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What can I add to canned chili?

I LOVE love love Trader Joe's chili. It's incredibly tasty and is really easy. I add an additional can of kidney beans which fleshes it out some, but I'm also looking for goodies to add to it. I do top it with sour cream and shredded cheese once it's done.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Chopped bell pepper and slivered red onions are nice add-ons to chili. Frito corn chips add some crunch, if you want to invest more time then you could deep fry some tortillas yourself, I live some starch with my chili, but am not a big fan of spaghetti/macaroni in there, the tortilla (or chips) options do it for me.

    1. You aren't refering to TJ's veg. chili are you? I used to love it, but haven't seen it in the store for more than a year. Anyhow, when I USED to have canned chili I'd add some frozen corn and top it with sour cream and a dash of hot sauce. Healthy, low fat and good. I really miss it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Glencora

        Sadly, no. It's the turkey chili. That's the one thing I hate about Trader Joe's - the disappearance of products you've grown to love.

      2. A can of those Del Monte 'olive oil, basil, and garlic' diced tomatoes...
        They cut thru the density of a lot of bean dishes nicely...

        Also, the meat ripped from the carcass of a rotisserrie chicken... Or---
        Cubed and sauteed eggplant...
        Steamed Potato chunks, or potato chunks cooked with the chili for the last hour if making homemade chili...

        This mix of ingredients would be better 'the next day'...

        1. I've never had it but if it's like most canned chili, you'd probably do well adding some hot sauce. I'd go with sriracha. It's got a good chile flavour that will work well in your chili.
          You could also, or instead of, add some canned chipotle in adobo. It will add an air of smokiness to it. You can pull them out and cut the seeds out to make them less potent.
          Peppers and onions are a nice addition and I like to puree mine for chili.


          1. Make Frito Pie. Put a layer of Fritos in your bowl (the small ones, not those scooper thing). Top with chili. Top that with shredded cheddar and chopped onion. Enjoy with a nice cold Shiner Bock!

            More on topic, adding a can of green chiles can be great. Corn is also a good add in. I personally prefer black or pinto beans in chili - kidney beans don't really work for me. But, I'm a Texan and we're weird about beans in chili to start with!

            1. go easy if you use the chipotle in adobo -- a little goes a verrrry loooong waaaay.
              i'd add in some cumin, maybe a tablespoon of strong coffee, a dash of cinnamon? hot sauce, and i like the idea if the diced tomatoes, garlic, etc from a can.

              i doctor up canned black beans the same way (sans coffee and cinnamon). adding chopped onion on top. a shot of hot sace on the top with a vinegary component.

              1. Add velveeta (or American cheese slices) for chili cheese dip.

                1. My personal belief is that Man was given canned chili that he might then dump it over a plate of cheese enchiladas. Or maybe crunchy, non-authentic tacos. The wise man forgetteth not the shredded iceberg lettuce and the sour cream, also. That goes for women too, of course.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: Will Owen

                    And and here I thought it was to put on hotdogs, w/ shredded cheddar and chopped onions. Homemade doesn't seem the same, maybe because it's too lumpy and not runny.

                    1. re: chowser

                      Chili is one of a very few items that (to my taste, anyway) are usually better from a can than fresh. I think it's because of that second cooking in an enclosed area during the canning process, and maybe also because of the more uniform texture of the meat. I've used canned chili as my guide for developing the flavor of the stuff I make: the closer I come to Gebhart's or Hormel, the more successful I've been.

                      Yeah, chili dogs are pretty damned good...and don't forget the old coffee shop "chili size", chili on a cheeseburger!

                      Okay, now I'm REALLY ready for lunch!

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          A good no-brainer dinner is chili on top of a tamale. A handful of lettuce topped with a blop of TJ's guacamole rounds things out nicely.

