Chili is beloved because of the warmth and comfort it provides, but unlike many other comfort foods, it can be very healthy, too.
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Finding the right recipe is key, and the good news is, there are so many options and lots of flexibility when it comes to making chili. Whether you're plant-based or a carnivore, looking for low-sodium or low-calorie or perhaps you just dislike tomatoes, there's something for everyone.
These healthy chili recipes are all packed with at least 15 grams of protein and offer fewer than 500 calories per bowl, so snuggle up and dig in.
1. Cashew and Pepper Chili
- Calories: 403
- Protein: 19 grams
Lack of time is one of the top reasons people feel they have a hard time eating healthy, according to a December 2014 article published in the Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. That's where it can help to take a shortcut, like this recipe that adds two ingredients — bell peppers and cashews — to a canned chili.
Use any canned chili that you like — spicy or mild, vegan or con carne — the choice is yours. Some canned foods like chili can be higher in sodium so if this is a concern, look for options with "reduced sodium" or "low sodium" on the label. This shortcut recipes helps keep your healthy eating habits on track without requiring you to whip together an entire meal.
Get the Half Homemade Cashew and Bell Pepper Chili recipe and nutrition info.
2. Winter White Chili
- Calories: 336
- Protein: 17 grams
While "winter" is in this recipe's name, you can really enjoy it any time of year. After all, the star of the show, canned white beans, are basically always available — which is a good thing because they're so good for you.
A small clinical trial published in the Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research in March 2015 studied the effects of canned navy beans (a type of white bean) on adults with overweight or obesity. The participants ate five cups of canned navy beans each week for four weeks. At the end of the study, both men and women saw a reduction in waist circumference, and men, specifically, saw a reduction in their total and LDL cholesterol levels.
Get the Winter White Chili recipe and nutrition info.
3. Slow Cooker Vegan Chili
- Calories: 271
- Protein: 17 grams
Comfort food doesn't have to mean unhealthy, and this warm and hearty bowl of high-protein vegetarian chili is proof. The best part is minimal effort is needed thanks to the use of a slow cooker.
Black beans and pinto beans are included here, like in many chili recipes, but this plant-based version uses red lentils as well, adding bulk and protein, so the meat won't be missed. Beans and lentils are a great source of protein but unlike meat, they're also high in gut-healthy fiber. This dish serves up 8 grams of fiber per bowl.
Get the Slow Cooker Vegan Chili recipe and nutrition info.
4. Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili
- Calories: 172
- Protein: 16 grams
Butternut squash brings flavor and loads of vitamin A while also adding volume to the dish but with minimal calories. Even though this dish is lower in calories, it still manages to pack 16 grams of protein (which is more than you'll find in two hardboiled eggs, according to the USDA) and 17 grams of filling fiber.
This recipe is on the lighter side, making it perfect as a starter before a meal or serve with a piece of warm crusty bread — the sauce is perfect for dipping — if you're enjoying it as a meal.
Get the Butternut Squash and Black Bean Chili recipe and nutrition info.
5. Savory Lentil Chili With Cumin Cream
- Calories: 446
- Protein: 19 grams
This recipe is sure to impress with intriguing ingredients like green lentils and dark chocolate chips, all served up in a simple bowl of comforting chili, topped with a cumin cream. Don't be skeptical — the combination of flavors works — and it's super healthy, too.
A bowl of this chili provides almost all of your fiber needs for the day with 22 grams per serving. People assigned female at birth should eat 25 grams of fiber per day and those assigned male at birth should eat 38 grams per day, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Try using sodium-free vegetable broth and crushed tomatoes to reduce the overall sodium content.
Get the Savory Lentil Chili With Cumin Cream recipe and nutrition info.
6. Paleo-Friendly Chocolate Habanero Chili
- Calories: 252
- Protein: 25 grams
Chocolate and chili pepper create a flavor combination that makes traditional chili more interesting without overdoing it. You'll still find warmth and comfort in this dish. The ground beef provides rich flavor and the majority of the protein. Look for beef that is lower in fat — at least 90 percent lean or higher — to help reduce the amount of saturated fat in the dish.
Get the Paleo-Friendly Chocolate Habanero Chili recipe and nutrition info.
7. Minestrone Chili
- Calories: 194
- Protein: 13 grams
Not only does this recipe allow you to use up canned kidney beans, but it also marries the best of two dishes: minestrone soup and chili.
It's broth-based, which reduces the calories in the meal. Regular soup sippers typically take in fewer calories on average, and also weigh less and have smaller waistlines compared to those who skimp on soup, an April 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found. The beans that make this, well, a chili, are full of protein and fiber — two satiating nutrients that aid in weight loss.
Get the Minestrone Chili recipe and nutrition info.
