sour cream, and pickled jalapenos). Then loosely wrap it in aluminum foil and toss it in the oven until it's all toasty.

The cheese fuses to the tortilla but also mixes into the chili, creating a hearty and flavorful filling that's truly tasty. The one thing to watch out for here is a little potential drippage due to an improperly assembled tortilla, but that can be rectified once you master how to wrap it up tightly. That's the beauty of cooking: It's a learning process that lasts a lifetime. One thing's for sure: Taking the time to roll up your leftover chili into some cheesy burritos is totally worth it.