                        2. re: chowser

                          I slice up the hot dogs and fry them up a little bit before dumping in the chili and cooking it all up. Then I serve it in a bowl with chopped onions and shredded cheddar. :)

                          1. re: Morganna

                            LOL, the low carb version! That sounds good, too.

                      1. "Taco" Salad SHredded Iceberg, Chopped tomatoes, diced onion, chili, top with SOur Cream and Salsa (lately I have been addicted to Salsa verde). Eat with tortilla chips. YUM!
                        Sit in front of the TV with a great beer.

                        1. Since homemade chili is just about the easieast and cheapest dish to make, I can't imagine buying canned. However, the toppings I offer for my homemade should work: shredded cheddar, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, hot sauce, diced sweet onion. I made a huge Crockpot of chili today, probably cost about $10 and yielded 6 hearty servings.

                          9 Replies
                          1. re: pikawicca

                            I liked being able to share a can of chili with my SO for lunch 2 or 3 times a month. It was such a quick way to have a hot, healthy lunch. Now that the vegetarian chili has gone away, we were talking about making our own, but we don't want to eat chili all week. If I could think of some way to store or freeze it, I'd love to make my own.

                            1. re: Glencora

                              chili freezes great. tupperware mini bowls for single servings...or larger for two. freezerzip lock (doubled) is fine too.

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Those Ziploc storage containers work well too. You can get the cheap and you have premade meals ready to take out of the freezer and put into your lunch.


                                1. re: Davwud

                                  DT, you are right -- and the freezer ziplock storage containers are MUCH neater for chili (and most everything else). sometimes, though, i need the space in the freezer that a flattened bag allows.

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Good to know that freezing is an option.

                                    1. re: Glencora

                                      i use masking tape, with a trusty mr. sharpy pen, and write contents, date on tape and stick it on the container. easy. removable.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        How come I didn't think of that! Great idea!

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          chef, 'cause you are too busy creating great dishes for us to drool over. i still want that pizza! ;-)

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            You are very sweet to say that! Honestly that pizza or pizza period is EASY!

                          2. canned chopped tomatoes, onion, additional chili powder or "tabasco". If I add beans I prefer black or pinto or even great northern to kidney, although sometimes a mix of different kinds is good. Ive also been known to throw a half cup or so of a good salsa into it. Just as a note, in Hawaii chili is almost invariably served over rice. Took some getting used to, but its good that way.

                            1. I'll occasionally stir in a little crushed pineapple, together with cheese. Sort of Hawaiian pizza-like (heck, maybe even some bacon).

                              I suggested this to a friend who worked at a company that mfrs canned chili. She liked it, but somehow the pineapple wouldn't stand up to the canning process.

                              Still, easy enough to try at home if you feel adventuresome.

                              1. Baked tater (OK, microwaved) + chili = one of my favorite office lunches :)

                                Diced onion is one of my favorite chili toppings, but I generally don't partake in the office unless I remember my toothbrush!

                                1. A big scoop of cold coleslaw and some raw white onion... A few North Carolina road trips got me hooked on hot dogs with the chili-slaw-mustard-onion combo. I could go for a few right now.

                                  Also, on a totally boozed up stop at steak and shake, I mixed my chili mac supreme with my cheese fries. It was some of the best drunk food I have ever had. I make it all the time now when I have leftover fries. Fries, spaghetti, cheese, canned chili, onion.

                                  With these two suggestions, I have probably ruined any reputation on this board that I may have had.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. After you've topped it with your favorite cheese& sour cream (cheddar works), let the cheese melt a bit, then add some fresh thinly sliced serrano chilies, avocado, tomatoes, tobasco, raw red onion, and pickled jalapenoes and top it all with cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

                                    mmm. making myself hungry --- Breakfast which now you can pour the whole thing into or over fluffy eggs!

                                    Just had another thought. For a nice lunch pour it over a nice hunk of baked polenta, go further grill the polenta, and then top with your beloved chili and toppings. Now that could be dinner for me!