8. Spicy Bean Chili
- Calories: 270
- Protein: 17 grams
We always assume fresh is best and that frozen, canned or dried are somehow subpar when it comes to what foods have to offer nutritionally. In many cases, this simply isn't true. While you want to be cognizant of sodium levels (look for low- or reduced-sodium versions), canned beans still deliver on nutrition.
This vegetarian chili gets its heat from both chili powder and a jalapeño pepper and cooks up in just a bit over 30 minutes.
Get the Spicy Bean Chili recipe and nutrition info.
9. Crock-Pot Ranch White Chicken Chili
- Calories: 360
- Protein: 27 grams
While no ranch dressing goes into the chili, there's still a hint of that flavor from the dry ranch packet in the recipe. Ingredients like white beans and chicken thighs make the chili homey and filling while still healthy. It's great for a work-from-home day because it only takes 10 minutes to prep and then sits for six hours.
Get the Crock-Pot Ranch White Chicken Chili recipe and nutrition info from The Wholesome Dish.
10. Turkey Chili
- Calories: 488
- Protein: 40 grams
Sometimes making chili can be tedious because it has to cook for so long. This recipe only takes 40 minutes in total to prep and cook. This dish lends itself to being made at the last minute — not only is the prep simple, but most likely many of the ingredients are already in your pantry. If you already have leftover turkey on hand, you can save yourself a trip to the grocery store.
Get the Turkey Chili recipe and nutrition info from Eating Bird Food.
11. Mole Poblano Chili
- Calories: 315
- Protein: 15 grams
Load up on veggies with this chili, which includes mushrooms, canned tomatoes, two types of peppers and onions. Almond butter adds flavor as well as thickening the chili. And an array of spices — including cocoa powder, chili powder, oregano, cumin and cinnamon — help build rich and complex flavors.
Get the Mole Poblano Chili recipe and nutrition info from Dishing Out Health.
12. Vegan Lentil Chili
- Calories: 316
- Protein: 18 grams
Follow this recipe when you truly don't feel like cooking. It takes five minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook. And the prep work is minimal: You'll open cans, rinse off beans and cut up an onion. Plus, since most of the ingredients, like the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes and beans, come in cans, this recipe is also fairly cheap to make.
Get the Vegan Lentil Chili recipe and nutrition info from Feel Good Foodie.
13. Instant Pot Pumpkin Turkey Chili
- Calories: 348
- Protein: 35 grams
The sweetness from the pumpkin puree and the tomato paste is leveled out with the spice of the jalapeños. The smoky taste comes from the smoked paprika and chipotle chili. Corn chips on the top complete the dish and add some appealing crunch.
Get the Instant Pot Pumpkin Turkey Chili recipe and nutrition info from The Recipe Well.
14. Wendy's Chili (Copycat)
- Calories: 422
- Protein: 27 grams
Fast-food cravings are real. But if you're looking to avoid the high levels of fat and sodium often found in fast food, turn to this copycat recipe. It contains almost double the protein of Wendy's chili. Plus, it uses fewer ingredients. This chili takes 10 minutes of prep and a little more than an hour to cook. Since it makes 12 servings, this dish is perfect for a crowd.
15. Buffalo Chicken Chili
- Calories: 207
- Protein: 22 grams
There's just 10 ingredients in this recipe and it takes 30 minutes on the stovetop. The spice comes from the Buffalo wing sauce, which can be altered for more or less spice depending on your palate. Keep in mind there are some potential health benefits to indulging in spicy food, such as boosting metabolism, improving heart health and supporting the gut microbiome, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
This dish is perfect for game days and Sunday dinners — or really any day you're looking for a chili version of Buffalo chicken wings.
16. Easy Cincinnati Chili
- Calories: 174
- Protein: 21 grams
You don't need to travel to the Midwest (or even the grocery store) for this recipe. It calls for a handful of spices, onions, ground beef and tomato paste. Add tomato and Worcester sauce and vinegar and voila! Cincinnati chili meets family dinners around the world.
17. Slow Cooker Aloha Chili
- Calories: 393
- Protein: 28 grams
The twist on this Hawaiian-style chili is the addition of pineapples to the beef, beans and veggies. After a bit of prep work — browning meat and chopping up vegetables — you'll be able to add all of the ingredients to your slow cooker. Once it's ready, it's just a matter of selecting your favorite toppings.
- Cleveland Clinic: "Is Spicy Food Good for You?"
- Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism: "Understanding Barriers and Facilitators to Healthy Eating and Active Living in Rural Communities"
- Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research: "Canned Navy Bean Consumption Reduces Metabolic Risk Factors Associated with Obesity"
- USDA: "Eggs (Raw)"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Easy Ways to Boost Fiber in Your Daily Diet"
- British Journal of Nutrition: "Soup consumption is associated with a lower dietary energy density and a better diet quality in US adults"