8 Tricks for the Best Healthy Chili

Pictured: Half-Hour Chili

Learn how to make chili even tastier with our tricks for the best chili.

Chili is the ultimate cold-weather comfort food. More than simply delicious, healthy chili is an easy one-pot meal made with ingredients you already have on hand, and can easily be stretched to feed a crowd on football Sundays or after a long day of raking or shoveling. Use these simple tricks to make chili healthy but still hearty and satisfying.

Watch: See our tips for healthy crockpot cooking


Chili Trick #1: Season Boldly

Using generous amounts of spice in your chili is a great way to add great flavor without any added fat or calories. Classic chili spices include chili and cumin (and cayenne for those who like it really hot). Have fun experimenting with different seasonings; cinnamon and allspice can add wonderful depth of flavor, like in our Pork & Plantain Chili.


Chili Trick #2: Choose Lean Protein

To make a classic beef chili that’s still healthy, choose beef that is at least 90%-lean, which fits into the USDA guidelines for lean meats. Or opt for lean and flavorful ground turkey breast instead.


Chili Trick #3: Use More Beans

And don’t follow the Texans and eat meat-only chili—use beans! Beans add fiber and stretch your dish healthfully and inexpensively. Plus, a bean-based vegetarian chili (like our Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili) has considerably fewer and less saturated fat than chili made with meat.

Wheat Berries

Chili Trick #4: Add Whole Grains

Make chili into a one-pot meal by adding whole grains, as in our Zesty Wheat Berry-Black Bean Chili. The wheat berries add fiber which keeps you fuller, longer. Wheat berries are also a great source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium and zinc.


Chili Trick #5: Sneak in Extra Veggies

Beyond the traditional tomato base, it’s so easy to sneak extra vitamins into your chili through vegetables; shredded sweet potatoes, zucchini, peppers and carrots add nutritional value without overpowering the other flavors.


Chili Trick #6: Watch Out for Added Sodium

Half-Hour Chili is a quick and easy meal to put together with ingredients from the pantry. Be wary when shopping, though: choose no-salt-added canned tomatoes and reduced-sodium broths to control salt levels in your chili. And be sure to rinse canned beans before using to significantly reduce sodium levels.

White Chili

Pictured: White Chili

Chili Trick #7: Brighten Flavors with Acidic Ingredients

Adding a splash of lime juice or cider vinegar to your chili at the end of cooking helps to brighten the dish and add another layer of complexity to the flavor. And no one will know you took a shortcut with canned beans and chilies to make our White Chili—the acidity will give your dish a garden-fresh taste.

Beef & Bean Chili Verde

Pictured: Beef & Bean Chili Verde

Chili Trick #8: Use Fresh Toppings

Add extra flavor to your chili with fun toppings. Beef & Bean Chili Verde utilizes fresh flavors like chopped cilantro, diced red onion and shredded Monterey Jack, which create a great presentation and round out the meal.