                                    3 Replies
                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      Wow, you just reminded me of a decadent brunch thing I made one bachelor weekend. I made a couple of chile-relleno omelets: open up, dry and then warm two canned green chiles, and lay some cheddar or pepper jack cheese on top and let it start to melt. Then make two one-egg French omelets, lay a cheesed chile in the middle of each and roll it up. Lay these atop a freshly warmed soft corn tortilla, pour hot canned chili over, top with shredded lettuce and sour cream. Devour.

                                        1. re: chef chicklet

                                          Will Owen, that sounded REALLY good!

                                    2. Cholula hot sauce, chopped red onion, sour cream on top. While you're there, pick up some TJ's Spanish rice as a side

                                      1. Any of the following:

                                        Chunks of roasted squash.
                                        Cured black olives.
                                        Cooked kale.
                                        Toasted peanuts (trust me).
                                        Crumbled feta, to change it up from your usual cheese.

                                        1. pour it over a piece of cornbread, top with hot sauce, diced onion, diced tomato and a little sour cream or cheese. Or, as other posters mentioned...do the same thing with fritos. So bad, but soooo good.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: mrslehrer

                                            Yahhhhh!! I have a can of chili, no beans that I am having to use EXTRA RETRAINT!!! I have sooooo many of the toppings and additions. You guys rock!

                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                              What I have made since I was a kid. take your chili and add two family size cans
                                              of campbells vegetable beef soup with it. makes a fantasic chili soup. my family just
                                              loves it.

                                          2. I call this my 15/20/15 Chili. 15 minutes prep time.
                                            Serves 20 for $15.

                                            For big parties I enhance or embellish the canned stuff by purchasing the restaurant size, number 10 can (108 oz) of any well known brand on sale (about $8.00 a can). I add 1 whole cooked yellow onion, 1 lb of cooked ground beef, (drain the fat off) 1 -14.5 can of diced tomatoes and 1 -14.5 can of navy beans. Mix it all together and put it in the crockpot for a couple of hours prior to the event. The total prep time is about 15 minutes. Makes 20 servings of chili for $15.00. (Toppings not included in cost.) Chunky, rustic and hearty, it's a big crowd pleaser.

                                            Serve with the usual toppings- shredded cheese, green chilies, sour cream...the only limit is your imagination.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: PennyI

                                              I don't get this at all. With all the stuff you're adding to it, why not just make more of it and have home made.


                                            2. I often add a touch of bbq sauce - hot sauce, cheese and crackers..

                                              If I'm really hungry, I add a small baked potato

                                              1. Pour it over a plate of pasta, fries, tamales or burritos. Fill flour tortillas with chili, roll tight, secure with toothpick and fry. Yum! You're making me hungry now.

                                                1. Trader Joe's also sells frozen bell pepper strips. Those would be good sauteed and added to the chili.

                                                  Sometimes I add red or green salsa from a jar to my turkey chili, that also adds a little more zing. I add maybe 1/4 or 1/3 of a cup of salsa.

                                                  Ahhhhh! I just noticed the original thread is from 2007. That's some old chili. ;-)

                                                  1. Canned chili is like dog food for people. Too easy to make it fresh.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: PhilUSAFRet

                                                      Which wasn't the OP's question :) But if I want a quick lunch of a chili dog, I'm not going to make chili to have that. We keep a can or two of spicy chili with beans and meat on hand. I saute some jalapenos in lard and add the chili to that. Love it.

                                                    2. Have you tried adding TJ's Chipotle Salsa? It's really, really good!

                                                      1. Recently we made 7 layer dip, but instead of a refried beans layer, I added a layer of Stagg chili. Different and really good.

                                                        For a quick Tamale like fix, pour canned chili (I usually use no-bean for this) over warm polenta.

                                                        1. Pure New Mexico Red Chile Powder (about a tablespoon) along with pinto beans. Maybe some diced jalapeno and onion.