Here's How Long You Can Stretch A Frozen Batch Of Chili

Everyone gets excited for mealtime when there's a big pot of chili simmering on the stovetop, and it's easy to see why. This classic one-pot meal is hearty and delicious, filled with warm spices and brimming with protein, veggies, and beans. Plus, each bowl can be customized with your favorite toppings.

The only problem with chili is that it takes time and effort to cook and develop its rich flavor, making it better suited for a weekend project rather than a quick weeknight meal. The good news is that if you want to enjoy the perfect bowl of classic chili con carne — or even vegetarian black bean chili — any night of the week, it's easy to freeze your favorite recipe for later use.

When stored properly, a batch of chili can be frozen for up to six months. Not only will you love having a ready-to-go meal months down the road, but you can also transform frozen leftover chili into other exciting meals.

How to properly freeze chili for the long haul

Chili is one of those meals that benefits from making bigger batches. The flavor develops over time, and all the ingredients are perfectly suited for freezing and reheating. If you want to enjoy chili up to six months later, the key lies not only in following the proper storage steps but also in being strategic about how you might use it later.

Start by allowing the chili to cool to room temperature; you don't want to package it while it's still piping hot. Next, it's important to choose the right airtight container to prevent freezer burn. Since the components in chili will expand when frozen, plastic containers are ideal; glass can crack and break in the freezer. Opt for larger freezer containers for occasions when you might serve a crowd and smaller ones for easy weeknight family meals. 

Single-serving containers are also great for a quick lunch. If there are amounts smaller than a serving size left over, that's not a problem. These can also be used to stretch into future meals. Just be sure to clearly label and date any freezer containers; six months from now, it might be hard to distinguish chili from bolognese sauce or something else you may have batch-prepped and frozen.

Stretch leftover chili into other meals half a year later

It's always satisfying to reach into the freezer and pull out a meal you prepared months ago. All the hard work is already done; now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. If you plan ahead, the chili can be defrosted overnight in the refrigerator. Otherwise, you can use your microwave for quicker defrosting. From there, the chili can be reheated on the stovetop to its original glory. If it appears a bit dry, you can revive it with some water, stock, or tomato sauce.

In addition to enjoying a bowl of chili with all your favorite toppings, leftover frozen chili can be transformed into a variety of exciting meals, even months later. It can serve as a hot dog topping for chili dogs or be spooned over french fries to create chili cheese fries. You can also add chili to your favorite mac and cheese recipe to make a crowd-pleasing chili mac. It can even be used as a filling for stuffed peppers, burritos, or empanadas.