How Long Is Leftover Chili Good For? An In-Depth Guide

How long is leftover chili good for? Many people get very ill from eating leftover chili, and more often than not, they blame it on the spicy flavor profile. However, you may be shocked to learn what the actual shelf life of leftover chili is and how it’s usually already spoiled when being eaten.

Today, my guide will walk you through everything that affects this shelf life, how long chili lasts in the fridge and freezer, how to properly store it, and how to identify spoiled leftovers.


What Exactly Goes Into Chili?

“Chili” is a simpler term used to describe “chili con carne.” This is an extremely popular Mexican dish that is essentially a type of saucy spicy meat stew.

There are hundreds of different versions of this dish, but they all will have some ingredients in common.

More often than not, chili or chili con carne is made from a combination of ground or sliced meat (usually beef), diced tomatoes, pinto or kidney beans, garlic, and onions. The hero ingredient is, of course, fresh chilis, although sometimes dried chili powder is used or added.

Some versions include different vegetables like carrots, bell peppers, corn, squash, or mushrooms. There are also a ton of variations that uses different kinds of meat, chili, and beans. 

One thing that makes chili so incredibly great is its versatility and the many different ways you can use it. 

If you are looking for some ideas, try my Crispy Air Fried Potato Wedges or my Homemade Garlic Bread Recipe first. 

It’s important to understand what goes into chili before looking at how long is leftover chili good for. The ingredients will ultimately affect the shelf life.


Homemade Versus Canned Chili – What’s The Difference?

There are quite a few differences between homemade and store-bought chili. The most obvious difference will come from the flavors.

Store-bought or canned chili is often much saltier and a lot spicier. That’s because the flavors have been heavily concentrated during the preservation process. But don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad. It just is sometimes a little overwhelming, doesn’t taste super fresh, and needs some adjusting.

Homemade chili is a lot fresher, richer, and usually has more balanced flavors.

Another key difference, but one not so obvious to the eye, is the nutrients in the two versions.

Canned chili has a lot fewer nutrients and, as I’ve mentioned, a lot more sodium (salt). Fresh chili will definitely be higher in nutritional value, and you can adjust the sodium content to your liking.


How Long Is Leftover Chili Good For?

While there are some factors that will influence this timeframe, generally it’s around 4 days in the fridge. If you are working with canned chili, that timeframe can be slightly longer, around 5-6 days.

Now, what exactly influences the shelf life?

The main influence would be the freshness of the ingredients when you made the chili. If you used meat and vegetables that were already close to their expiration date, the overall shelf life of the cooked chili will be lowered by a couple of days. Remember, chili contains fresh ingredients which are incredibly perishable.

If you are working with canned chili, the use-by date will ultimately affect the shelf life once it has been opened. If it was on or over this date, the chili won’t last nearly as long, even if kept in the fridge.

Another major factor is how you stored the chili. If it isn’t kept under perfect conditions, its shelf life can be reduced significantly.


How Long Does Leftover Chili Last In The Freezer?

If you need the leftover chili to last longer than 4 (or 5-6) days, you can always opt to freeze it.

Again, if you don’t freeze it properly and protect it from freezer burn, it won’t last as long as it has the potential to.

Frozen chili should preferably be used within 6 months of freezing. But as you likely know, most food items will last much longer than that. It’s a matter of how well the texture and flavor keep during that period.

The longer you keep something frozen, the less flavor it will have and the more compromised its texture will be. The meat, for example, will become tough and dry, not tender and juicy as it should be.

How Long Does Leftover Chili Last In The Freezer

How To Tell If Chili Is Bad

There are a few obvious signs that your leftover chili may have spoiled. The first thing you will notice is either a funky smell or spots of discoloration (or even mold).

The smell comes from bacteria and is usually the first sign to show. Only when the bacteria have multiplied to a specific degree will visible signs appear.

You may also notice some textural changes, mainly, the chili will become mushy, slimy, or chunky.

Finally, but hopefully, it doesn’t come to this, your chili will taste off. In this case, it’s crucial that you don’t keep tasting to make sure. Just discard it immediately.

Reheating Leftover Chili

Remember, you can only reheat food once!

The best way to reheat leftover homemade or canned chili is on the stovetop. You can also use the microwave for quicker results, but it tends to change the chilis’ flavor and texture too much for my liking.

You can reheat it until it is piping hot or reaches an internal temperature of 165ºF (73.9ºC).

FAQS Chili Infographic


Can you eat chili after 5 days?

It is possible, but generally, chili (especially homemade) only lasts 4 days at the most. You can always check for signs of spoilage before eating or discarding the chili.

How long is leftover turkey chili good for in the fridge?

Turkey chili will last for exactly the same amount of time as any other chili, so about 4 days. The different kinds of meat don’t really have different shelf lives. It depends on how fresh it was when you made the chili.

How to store chili in the fridge?

If you do store leftover chili, keep it inside an airtight container on the top shelf of the fridge. Don’t store it near any raw meat, fresh produce, dairy products, or fresh eggs.

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