Wendy’s Copycat Chili

Fall seems to have taken a permanent hold over the last few weeks and as a result, I’ve been craving a warm and hearty comfort meal full of flavor. What cures that craving better than a big bowl of chili that has slowly simmered for hours? Not much, right? I have only ever made one other version of chili, which is the one my mom made growing up. While it’s certainly a great meal, it’s not quite authentic – it doesn’t contain much in the way of seasonings and includes rice. So I went off in search of a more traditional chili recipe.

The web was full of recipes, so I finally settled on one (I love Wendy’s chili!) and then went ahead and tweaked it to suit my tastes. Since I don’t like very spicy foods, the amount of chili powder and cumin in this recipe probably seem low to the chili aficionados, but it’s just as easy to ramp them up, so adjust them to suit your own personal tastes. The amount that I include in the recipe is enough to taste the seasonings, but not enough to set your mouth tingling.

This is one of the best homemade bowls of chili I have ever had. The combination of flavors is fantastic, the beans make it a truly hearty meal, and the absolute key is the long slow simmer that allows all of the flavors to meld together and thicken into a fabulous chili with a smell so enticing that it would wake up the soundest of sleepers. I would suggest the 2-3 hours of uncovered simmer as a minimum – I actually simmered uncovered for 2 hours and then covered the pot and simmered for another 2 hours. It improved substantially in that time. I served chili with the traditional accompaniment – cornbread. I fell in love with this recipe last year and it’s probably the most authentic (save for a cast iron skillet) that I’ve tried yet. Enjoy!!

Wendy's Copycat Chili

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 to 3 hours

Total Time: 3 hours 15 minutes


2 lbs ground beef
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce
1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans (with liquid)
2 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans (with liquid)
1 medium onion, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water


1. Brown ground beef in a large pot (I used my 7.25 qt Dutch oven) over medium heat.

2. Drain off the fat.

3. Combine the beef plus all the remaining ingredients, and bring to a simmer over low heat.

4. Cook, stirring every 15 minutes, for 2 to 3 hours.

(Adapted from Recipezaar)


30 Responses to “Wendy’s Copycat Chili”

  1. Bunny on October 20, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    We don’t like spicey chili here either so this would be perfect for us, through in some cornbread and this is one good dinner.


  2. Kate on October 20, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Unlike you, I have a million chili recipes. I feel like I rarely make the same one twice. I’ll have to add this to the arsenal!


  3. Annie on October 21, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Mmmmm! Chili, chili, I LOVE chili!!! Glad you found a recipe that made both you and Nick happy. Looks great!


  4. Renea(MrsSchoon) on October 21, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Yum! I love chili of all kinds. I’m making some this week, too.


  5. Maria on October 21, 2008 at 10:03 am

    What a great way to warm up!


  6. Jenn's Baking Chamber on October 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    Yum! I LOVE LOVE LOVE chili! I am definitely going to make this next time its a rainy day outside and all i want is comfort food! plus i love wendy’s chili too! thanks for the recipe!


  7. Olga on October 21, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    This reminds me that I must make chili! I never make the same version twice. the only constant ingredient are beans, everything else is varied: makes it more fun πŸ™‚


  8. heather on October 22, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    Chili is kinda the best comfort food ever, huh? I love it! Yours looks delish πŸ™‚


  9. A Cooking Dad on October 23, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    I love all kinds of chili. Did your husband think it tasted like Wendy’s? I actually like Wendy’s chili as well but I spice it up a bit. I’ve never really dissected Wendy’s chili but I didn’t think it had celery or two kinds of beans.


  10. I Love Cooking on October 24, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    This looks like a great chili recipe! Can’t wait to try it out on my new cooktop this weekend.


  11. I Luv Cooking on November 10, 2008 at 6:49 pm

    It’s getting to be that time of the year where chili sounds perfect. Will try browning the meat in my Dutch Oven too.


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  14. Rachel on November 16, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    I don’t know why this recipe doesn’t have more comments! I made this recipe a couple weeks ago and couldn’t believe how flavorful it was! I’m a college student so usually recipes have too many ingredients, but I already had all of these and it turned out great! The only thing I added was a jalapeno πŸ™‚ Making it again tonight for dinner. πŸ™‚ Thanks!


    • Michelle on November 16th, 2010 at 9:49 pm

      Hi Rachel, Love the addition of a jalapeno, will try that next time! Thanks for coming back to comment, so happy you enjoyed the chili! πŸ™‚


  15. Mary C on October 22, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    My family loves chili. Right now we are using the Carroll Shelby mix. It really needs very little tweeking for us. Our very favorite is a mix you can buy via internet from Hammett House in Claremore, OK My family does not like beans period, and they like their chili somewhat soupy, simmered for hours. If I do sneak beans in I use the Bush’s chili beans and use the immersion blender and they really aren’t aware there are beans.


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  17. Alecia on August 12, 2013 at 11:48 am

    My husband and I LOVE Wendy’s chilli and for four years we have been trying to duplicate it at home. I’m really hoping this is the one that works for us. We have made plenty of good chillis and a few really good ones too, but it never quite tastes like Wendy’s. Mine is still simmering away, but it looks and smells like the real thing! I hope this is it! Thanks!


  18. John on August 27, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Needs a jalapeno pepper and a pinch more cumin. I make up for this difference with my Alton Brown chili powder and half a jalapeno.


  19. Kelly R. on September 24, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Could I make this in the crock pot?


    • Michelle on September 26th, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Kelly, I don’t see why not!


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  21. Robin on November 17, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    I love this chili..I make it all the time..Been doing it for years this way with this recipe.. I make it in the crock pot…


  22. Phyllis Kline on April 5, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    How about some cole slaw like KFC???


  23. John on May 1, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Agree with jalepeno but I have two other suggestions. First, after browning the beef, set the beef aside to drain and sweat the onions, peppers, and celery in 2 tsp of olive oil in the bottom of the pan. Gotta get the flavors together. Second, if you want more heat/chile spice, try using one or two chipolte peppers in adobe sauce…not the whole can…..just one or two peppers and some of the sauce.


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  26. John on November 3, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Needs beer, smoked paprika, coriander, oregano, jalapeno, and/or chipolte in adobe. Also crushed fritos or taco shells for a thickener.


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