Beyond the Bowl: 5 Thrifty Meals from Leftover Chili

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By the author of The Ultimate Guide to Frugal Living and The Flat Broke Cookbook 

I love chili. Not only does it taste absolutely delicious, it’s also a relatively frugal meal. (You can make it more or less thrifty with your ingredients.) I have several different meals I make with leftover chili that can help you to extend the batch past the “bowl of chili” phase.

Augusta’s recent article about salsa chicken got me thinking about it and I wanted to share these tasty ideas with you.

We usually eat it at least twice as just a “bowl of chili” and then, depending how much is left, I turn to one or more of the following recipes to use up the rest of it. You can make the following dishes with a hearty meaty chili, a vegetarian chili, or even canned chili if you like that.

Chili Mac

You can make this hearty, filling dish in a few different ways. The least expensive way is to use a box of macaroni and cheese. Prepare the mac and cheese like you normally would, then stir in your leftover chili. Heat it through and serve it with come crusty bread. My kids loved this when we were uberbroke and couldn’t really afford cheese.

If you want to make a better quality version of this, simply cook your pasta – I prefer shells or macaroni – until it’s al dente. Stir in your leftover chili and heat it through. Then, before it’s done, dump in about a cup of shredded extra-sharp cheddar cheese. I like to top it with some sour cream and diced green onion.

Chili Pie

This is also an old favorite, and there are two ways to make it – from scratch or with a mix.

  • To make Chili Pie, grease an oven-safe casserole dish or pie pan and fill the bottom of it with thick, leftover chili.
  • Add a layer of cheese (or skip the cheese – it’s good either way).
  • Top that with drained, canned corn or frozen corn.
  • Now for the good part – cover it with cornbread batter. I have loved Jiffy cornbread mix since I was a little girl. Don’t judge. It’s super easy to make and has just the right amount of sweetness. You can top it with Jiffy batter or make your own cornbread batter from scratch. Layer that directly on top of the corn.

Bake it as per the instructions for your cornbread, until you can poke it with a knife and have it come out clean. Allow the chili pie to sit for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Chili Dogs

This hardly needs directions but here goes.

Cook hotdogs in your favorite way. Toast some hot dog buns. Lay the cooked dogs in the buns, then top it with chili, chopped white onion, and cheese. DONE.

Chili Burritos

My dad love-love-loved a burrito with chili. It was often the birthday meal he asked for. Naturally, on his birthday every year, I make them in his honor.

  • Make a homemade burrito in whatever way you normally do. I like them with ground beef and refried beans as the filling.
  • Heat up your leftover chili. Spoon it on top of your burrito and then either sprinkle grated cheese on top or ladle some cheese sauce over it.

Eat this messy delicious beast with a knife and fork.


The absolute easiest way to make nachos, in my opinion, is with leftover chili. I use my cast iron skillet for this.

  • Layer a big pile of tortilla chips in the bottom of the skillet.
  • Top it with pre-heated chili. (I always heat the chili first because it needs longer to heat up than the chips require in the oven.)
  • Top that with either shredded cheese or cheese sauce.
  • Top that with some pickled jalapenos, bell peppers, onions, olives, and/or tomatoes.

Serve it with sour cream, salsa, and/or guacamole.

You can also make a kid-friendly version if you have a mega-muffin tin. Each muffin area contains the chips, chili and cheese, along with any toppings your child likes. I only use the big muffin tin for this as the smaller ones are simply too small.

What do you like to do with leftover chili?

Do you have a leftover chili recipe to share? How do you use it up? Let’s discuss it in the comments section.

About Daisy

Daisy Luther is a coffee-swigging, adventure-seeking, globe-trotting blogger. She is the founder and publisher of three websites.  1) The Organic Prepper, which is about current events, preparedness, self-reliance, and the pursuit of liberty; 2)  The Frugalite, a website with thrifty tips and solutions to help people get a handle on their personal finances without feeling deprived; and 3), an aggregate site where you can find links to all the most important news for those who wish to be prepared. Her work is widely republished across alternative media and she has appeared in many interviews.

Daisy is the best-selling author of 5 traditionally published books, 12 self-published books, and runs a small digital publishing company with PDF guides, printables, and courses at SelfRelianceand You can find her on FacebookPinterest, Gab, MeWe, Parler, Instagram, and Twitter.

Beyond the Bowl: 5 Thrifty Meals from Leftover Chili
Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther

Daisy Luther is an author and blogger. She's the single mom of two daughters and credits extreme frugality and a good sense of humor for her debt-free lifestyle. She is the author of numerous books, the editor of, and is the founder of a small digital publishing company in the emergency preparedness niche.

7 thoughts on “Beyond the Bowl: 5 Thrifty Meals from Leftover Chili”

    1. I agree! Add the bottom of the bag corn chips, last of the shredded cheese, last of the sour cream (or even lettuce/onion/tomato) to use up those dribs and drabs in the frig and make it more filling.

  1. My mom used to make what she called “chili casserole” which is basically a variant on lasagna. Layer tortilla chips and chili in a greased casserole, with chopped onion between layers. End with chili, top with cheese and bake at 350 (moderate oven) till heated through and cheese is melted. Can top servings with shredded lettuce and a bit of salsa or chopped tomato. Good old 1960s cooking, you gotta love it.

  2. Start off with homemade baked beans using four lb. of pea beans, after two meals of that, make into chili without meat or with, serve for two meals, with cornbread. A little bit of grated cheese adds a lot and doesn’t require much cheese for garnish for the chili. Serve with cornbread from scratch. From leftover chili, add vegetables to create chili-vegetable soup. This fed a large family with hungry dropins when there was no money.

  3. We’ve been eating a lot of chili over the past few months. 2 different kinds:

    Regular chili: 1 can of Wolf Brand chili, 2 cans pinto beans, 1 can Ranch style beans, 1 can of Ro-tel, 1 can diced tomatoes, 1 can tomato sauce, chopped onion, a bunch of garlic and about 3 T. chili powder. Put it in the crock pot for a few hours.

    Vegetarian Chili: Brown 4 Beyond Burgers (or Boca, etc) in a little olive oil; chop into bite sized pieces. Then put into a crock pot with everything listed above except the Wolf Brand.

    Eat with crackers. Or jalapeno cornbread.
    Frito Pie with corn chips, some fresh chopped onions and a sprinkle of cheese.
    3-Way ( I first had this at Ike’s Chili Parlor, Tulsa, Oklahoma): Chili with leftover angel hair pasta.

    Of course, it’s a lot cheaper if you have home cooked beans. But this is an easy way to have dinner ready when we get home from church on Sundays.

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