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Love Wendy’s Famous Chili? Try our Copycat Recipe!

Wendy's Copycat Chili Recipe

yield: 8 SERVINGS

prep time: 15 MINUTES

cook time: 1 HOUR 30 MINUTES

total time: 1 HOUR 45 MINUTES

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef (I use 85/15)
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 (15 oz) can light red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 cups tomato juice (1 quart)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

1

In a large pot, brown the ground beef until just done. Drain the fat leaving about a tablespoon or two.

2

To the pot with beef, add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for another five minutes.

3

Now add all the remaining ingredients including the spices and Worcestershire sauce. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

4

Uncover and remove from heat for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, top with shredded cheddar cheese and finely diced onions. Enjoy!

Brought to you by Hip2Save.
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38 Comments
Love Love Love I'd Have Seconds! Meh... Not Feeling It Needs A Do-Over
4.3 / 4 ratings
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Wendys Famous Chili Copycat Recipe - A bowl of chili with Wendys crackers

Wendy’s is famous for many things…

From their signature Frosty to thick cut fries and square hamburger patties, they really do stand apart from the masses. Upholding their mission to be unique, it’s no surprise that chili is a staple on the menu. Whether it’s on a potato, in a taco salad, or à la carte with a side of saltines, do you love Wendy’s chili as much as we do? If the answer is yes, then you’re sure to love our knock-off version as well… maybe even better!

Wendys Chili Copycat Recipe - Wendys bag and cup of chili

What I learned about Wendy’s chili (and didn’t really want to know.)

My first go at recreating Wendy’s chili was to craft a low-carb Wendy’s copycat chili recipe for our sister site, Hip2Keto. Here’s what I discovered…

While researching all the deets on the real Wendy’s chili ingredients, apparently, the trademark flavor of Wendy’s beloved chili comes from (drum roll please)…left-over, cooked hamburger patties!

In 2017, an employee reported that the meat in Wendy’s chili is not quite as fresh as one might think. The ex-burger jockey claimed the ground beef used in the signature chili comes from leftover hamburgers. When the burger patties aren’t used within a certain amount of time, they’re “discarded” and placed in a container to be refrigerated. Then they’re boiled down and chopped up to be used in good, old (pun intended) Wendy’s chili.

Wendy’s states that everything it does follows health and safety procedures and using leftover hamburger meat in the chili decreases food waste. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with being economical—after all, we are Hip2Save! Go, Wendy’s!

Wendys Famous Chili Copycat Recipe - pot of chili ready to serve

That said, my family prefers the Hip2Save Wendy’s copycat chili WAY more than the real thing!

While there’s really no easy way of mimicking the flavor of old, greasy burger patties, this Wendy’s copycat chili hones in on the flavors we love so much about the original. It’s wonderful the night I make it and even better the next day. Leftovers are fabulous on a hot dog, smothered over nachos, or when I’m feeling healthy, poured over a steamy baked potato. 🥔

Hip Tip: If you like a kick to your chili, add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to the spice list or try a splash per individual serving of your favorite hot sauce. In our house, we love Merf’s! (My personal fave is Electric Lime.)


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Wendy's Copycat Chili Recipe

yield: 8 SERVINGS

prep time: 15 MINUTES

cook time: 1 HOUR 30 MINUTES

total time: 1 HOUR 45 MINUTES

The closest thing to Wendy's chili, made from scratch at home!

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds ground beef (I use 85/15)
  • 1 1/2 cups yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1 (15 oz) can light red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes in puree
  • 1 (15 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 4 cups tomato juice (1 quart)
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions

1

In a large pot, brown the ground beef until just done. Drain the fat leaving about a tablespoon or two.

2

To the pot with beef, add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for another five minutes.

3

Now add all the remaining ingredients including the spices and Worcestershire sauce. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

4

Uncover and remove from heat for 10 minutes before serving. If desired, top with shredded cheddar cheese and finely diced onions. Enjoy!

Brought to you by Hip2Save.

Wendy's Copycat Chili Recipe - bowl of chili with cheese and onions

Our homemade Wendy’s chili recipe makes a happy belly!

