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How Long is Chili Good For? (Storing Leftovers)

Chili is a delicious meal and is great to make because, after hours of cooking, you have plenty of servings, with minimal dishes. But what about the storage process of all the extra chili? When does chili go bad?

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I love a steaming hot bowl of homemade chili. It’s my favorite of the cold-weather dishes because it’s so hearty and comforting. The tender ground beef, smoky chili powder, spicy chili peppers, beans and tomatoes.

For me, I love some kidney beans in mine, but I know that is a little controversial. Personally, I eat my leftover chili the next day over a bowl of tender pasta noodles.

Whether you are storing a few portions of leftover homemade chili. Or storing canned chili in easy to reheat containers for lunch, the way you store chili will affect how long the leftovers last.

You have two options with your leftovers. You can either put chili in your fridge or store it in the freezer. As long as it is properly stored, you have time to eat your leftovers.

Check out my Healthy Slow Cooker Chili, Copycat Cincinnati Chili, and serve them with Skillet Cornbread!

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ladle of cincinnati chili

How long is chili good for on the counter?

Generally, restaurant standards state that after your cooked food enters the danger zone, the shelf life of chili is four hours. If you’ve heard this before, it may sound like you have four hours to let it cool on the counter before you have to put it in the fridge. 

However, that isn’t the case. Since it still has to lower its temperature in the fridge, the window is much shorter. At most, you want to wait an hour or two before putting it in the fridge and cool down the rest of the way.

The best way for me is to let it come close to room temperature before storing chili in the fridge. This way the heat from the dish doesn’t raise the temperature of the cold items in the refrigerator.

But no longer than 2 hours at room temperature for safety reasons!

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bowl of chili and spaghetti

How long is chili good in the fridge?

How long your chili will stay good in the fridge depends on whether or not you made chili with meat. If the cooked chili contains meat, it will expire a few days faster than chilis without meats.

Most meat-based chilis like chili con carne are safe to eat for three to four days while chili made without meat can often make it 5 or 6 days without a problem.

To maximize the lifetime of your chili in the fridge, you will want to wait until it cools before putting it in the fridge. You also want to place it in an airtight container or sturdy plastic bag. 

How long does chili stay good in the freezer?

Technically, food in the freezer never goes bad. There’s no danger in eating something that has been frozen for a long time. This is because bacterial growth (especially e. coli) is frozen at 0 degrees, and can’t keep growing and causing the food to rot.

In reality though, usually, after a couple of months, frozen food quickly loses its flavor and texture. And get freezer burn which is not fun to eat.

For the most part, it can last anywhere between 4 to 6 months in the freezer without any harm. A great way to reduce the chances of freezer burn, you want to seal it in an air-tight container such as a heavy-duty freezer bags or sealed container. Shallow containers stack easier in the freezer but so do freeze bags.

Additionally, if you plan to freeze chili with hot peppers, be aware that sometimes the freezing process can make those peppers hotter than they originally were. 

black eyed pea chili in a pot
bring to boil and simmer

I prefer to put soups like chili into large freezer bags. This allows me to lay them flat in the freezer and save space as I can stack multiple servings on top of each other without taking up much room.

How To Tell if Chili is Still Good

Even if you are within the window for good food, sometimes bacteria grow faster than we expect. That’s why it is so important to understand the signs of bad chili.

There are three main tests to see if food is still good. You want to check chili smells, consistency, and color. The smell is the most used because it is the easiest. All you have to do is take a whiff and see if it reminds you of chili, or maybe something a little sour.

If there is meat in your chili, that sour smell should catch your attention if your chili has gone bad. You are looking for a rancid or sort of musty smell. The smell should be noticeable almost right away, and a clear sign that it is time to toss this food in the trash.

There is also consistency. We find this is a hard way to tell after freezing a meal because sometimes things separate and look a little odd anyway. Also, it is hard to tell if a food has a slimy texture without directly sticking your hand into it. But, if you want to look for a strange consistency, look clumpy and slimy chunks of chili.

Next is the color. The color takes a little longer to change sometimes than the consistency or smell, but when it does change, it is immediately obvious (plus you don’t have to take off the lid and risk that rotten smell invading your whole kitchen).

Focus on your beans and meat. Usually, these will change colors first. They will have fuzzy green or white spots on them that slowly grow larger in color as the bacteria and mold spreads. Any significant change in color or texture should be avoided.

Check out this post on how to tell if Chicken Broth goes bad for more info!

Reheating Leftover Chili

When reheating the leftover chili, be sure to make sure it is fully thawed. Thaw frozen chili in plastic containers in a sink of cold water, or thaw overnight in the fridge. Once it is, reheat in the microwave or in a pot on the stove top until the internal temperature is 165F.

If you love this recipe as much as I do, please write a five-star review in the comment section below (or on Pinterest with the “tried it” button – you can now add pictures into reviews, too!), and be sure to help me share on facebook!

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When it comes to checking for spoiled food, always check the expiration date, especially for perishable foods, and air on the side of caution when food poisoning is concerned.

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