Why You Should Add Your Own Meat To Canned Chili

From its beginnings as a "bowl o'red" in 1880s San Antonio, Texas, to your cupboard, chili is an American classic (via National Chili Day).

Canned chili is a great shelf-stable item to keep on hand for a quick, hearty meal, but some are better than others. In one recent review of canned chilis from Good Housekeeping, Amy's Organic Black Bean Chili received the highest rank for its "recognizable pieces of onion, bell pepper, and green chile." The black bean chili was followed in the rankings by Steak House Reserve Chili with Beans from Stagg Chili, Wolf Brand's Chili With Beans, and Amy's Spicy Organic Chili.

Another recent review of canned chilis for Insider involved tasting five different varieties: one each from Amy's, Hormel, and Wolf Brand, and two from Campbells. While the reviewer found Campbell's Chili Mac to be her favorite of the bunch, she noted that none of the canned versions she tried could compare to classic homemade chili.

So how can you make your canned chili taste more like the real thing? It's surprisingly easy.

Add meat to level up canned chili

Adding freshly cooked meat such as ground beef, chicken, or turkey is an easy, delicious way to give your canned chili a big boost (via Food and Fizz). Depending on your preference, you could add cooked meat to a can of vegetarian chili, or to a can that has too many beans and not enough meat. 

As Greatist notes, cook your meat in standard chili spices like oregano, cumin and cayenne — in addition to salt and pepper. You can even add ingredients like cinnamon and cocoa powder. After adding in your meat, taste the resulting chili and adjust seasonings accordingly. Of course, letting your upgraded chili sit overnight in the refrigerator will only make it taste better in the following days.

Another surefire approach to elevating that can of chili is to add fresh vegetables and herbs. Canned food tends to taste a bit flat, so adding fresh ingredients like onions, jalapeños, tomatoes, cilantro and more — in addition to the seasoned ground meat — is a great way to up the flavor of canned chili. And don't forget the cheese and sour cream!