Recipe of the week: Chili for Every Diet

by Trevor Hiltbrand | Reviewed by Advisory Board

Recipe of the week: Chili for Every Diet

Did you know that there is incredible controversy over the “right” way to make chili? The debate arises over the inclusion of beans in this classic recipe. If you are from Texas, forget about including beans, they do NOT belong in chili! If you are from anywhere else, the bean issue is up for debate.

Southern Living magazine looked into the history of chili to see if there were any answers to be found over the big bean debate, but history didn’t provide many answers. Some food historians say the spicy stew originated in Texas in the 1900s with a group of women named the Chili Queens who served it around the military plaza to keep workers warm at night. Another opinion is that chili originated in South America, because the primary flavor (the chili) is featured in many traditional South American dishes and chili may be short for “chili con carne”. Needless to say, Texans don’t like the second story very much, since they like to take credit for creating this delicious dish!  

Regardless of where it came from, chili is so easy to modify and make your own to match any diet. Many regions have changed up this classic recipe by swapping out the type of beans, meat, and even serving it over spaghetti. So which side do you fall on? Are you a chili purist? Do you like beans or no beans?

In our opinion, it doesn’t matter how you eat it because regardless chili is versatile enough to be included in any almost diet plan.

Let’s start with this “classic” recipe we modified from Betty Crocker. This one does include beans!


Makes 4 servings

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp red pepper sauce (or to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 – 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 – 15 oz can red kidney beans


  1. In a large saucepan, cook the beef, onion, and garlic for 8-10 minutes over medium heat, until beef is cooked. Once cooked, strain the extra fat from the beef.
  2. Add in chili powder, oregano, cumin, salt, pepper sauce, and tomatoes. Heat the mixture until boiling, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.
  3. Stir in the beans and heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer and additional 20 minutes, until chili starts to become thick.

    Nutrition Facts for 1 serving:

    Calories: 360, Fat: 14g, Carbohydrates: 31g, Fiber: 8g, Protein: 29g.

    1 serving of vegetables (from the tomatoes and beans)

    Vegan Chili

    Vegan Friendly Chili Cooking RecipeChili is super easy to make vegan, just leave out the meat! The flavors are still all there and are all vegan. The beans will add some protein and fiber, which still makes this dish super filling. Not much else is needed to make a full meal for anyone following a vegan diet.

    If you do want to add a “meat” substitute (or maybe you are from Texas and just can’t fathom chili with beans?) you can always add in some vegan ground beef crumbles which are pretty widely available. Companies like Beyond Beef, Morning Star Farms, and Gardein all make their own version. They are found in the frozen health food section of almost any store. The base ingredient in these products can vary so if you are avoiding other things like soy or gluten, be sure to check the label to see what they are made from.

    High-Calorie Chili

    Chili Recipe High CalorieChili can also be adapted to a high-calorie diet. Here are a few tips:

    • Eat larger portion to increase the calories and protein.
    • Make the chili with a higher fat meat to increase the calorie content. Or don’t drain the meat before adding the other ingredients (although it could get a little greasy if you leave in too much fat).
    • Add in a second type of beans (maybe black or navy beans?) to add more protein and fiber.
    • Serve with high-calorie toppings: cheese, avocado, sour cream, etc.

    Low-Calorie Chili

    High Calorie Chili Recipe for Weight GainChili can also be part of a low-calorie meal plan. Here are a few tips to lighten the calories:

    • Eliminate the meat OR beans. This will cut about ½ the calories because most of the calorie content in the dish comes from these two ingredients.
    • Use a different type of meat, like ground turkey or chicken, which is lower in calories and fat.
    • Add more veggies. Neutral tasting veggies will keep the calories low, while increasing the fiber, making you feel full. A few to try: carrots or yellow squash.
    • Avoid high-calorie toppings like cheese, avocado, and sour cream. Top with low-calorie but flavorful options, like chives or fat free Greek yogurt.

    So, whether you bean or not, chili can be a hearty and filling meal for any way of eating.

    Not sure which calorie option is right for you? Check out our custom macro calculator here to find how much you should be eating a day!

    Trevor Hiltbrand
    Trevor Hiltbrand


    Trevor Hiltbrand is one of the owners/co-founders of Transparent Labs and head of content creation. He got his start with supplement research back in 2013 when he began researching cognitive enhancement. With the help of the Transparent Labs Expert Panel and Advisory Board, we aim to bring our evidence based nutrition and exercise research to the world.

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