Your whole family is sure to love this knock-off Wendy’s chili. It’s mild enough for the kiddos and versatile enough to use the left-overs as a meal starter the following day. Try it over elbow macaroni topped with shredded cheddar for a quick chili mac—Yummm!


Written by Marley for Hip2Save. Dubbed ‘Marley Stewart’ by friends and family, Marley has a natural gift for recipe crafting and food styling as well as a decorated background in the interior design industry. She’s a happy mom of three kiddos, all of whom participate in the everyday adventures home. Marley is also Collin’s sister! Check out more of Marley’s creative cooking over on Hip2Keto.com.


Join The Discussion

Comments 38

  1. R

    Thanks! Love chili. If anyone has a bojangles biscuit recipe would love to have it. Best ever!!

    • Manda

      We don’t have bojangles but we have Popeyes and I think they are co-owned. If so, Popeye’s biscuits are a staple around here and I found a packet, in Walmart, recently to make your own. I haven’t made them yet but I’m excited to try them. I thought I would mention this here in case you can find the Popeyes mix and see if it’s similar to bojangles’ biscuits. I have already used the mix for Red Lobster biscuits and it was dead on and delicious. I’m hopeful about the Popeye’s one!

  2. Bunny

    I’ve been wanting to make chili lately and have all the ingredients in the house for this. Super excited to try your copycat recipe 🙂

  3. kay

    This is true. I worked at Wendy’s as an assistant manager for 8 years. They actually boil it first if they need to be put in the freezer to use for a later date. Then boiled again when needed for chili. Very yummy.. Try making taco salads with it too.

  4. Ketsy

    Can I follow the directions exactly starting from #2? My mom recently became a vegetarian, but she used to love this chili. I’d really like to make it for her!

    • Bunny

      Ketsy, maybe instead of ground beef you could use cooked mushrooms or textured vegetable protein. You’ll need something to substitute for the missing 2 lbs of ground beef, otherwise your chili might come out kind of soupy. I’m sure whatever substitute you make it will come out delicious!

      • Marley Abraham

        Great idea, Bunny! Either way would work really well!

      • Kate

        I’m a vegetarian. When it calls for beef I substitute brown rice, about 1/3 cup for this recipe. My husband is a beef eater and likes the rice substitute.

      • Maggie

        I agree 100% about trying soy-based TVP — you can buy it in bulk at WF or Sprouts. It has no flavor on its own but pulls in whatever flavor it’s cooked with. It’s very economical too — in fact, anybody on a budget ought to learn to sub it 50/50 with beef to cut your cost (and your bad cholesterol!) without cutting the amount of protein! The texture of TVP so closely resembles burger crumbles that most meat-eaters have no idea it’s not beef!

        • Ketsy

          Thank you all so much for your replies! They all sound yummy. Can’t wait to try it!

          • Stella

            Red lentils thicken up chili and soups and taste fantastic!

      • Wanda Smith

        TVP (textured vegetable protein) will work great. Look for it in the Bob’s Red Mills section of your grocery.

    • Rachel

      You can use two cans of pinto beans and two cans of kidney. I make a similar copycat recipes and that’s what we do! We are vegetarian 🙂

  5. sandee

    I love Wendy’s chili after reading this post I will never eat it again. But I will definitely try the copy cat chili.

    • Valerie

      I worked at Wendy’s during high school, for five years. The hamburgers were put on the grill and could only be turned and pressed TWICE before having to put away as “chili meat.” They weren’t disgusting or had been sitting around for hours. They were immediately placed in the freezer and could only be kept (frozen) for 5 days. When needed, the burgers were boiled and chopped finely before being added to the chili.

    • Jodi P

      Well, you might have to just stop eating out, because 90% of the food in restaurants has been pre-cooked somewhere else, MONTHS or YEARS ago. It’s a rare and expensive restaurant that will cook you a fresh chicken breast. It came frozen, with cute grill marks already painted on. Soup and chili comes frozen in a bag, or in a huge can. Most places don’t even clean and chop their lettuce for salads.

      At least Wendy’s chili is really made from fresh, never frozen, excellent quality meat, right there at the restaurant. And don’t you use your own leftover meat the next day?

