Do you love Wendy’s chili? I certainly do! Their classic beef chili with beans is widely adored but rarely successfully replicated—until now! My easy-to-follow copycat recipe shares what I believe are the secret ingredients behind what makes Wendy’s chili so irresistible!

It’s a terrific beef chili to prepare to feed a crowd or when hosting folks in your home and you want to serve them a warm bowl of something special. Stovetop and crockpot instructions are provided.

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wendys chili in a bowl

There are a few key secrets to making chili, just like Wendy’s restaurant, that I am going to share with you. Be sure to read through this post before printing the recipe card. I have shared a lot of tips to make this Wendy’s.

I wanted a fool proof recipe for chili and this recipe turned out perfectly.  It is so delicious!  And easy.  Lots of meat too. 

— Shirley W.

How I found what is really in Wendy’s chili

This recipe started when I checked out a cookbook with restaurant recipes from the library. I was newly married (1982) and was trying to find the perfect chili recipe that tasted like our favorite take-out chili. We were on a newlywed budget, so creating a less expensive chili just like Wendy’s was my goal.

 I copied the recipe on the small index card, minus the beans. It took a few years to convince my husband that beans are good in chili. Over time, I had to glue the small card onto a bigger one, and we made a few changes, like using stewed tomatoes and canned green chilis.

Copycat Wendy's Chili old recipe card

It didn’t start as the perfect recipe; it sort of evolved over the course of 20 or so years. You can tell by our recipe card. Many pots of chili have been made using this recipe card.

Why this chili recipe is like Wendy’s

I changed up the recipe again when I originally published this post by looking carefully at the ingredients listed on the Wendy’s website. Then I checked the restaurant’s website recently, and Wendy’s changed their beans, so that is also reflected in this newer updated version.

What is Wendy’s top secret chili ingredient?

There are really two things that make a Wendy’s copycat pot of chili amazing.

  • This secret might surprise you, but time is the key! It’s all about the cooked beef patties they put in the chili.
  • There is a touch of sweetness with the 6 grams of sugar per cup.
  • Wendy’s chili has two kinds of beans in the recipe.

Ingredients: What’s in Wendy’s chili?

cans of beans, peppers, celery, onion, cumin hamburger, chili powder, garlic powder

I have carefully researched and broken down the ingredients to give you the most authentic copycat recipe.

What type of meat is in Wendy’s Chili?

Wendy’s takes leftover char-grilled patties and puts them in the fridge for the next batch of chili. When they are ready to make chili, they put the patties in a pot of boiling water. Boiling the burgers reduces the fat content, so the chili will not be greasy. Also, boiling brings back some of the moisture to the meat after sitting in the fridge.

I start with a fresh hamburger for my recipe, and after it is cooked, I drain and use paper towels to remove the excess grease.

What kind of beans does Wendy’s put in their chili?

I originally got this recipe in the mid-1980s. I am updating this post in 2022, so I checked back on the restaurant website, and they have changed their beans in the ingredients list. They did have kidney beans and pink beans listed. However, now they have chili beans listed as prepared pinto beans and kidney beans.

Does Wendy’s put sugar in their chili?

Again I referred to the restaurant’s ingredient list on their website. There are 6 grams of sugar in each serving of chili.

How To Make Copycat Chili

  1. Cook hamburger in a large pot over medium heat. Break apart the hamburger as you stir it. You will want your hamburger to be pea-size pieces. Cook until there is no pink left in the meat.
  2. Drain off the fat. I like to tip the pan and then spoon off any grease. Then, blot the meat with paper towels to get the last bit of fat from the meat.
  1. Next, add onions, green peppers, and celery to the cooked hamburger. Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes to tenderize the vegetables.
  1. Add tomatoes, beans, seasonings, and water.
  2. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer covered for 1 hour.

Gina’s Pro Tip: How To Cook Crumbled Meat For Chili

One of my favorite tools in my kitchen is my simple meat chopper. The curved 5-blade design makes cooking hamburger quicker and easier when I need it crumbled.

wendy's chili in a bowl with cheese near by

Gina’s Chili Tips

If you find that your chili is too runny, be sure to visit my post Tips For How To Thicken Chili In A Slow Cooker.

Make Wendy’s Chili In A Slow Cooker

If you would like to use this recipe in a slow cooker, then cook your hamburger as instructed. Add the rest of the ingredients, stir, and cover. Cook on low for 4-5 hours.

Topping Ideas For Serving On Chili

 This chili recipe is great served with toppings. If serving a crowd, fill bowls with these topping ideas so guests can pick and choose their favorites.

How to make Wendy’s Chili Cheese Baked Potato

If you like Wendy’s fluffy potatoes topped with their signature chili, then I have good news!

You can make baked potatoes like Wendy’s at home with my Air Fryer Baked Potatoes Recipe. The potatoes turn out perfect every time, with a creamy center and crisp, salty skins.

