Chili is a popular dish with numerous variations, like vegetarian bean chili, beef chili, and turkey chili. The nutrition and calories in chili will depend on which ingredients you use and whether your chili is homemade, canned, or from your favorite restaurant.
Classic homemade chili made with ground beef and beans provides about 264 calories per 1-cup serving, according to the USDA.
Canned chili can have as many as 360 calories per cup. Homemade versions typically have less saturated fat and sodium than canned or restaurant chili.
The Basic Ingredients in Chili
A typical chili recipe calls for ground beef, kidney beans, black beans, diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and onions. Spices like chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper give it that flavorful and spicy kick it's known for.
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You can make a leaner chili recipe by using ground turkey or chicken instead of beef. Another option is to make a plant-based chili with beans as the main ingredient. Bean chili recipes are especially high in fiber.
Nutrition and Calories in Chili
There are several chili varieties you can make depending on your preferences and nutritional goals.
Chili Calories and Nutrition
Classic beef chili (with beans)
Beef chili without beans
Turkey or chicken chili (with beans)
Vegetarian bean chili
Classic Beef Chili With Beans (Homemade)
On average, a classic bowl of beef chili with beans has 264 calories in a 1-cup serving, and it serves up some serious protein and fiber. Tomatoes, one of the main ingredients, are high in vitamin C and lycopene, which may lower the risk of prostate cancer, according to Harvard Health.
Extra points if you make homemade chili with hot peppers, which add an extra nutrient to the mix. People who ate spicy foods every day (versus once a week) had a 14 percent lower risk of death, according to an August 2015 study in the BMJ. Researchers believe that capsaicin, an active compound in spicy foods, could help with lowering cholesterol and inflammation.
Some chili recipes can be high in calories, saturated fat and sodium, especially if you add toppings like:
- Shredded cheddar cheese: 457 calories per cup
- Sour cream: 24 calories per tablespoon
- Frito Lay corn chips: 160 calories per ounce
- Jalapeno peppers: 4 calories per piece
Canned chili often has more fat, sodium and preservatives than its homemade counterpart. For instance, a large serving of Wendy's chili contains 250 calories and has 21 grams of protein. It also boasts over 1 gram of sodium and 2.5 grams of saturated fat.
By comparison, one cup of Applebee's chili has 214 calories, 17.1 grams of protein, 518 milligrams of sodium and 5.6 grams of saturated fat. Panera Bread has a turkey chili option with 210 calories, 15 grams of protein and 580 milligrams of sodium per cup.
Depending on the brand and type, canned chili can be high in calories, fat, and sodium. Wolf Brand Canned Chili has 360 calories in one cup, along with 7 grams of saturated fat and 1 gram of sodium. Hormel Chili with Beans has 270 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, and 990 milligrams of sodium per can (8.7 ounces).
If you're looking for a more nutritious canned chili, consider Amy's Organic Chili. It's made with organic ingredients and has a reasonable 300 calories and 770 milligrams of sodium per 9-ounce serving.
Chicken or Turkey Chili
Making chili with turkey or chicken will take away some of the calories and saturated fat. A bowl with one cup of turkey chili has 213 calories and about 2 grams of saturated fat.
Vegetarian Chili (Bean Chili)
You can also leave out the meat altogether and make vegetarian chili for fewer calories, less saturated fat, and more fiber in your dish. A 1-cup serving of bean chili has about 106 calories, 0.1 grams of saturated fat, and 7 grams of gut-healthy fiber, per the USDA.
To make your own vegetarian bean chili at homeSimply swap in two extra cans of beans for the meat in your recipe.
Try this delicious recipe for Vegetarian Spicy Bean Chili or Slow Cooker Vegan Chili. This recipe for Vegan 3-Bean and Beer Chili is topped with a squeeze of lime and has just 172 calories per cup.
Ways to Make a Nutritious Chili
Choosing the right toppings can help you make chili healthy, Instead of piling on shredded cheese or sour cream, use reduced-fat versions or add just a pinch to cut back the calories. You can make a simple homemade guac by mashing avocado and sprinkling with lemon juice and salt to taste. Stir in cilantro, jalapeño or green onions to add even more flavor.
When you're making homemade chili, opt for low-sodium kidney and black beans and rinse them before adding to the pot. Also, use low-sodium diced tomatoes and lean ground beef, turkey or white meat chicken, or beans for a meat-free meal. Focus on adding plenty of minced garlic and other seasonings, such as chili powder, cumin and, for added heat, cayenne pepper, rather than a lot of salt.
- The BMJ: "Consumption of Spicy Foods and Total and Cause Specific Mortality"
- USDA: "Chili Con Carne With Beans"
- Harvard Health: "10 Superfoods To Boost A Healthy Diet"
- USDA: "Cheese, Cheddar"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Cultured Sour Cream"
- Frito Lay: "Fritos Original Corn Chips"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Jalapeno Peppers"
- Wendy's: "Chili"
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Applebee's Chili"
- Panera Bread: "Panera Bread Nutritional Information"
- Wolf Brand: "Original Chili With Beans"
- Hormel: "Hormel Chili With Beans"
- Amy's: "Amy's Organic Chili"
- American Heart Association: "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?"
- USDA: Turkey or chicken chili
- USDA: Chili With Beans, Without Meat