    • Blue

      That’s not dramatic at all lol

  6. Polly

    Why would people act like it’s disgusting that they would use the leftover patties to make the chili?? It’s not like it’s rotten or something! Don’t a lot of us use leftovers and turn them into something else? I’ll continue to eat their chili!

    • MrsFelix1004

      Not only that do know that some pig farmers rely on discarded food to feed pigs. We call it recycling food. All of our left overs go to our pigs. Nothing is wasted. We also feed pig feed in addition to scraps.

      • Jackie

        I grew up on a farm so I know what you are talking about. However in many states this is now an illegal practice for meat sold to the public. Other states allow it but specify what can and can’t be fed to hogs. There is a risk of transmitting disease to the hogs from humans and back to people. Complicated. I can remember my dad coming home with large containers of slop from the cafeteria of the school where he worked.

    • mel

      I know! Seem’s Wendy’s was really forward thinking, so as to not waste their patties!

    • AZ

      And if they didn’t, then people would be offended by that. Some folks just need a reason to complain about every little thing all the time. It’s kind of sad, actually.

  7. Shannon

    I used to work at Wendy’s they take the old burgers and drop them into this big plastic bucket on the floor that sits there for a looong time then put them in the fridge overnight for the next day chili. I never ate the chili after that lol. Definitely make it yourself at home!!

    • Valerie

      That’s definitely not the way it was done at the Wendy’s I worked at.

  8. Mackyjane

    How many does this serve? We’re making chili tonight, and I think I may follow this recipe instead!

    • Marley Abraham

      Hi Mackyjane! The recipe serves eight. The servings info. is currently located at the top of the post but we’re working on moving it above the ingredients list within the recipe. Enjoy!!

  9. Debbie

    Can this be made in a pressure cooker ( instant pot ) .. if yes can you please tell me how you would do it… i have one and never ever use it, i want to start using it thank you

    • Marley Abraham

      Hi Debbie. I haven’t tried that cooking method yet but I consulted with my instant pot buddy and here’s what she said: Do steps 1 & 2 on the saute setting. Then follow step 3 using the cook/manual mode. I would imagine the cooking time can be cut down to 20-30 minutes. I’d love to hear how it turns out! 😊

  10. Diana

    I used to work at Bill Miller’s. Never get the “chop” sandwiches. These are the shredded meat sandwiches with sauce. Poor boy sandwiches are great!! I still eat at Bills; everything is good except these chopped sandwiches. There’s a reason they’re so cheap.

  11. kristinhoogerwerf

    Just made this recipe with a few tweaks… it is awesome!! I did 1.7 lbs of meat, added an extra can of beans, skipped the celery but used a whole green pepper (chopped). Awesome!!!

    • Marley Abraham

      Yay—That’s great to hear! I love chili because it’s so easy to tweak and modify. I’m very happy that you enjoyed it! Warm wishes!

  12. Bunny

    Hi Marley! Just made this and the only tweak was I cut the recipe in half because it’s just the two of us.

    It’s so yummy and perfect for a cold winter day. Thank you for posting 🙂

    • Marley Abraham

      Bunny, thanks so much for letting me know that you liked it! Happy holidays to you and your other half! ❤️

  13. Luann

    My chili is four ingredients. A pound of ground meat – turkey, chicken, beef; I’ve used all of them. A packet of chili seasoning. Two small cans, 8 ounces I think, or one large can, 15 ounces, tomato sauce. One can of dark red kidney beans, rinsed. That’s it. I guess I usually do add a little water too. Makes three or four servings, depending how much you eat. Easy to double, triple. I like to eat leftovers in a tortilla.

  14. Rachael

    I’ve known for years that Wendy’s uses the leftover patties in the chili, it’s usually not chopped super fine so you can still tell what it is, I assumed they weren’t trying to hide it lol. I make homemade chili a few times a year but I still love Wendy’s chili with cheese and saltines! Thanks for sharing your version, I might try this instead of my own next time!

  15. Wanda Smith

    TVP (textured vegetable protein) will work great. Look for it in the Bob’s Red Mills section of your grocery.

  16. kitty cat

    Thanks. I love this chili!

    • Marley (Sister Sidekick)

      Yay! That’s so great to hear!! 🙂

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