This would be a great way to make a meal using your leftover Wendy’s copycat chili recipe. Top with shredded cheese and some hot sauce.

What To Do With Leftovers

Here is the best part about leftover chili, it tastes even better the next day.

How To Reheat Chili

Reheat leftover chili on the stovetop at medium-low heat. You can also heat it by the bowl in the microwave. Just be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 F.

Freezing Chili

  1. Allow to chili to cool down to room temperature.
  2. Use thick, durable freezer bags or airtight freezer containers. Be sure to label and date your freezer bags.
  3. Lay the bags flat on a cookie sheet and freeze for 24 hours. Then remove it from the cookie sheet and stack in your freezer.

To reheat, defrost in the fridge overnight. Or, to defrost quickly, use the defrost setting on a microwave. Be careful not to overheat the chili in the bag when defrosting in a microwave. It is best to put the chili in a sauce pot and heat it on your stove to 165 degrees.

Canning Chili

Make a double batch of Wendy’s Copycat Chili according to the recipe card at the bottom of this post. Then visit my post, How To Make Canned Chili, for complete canning instructions. Canning soup and stew is easy and safe when you use a few basic canning safety tips. You can have a quick heat and eat dinner ready on a cold winter night in minutes.

Host A Chili Bar Dinner Party

This Wend’s chili, along with my Texas Roadhouse Copycat Chili Recipe, Ground Turkey Chili, Copycat Zippy’s Chili and Cincinnati Chili, are great to serve when hosting a large crowd for the big game or an easy get-together with friends. All these chili recipes can be easy slow cooker recipes to feed a crowd.

Make your next gathering easy with my How To Host A Chili Bar. There are great chili dinner ideas, make-ahead tips, decor ideas, and topping recipes. By setting up a chili food bar, you create a customizable experience where guests can build their own bowls of chili with a variety of toppings and sides.

I Want To Answer Your Questions & Hear Your Comments

Do you have a question about this recipe❓ I will answer in the comment form below👇🏼 the recipe card. Did you make this recipe? If so, could you be a gem and leave a comment and rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below? This helps others find yummy 😋 recipes to make for their family and friends.

Wendy's copycat chili in a bowl with cheese and crackers beside it
5 from 5 ratings

Wendy’s-Inspired: Thick and Hearty Copycat Chili Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 16 cups
You might think Wendy's has top-secret recipes; however, I am sharing with you an authentic Copycat Wendy's Chili recipe that you can make at home. I carefully read through all the the website data that Wendy's provides and taste tested to compare each ingredient in this copycat recipe.

Note: Be sure to read through the recipe’s post for tips and details about this recipe.

Ingredients
 

  • 2 pounds ground beef, 90% extra lean
  • 1 cup onions, diced small
  • 1/3 cup green pepper, diced smal
  • 1 cup celery, diced very small
  • 1 20 ounce tomato sauce
  • 1 14 oz stewed tomatoes, canned, slightly purred with a blender
  • 1 14 oz kidney beans, canned, rinsed, and drained
  • 1 14 oz pinto beans, canned, rinsed, and drained
  • 2 teaspoons cumin, I believe this is what they call "spices" in their list of ingredients.
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, mild
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups water

Instructions
 

  • Cook hamburger in a large pot over medium heat. Break apart the hamburger as you stir it. You will want your hamburger to be pea-size pieces. Cook until there is no pink left in the meat.
    2 pounds ground beef
  • Remove from heat. Drain off the fat. I like to tip the pan and then spoon off any grease. Then, blot the meat with paper towels to get the last bit of fat from the meat.
  • Over medium heat, add onions, green peppers, and celery to the cooked hamburger. Cook on medium heat for 3 minutes to tenderize the vegetables.
    1 cup onions, 1/3 cup green pepper, 1 cup celery
  • Add tomatoes, beans, seasonings, and water. Stir well to incorporate the ingredients.
    1 20 ounce tomato sauce, 1 14 oz stewed tomatoes, 1 14 oz kidney beans, 1 14 oz pinto beans, 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons salt, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 cups water
  • Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer covered for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes to be sure the chili is not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Notes

How To Reheat Chili
Reheat leftover chili on the stovetop at medium-low heat. You can also heat it by the bowl in the microwave. Just be sure the internal temperature reaches 165 F.
Freezing Chili
    1. Allow the chili to cool down to room temperature.
    1. Use thick, durable freezer bags or airtight freezer containers. Be sure to label and date your freezer bags.
    1. Lay the bags flat on a cookie sheet and freeze for 24 hours. Then remove it from the cookie sheet and stack in your freezer.
To reheat, first defrost in the fridge overnight or defrost in a microwave. 
Serving: 1cup, Calories: 245kcal, Carbohydrates: 20g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g, Monounsaturated Fat: 5g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 40mg, Sodium: 575mg, Potassium: 590mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 5g, Vitamin A: 306IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 54mg, Iron: 3mg
Cuisine: American
Course: Soup
Author: Gina Dickson

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