In brief: Yes, you can freeze chili con carne made with a tomato base and meat, but be cautious with chili variations that contain vegetables, dairy, or cream as they may not freeze well and could result in changes to flavor and texture when thawed.
The comforting stew-type dish of chili con carne is often made in big batches. The main ingredients, especially meat and kidney beans, don’t really lend themselves to making just a single portion. A big hearty dish often means loads of leftovers.
Leftover chili makes for a great snack the next day, but if you know you can’t possibly finish it all within 3 or 4 days, freezing is the next best option to prevent waste and provide you with a delicious and very convenient meal at a later stage.
There are a few things you need to take into consideration when it comes to freezing chili con carne. Follow the guidelines below to make sure you get the best quality out of your freezer-stored chili.
Can Chili Con Carne Be Frozen?
Yes, you can freeze chilli con carne, however, the quality of the thawed product will depend on the various ingredients used.
Tomato-based chili con carne made with chicken, turkey, or ground beef freezes well. It is important to freeze homemade chili the same day it was made. Freezing it more than a day later can increase the risk of harmful bacteria developing which can lead to food poisoning.
If you are unsure whether or not you are going to use all the chili con carne, rather place it in the freezer while it is still less than a day old.
Chili that includes a lot of vegetables, cream, milk, or other dairy products, does not freeze well. The flavor and texture of white chili will change on freezing, making it best to eat freshly cooked or stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
The bottom line: Typical chili con carne made with a base of tomato, chili, and meat freezes very well. Other types of chili may not be that successfully stored in the freezer.
How To Freeze Chili Con Carne
If you’ve made a huge batch of chili, follow these instructions to freeze chilli con carne, ensuring it will still taste great even after being frozen.
Step 1: Cool
Before preparing to freeze chili con carne, you need to let the dish cool completely to room temperature. Freezing the chili while still piping hot will cause ice crystals to form and result in freezer burn and the deterioration of the dish.
Step 2: Portion and Pack
Once cooled, divide the large pot of chili into smaller portion sizes that will be suitable to defrost for a single or family meal as required. Place the portions into heavy duty freezer bags or freezer-friendly air tight containers. Press out as much air as possible from the zip lock bags before sealing.
You want to prevent contact with air and moisture as far as possible during the storage process.
Step 3: Label and Freeze
Label the freezer bags or airtight containers with the date and contents before popping them into the freezer. This way you can keep track of how long it has been stored.
How To Thaw Frozen Chili Con Carne
The best way to thaw chili is to place the freezer bag in the fridge overnight. If you are tight on time, you can also defrost it in the microwave for around 3 minutes on the defrost or low heat setting. The time required will be relative to the size of the portion. Be sure to check it regularly so that it does not overheat.
Once thawed, place the chili into a saucepan and reheat it over medium heat until it is thick and reaches the desired temperature. If the chili has become watery and lost some of its spicy punch, add a little cornstarch to thicken. Mix in some spices or a pinch of cayenne pepper to revive its bold flavor, if necessary.
Types of Chili Con Carne
Chili con carne means ‘chili with meat’. It is often referred to as just ‘chili,’ however, this can include a few different varieties, whereas ‘chili con carne’ specifically includes ground meat, usually beef.
The dish is a spicy stew containing chili peppers or chili powder, meat, tomatoes or tomato paste, onions, garlic, and usually beans. Chili con carne can be made with any type of meat including chicken, pork, ground beef, or turkey.
You can also make an extra healthy version using very lean meat and loads of veggies. Other variations of this hearty spicy stew are chili verde, white chili, and vegetarian chili.
Chili Verde is a moderately to extremely spicy green chili pepper stew but can also be used as a sauce. It is usually made from slow-cooked pork chunks with garlic, green tomatillos, and the roasted green chili peppers.
White chili is made with ‘white meat’ such as chicken or turkey, broth, white beans, and green chili peppers. The end-product is more of a soup than a stew with a white appearance.
Vegetarian chili eliminates the inclusion of meat and uses hearty starchy vegetables, kidney beans, tofu, or other meat replacements instead.
Chili con carne is served as a main dish or side snack. As a main dish it is served with rice, cornbread, or rolled-up in a tortilla. It is also served with crackers or corn chips, topped with sour cream, grated cheese, or onions.
If you love to cook chili, there’s good news. Chili con carne made with a tomato base and no addition of dairy freezes very well and can simply be defrosted and heated up for a hearty meal months after preparing it. Cook once, enjoy many times! It’s a convenient and delicious dish and there are also many easy crockpot chili recipes you can follow.
Freeze chili con carne the same day it was prepared to ensure it remains safe to eat and seal out any air from the freezer bag to prevent freezer burn.
When you’re short on cooking time or even feeling a little lazy, pull the chili leftovers out the freezer and serve it hot over a baked potato with shredded cheese, with tortilla chips, stuffed in a sandwich, burger, or even use it as a wrap filling. There are so many delicious chili dishes and sides for chili you can make. Buen Provecho!
Up Next: How To Freeze Chili Peppers
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