Chili is one of those dishes that is best suited to making in large batches. This means that you often end up with lots of leftovers, and if you don't want to eat the same meal for a week, this can seem like a lot of food waste.
We’re here to tell you that you can freeze chili! It heats up quickly and easily and is the perfect warming fall dinner when you do not have time midweek to cook.
How to freeze chili
You should allow chili to cool to room temperature and then place in airtight containers in the freezer.
A top tip to cool the chili rapidly is to soak the pot in a large bowl of ice water. Ensure you stir the chili well to distribute the cool temperature evenly. Add ice cubes to the water as required, and allow the chili to cool to a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
We suggest using heavy-duty ziplock freezer bags. This is because they seal tightly and can be frozen flat with all of the air pressed out. This also allows you to freeze individual portion sizes to further reduce food waste. They will also defrost faster in smaller batches.
Our top tip for filling freezer bags is to turn over the opening’s edge so that you make less of a mess during the transfer process. Seal the bag, leaving an inch or so open, and lay flat on the countertop. Press flat and try to remove as much of the air as possible before sealing shut.
This tip helps to retain the quality of the chili as less of it is exposed to air. It also helps to save freezer space and will make defrosting easier. Do not forget to date and label everything you freeze.
We advise freezing leftover chili on the same day that you make it, to minimize the risk of bacteria growing. This will also mean that your thawed chili will taste fresher and have a better texture.
If you store it correctly, chili will keep perfectly for around 4 to 6 months but will be safe to eat for a lot longer. The taste or texture may begin to deteriorate after this point, however, due to freezer burn.
How to defrost chili
If you thaw the chili correctly in the refrigerator, you will be able to keep it for 3 to 4 days safely. This should take about 1 hour.
Place it in a saucepan over medium heat, cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce the temperature and cook until piping hot all the way through.
To cook from frozen, pop the frozen chili in a large saucepan and pour over a splash of boiling water. Heat gently on a medium-high heat until the chili defrosts and returns to a more liquid state. This should take around 15 minutes.
The texture is likely to be more watery than the original chili, so you can add in some cornstarch and some extra seasoning. You should make a paste with 1-2tbsp cornstarch and equal amounts of water.
Add to the chili alongside some seasoning and stir through over the heat, until the chili thickens.
You can also thaw chili on a metal tray on the countertop, if you want a speedier defrosting process than the fridge but do not want to expose it to the microwave radiation. Metal is a great conductor and helps to use the air’s heat to defrost your chili.
If you thaw the chili in the microwave or in cold water, you should eat it immediately.
To thaw chili in the microwave, you should ensure it is in a microwave-safe container and put it on the defrost setting for about 3 minutes. Stir well and continue to microwave until the chili is piping hot.
Factors to consider before freezing chili
Chili should not be left out on the side for longer than 2 hours. This is because temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit are the perfect environment for bacteria to grow and multiply. This temperature range is known as the food safety danger zone. If you leave cooked chili out for longer than this, we advise trashing it.
If you are planning to eat your chili soon after making, you can just store it in the fridge. This will keep for 3 to 4 days if you store it properly in airtight containers.
Chili made with ground meats tends to freeze better than chunky vegetable chili. This is because vegetables tend to go watery and mushy when they thaw and do not hold their structure well. Meat does not tend to have this issue and so withstands the stress of freezing and thawing better.
White chili (chili made with lots of dairy products) does not tend to hold up well in the freezer. Freezing changes the structure and flavors of dairy products, to the point where they are no longer good. Tomato-based chilis are much better suited to freezing.
If you freeze your chili in ziplock bags, don’t stack them in one pile. Spread them out in one layer over the freezer shelf, to prevent the stack retaining heat so that they will cool faster.
Chili is a hugely versatile dish that can be eaten alone, with rice, or with chips as nachos. Whatever your mood, there is an iteration of chili to satisfy you.
It is the best idea to freeze tomato-based chili, as opposed to white and vegetable-based chili as these can deteriorate in the freezer.
We advise freezing your chili in individual portions. The taste may deteriorate the longer the chili is left in the freezer, and if it has fallen prey to freezer burn. Don’t worry if this is the case, you can simply add some additional spices and seasoning during reheating.
Try and freeze chili on the same day you make it to ensure the highest quality once thawed. You will never be stuck with nothing for dinner again!