Can You Freeze Chili? A Guide to Freezing Chili for Future Meals

Wondering if you can freeze chili? If you have leftovers or want to make a big batch of homemade chili and store it for later, freezing is a great option.

The process is simple, and works well no matter if you have leftover chili con carne, beef chili (or any other meat chili), or any other type.

Below, we’ll answer the question “can you freeze chili?” and provide you with a short guide on how to do it properly and how to refreeze frozen chili, and we’ll finish off with answers to some frequently asked questions.

So, if you’re looking to save time and money by freezing your chili, keep reading to learn more.

Chili stew
Image used under Creative Commons from Global Reactions

How to Freeze Chili?

Freezing chili is a simple process that requires a few basic steps. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Let your chili has cooled down to room temperature. If you’ve cooked a big batch (say, following a crockpot chili recipe) that won’t cool to room temperature within 2 hours or less, pour the chili into a few shallow bowls and give them a quick stir every 15 minutes or so. That should easily cool the freshly cooked chili in less than an hour.
  2. Transfer it to an airtight container or freezer bag. If using freezer bags, be sure to remove as much air as possible before sealing it.
  3. Label the bag or container with the date and contents if you like. This step is especially useful if you’re freezing chili in opaque containers or tend to let frozen foods sit in the freezer for way too long.
  4. Freeze.

If you’re freezing a large batch of chili, consider dividing it into smaller portions before freezing.

This will make it easier to thaw and reheat later on. You can also freeze chili in individual portions, which is ideal for meal prep and quick dinners.

This simple freezing method works well for freezing other ready-to-eat dishes such as refried beans, baked beans, or risotto.

How Long Can You Freeze Chili?

Chili doesn’t go bad when in the freezer, but it’s best to consume it within 3 months for optimal taste and texture. After that, the chili may start to develop freezer burn or lose some of its flavor.

In other words, it’s going to be safe to eat after 6 or even 12 months of freezing, but it might not taste that great.

Chili topped with cheese
Image used under Creative Commons from Navin75

How to Thaw Frozen Chili?

There are several ways to defrost chili, and the method you choose depends on how much time you have and your personal preference.


This is the best method for thawing frozen chili because it is the safest and most effective. Transfer the frozen chili from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight.

This method ensures that the chili thaws evenly and prevents the growth of harmful bacteria.

Cold Water

If you need to thaw chili quickly, you can place the frozen container in a bowl of cold water. Change the water every 30 minutes until the chili is thawed.

This method is faster than the refrigerator method but requires more attention to prevent the chili from getting too warm.

To make this method much safer, place the bowl with cold water in the fridge. That won’t be as fast as leaving it on the counter, but still significantly faster than simply placing the container in the fridge.


You can also thaw frozen chili in the microwave by using the defrost setting or the lowest power setting you have. Place the chili in a microwave-safe container, microwave it in 1-minute bursts, and stir it after every one to ensure everything is evenly defrosted.

This method works okay, but it’s pretty hands-on due to constant stirring after every nuke.

Unfortunately, you can’t just set the timer to 10 minutes and get back to a properly defrosted chili. If you did that, you’d end up with chili that’s cooked (or overcooked) on the outside and still frozen inside.

On the stove

To defrost frozen chili on the stove, place the frozen chili in a pot and heat it slowly over low to medium heat, occasionally stirring until it is fully defrosted. Make sure you start on low heat and consider adding a bit of water to the pot so that the chili won’t burn.

This method is recommended over using a microwave, as it helps prevent the chili from becoming too hot or overcooked in certain areas.

Can You Refreeze Thawed Chili?

You can refreeze thawed chili, but keep in mind that it will lead to further flavor and texture loss. It’s probably better to try to eat the chili within two to three days instead.

But if you really have to refreeze the chili, make sure that it was either defrosted in the fridge or cooked through after defrosting. So if you defrosted the chili on the counter in cold water, cook the entire thing and only then refreeze the leftovers.

To avoid refreezing chili in the future, try to portion it out better or use smaller containers.

Chili with mushrooms and peppers
Image used under Creative Commons from Rob Durdle

What are the Best Methods for Reheating Chili?

The best method depends on your personal preference and the type of chili you have. Here are some of the most popular ways to reheat chili:

  • Stovetop: This is the best method for reheating chili. Heat it up in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Microwave: Place the chili in a microwave-safe bowl and heat it up in 1-minute bursts, stirring after each. Chili should be reheated after 3 to 6 rounds, depending on the amount.
  • Oven: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the chili in an oven-safe dish and cover it with foil. Heat it up for 20-30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Ensure the top is well covered so it doesn’t dry out or burn.

Regardless of the method you choose, make sure to stir the chili occasionally to prevent it from burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Reheating will make some of the water evaporate, so you can also add a splash of water or broth to the chili if it’s too thick.

Chili with corn and beans
Image used under Creative Commons from John


Can You Freeze Chili After X Days?

While it’s best to freeze chili the same day it was cooked, you can freeze chili after 1 to 4 days of preparing it. That said, the longer you wait, the more the flavor and texture of the chili can deteriorate.

Plus, if you’re freezing chili that’s already four days old (that’s about how long chili lasts), it’s best to reheat and eat it right after thawing.

Can You Freeze Chili With Beans?

Yes, you can freeze chili with beans. However, it’s important to note that beans can become mushy and lose their texture when frozen.

If you’re concerned about the texture of the beans, try freezing the chili without the beans and adding them in when you reheat it. Alternatively, you can use firmer beans, such as kidney beans or black beans, which tend to hold up better when frozen.

That said, if beans in your chilis tend to be pretty soft and mushy anyway, freezing and defrosting them won’t make them much worse. Just remember to cool the chili to about room temperature before placing the container in the freezer.