Wanna Be Wendy’s Chili Recipe

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on October 13, 2007

One of the things I love about fall is the food. Ok, honestly I like all food just about all the time. But I just LOVE soup and chili-somehow eating a nice hot bowl of soup when it is 80 out and you have no air conditioner doesn’t hold the same appeal.

Yesterday I whipped up a nice big batch of this Wendy’s Chili Clone. One of the great things about chili is it is easy to feed a crowd-I could have fed 4 or 5 more people from the one pot of chili, and still had plenty left for seconds!

As an added bonus-because this is made in the crockpot it is not only frugal and tasty-but it’s easy as well!

Wanna-be Wendy’s Chili

2 lbs ground beef
1 (29 ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (29 ounce) can kidney beans (with liquid)

1 (29 ounce) can pinto beans (with liquid)

1 cup diced onions (approx 1 medium onion)

1/2 cup diced green chili peppers (approx 2 chilies)

1/4 cup diced celery (approx 1 stalk)

3 medium tomatoes chopped
2-3 teaspoons cumin powder
3 tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

2 teaspoons salt

2 cups water

Brown ground beef and drain off fat.

Combine all ingredients in a large pot.

Bring to a simmer and cook, 2-3 hours, stirring frequently (although not constantly).


  • Use Ground Turkey, Chicken, Pork or Venison in place of the Beef
  • Use leftover cooked meat in place of the fresh-about 2C
  • Substitute in any other kind of beans-just have them add up to around 3 1/2 cups
  • Use dried beans you’ve either quick cooked or soaked the night before instead of canned.
  • Use two small cans of diced chilis instead of fresh
  • Use 2 cans of diced tomatoes (drained) in place of the fresh tomatoes
  • Add in a drained can of corn.
  • Cook on low in the crockpot for 6-8 hours instead of on the stove.

Of course, I didn’t necessarily have the exact ingredients in the exact proportions on hand. So did I run out to the store? NO!! I did what any good frugalite would, I improvised and substituted (and also cleaned a few things out of the cupboards and fridge).

Here is how I made it.

I soaked a couple of cups of various dried beans that were hanging out in my cupboard overnight, then I boiled them for about 30 min or so until they were soft. Then I used 1 c of browned ground beef that I had in the freezer, ½ of a large onion that was in a ziplock baggie in my crisper drawer, cut the kernels off of a single cob of corn left over from dinner, and sliced up about 10 black olives that were waiting to be used. I didn’t have any celery, so I snipped up some fresh Lovage from outside, and I substituted 1 of those tiny cans of diced mild green peppers that they sell next to the mexican food in the grocery store. By that time I could only fit in one can of water, so I called it good.

Otherwise I followed the recipe :)

(This is the kind of thing that drives my friend Lisa crazy. She needs a recipe and is very timid about improvising!)

Home Cooked Chili

Photo by Scuddr

Oh yeah, except I tossed it all in the crock pot to cook all day on low-that way I didn’t have to think about it and I sure as heck didn’t have to do all that stirring!

This came out a little spicier than I remembered from last time-I guess that the summer had dulled my memory. I had to add generous dollops of sour cream to the kid’s portions in order to make it edible (although Princess kept telling me she liked it anyway as she gulped the water-that girl will be my halbenaro pepper girl I swear). The next time I’ll cut the chili powder down to 1 or 1 1/2 TBS instead of 3, and maybe halve the cumin. . . .

Although the traditional pairing for chili is cornbread, I seem to be the only one in my house who likes it. Even though I can easily eat an entire pan, that really isn’t good for my waistline. So I usually pair my chili with Apple Bread or Impossible Beer Bread instead! I’ve posted both of those recipes before-they are tasty fall recipe as well. . .

And if you really aren’t into a tomato-y beef-y chili, you should check out my Chicken Chili Blanco instead!  Mmmm.

And if you are new here-Welcome! Click through and Learn More About Frugal Upstate.

*Note-that is not me!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous October 13, 2007 at 6:56 pm

One thing you can do is save left over meat and use it in your chili the next day. This saves money and the meat does not go to waste. Wendy’s 99 cent value meal is very helpful when you travel too. Thier baked potatos with sour cream and chives are only 99 cents. They are good and bigger than your standard potato. They have so much variety of sandwiches that are good for 99 cents too. KFC now has a fish snacker sandwich available at most KFCs for only 69cents. You could call before you go. IF your skin is dried out these foods can help get some moisture to it during these dry fall/winter times. Annette


Mom2fur October 14, 2007 at 6:16 am

Oh, wow, that sounds good! I think I’ll add chili to my menu this week…haven’t had it in a while.
BTW, sour cream is the right way to go with hot foods. Water doesn’t help. It’s that oil and water thing, you know. Princess should have milk with her chili. I’m not a milk drinker, but boy, I sure have a glass handy when I make spicy food!
BTW, I nominated you for a “You Make Me Smile” award! If you visit my blog you’ll see!


T'Pol October 15, 2007 at 1:36 am

I love chili, too. I improvise all the time and usually the stuff comes out great. Soups and soup-type meals are generally very forgiving. There is a lot of room to improvise. I usually use the canned beans so that, the chili can be ready within minutes. I also like corn-bread but the kind we have in my country is salty and hard. I do not buy that at all. I would like to make it at home but, it has to be a real simple recipe. Take care!


Jenn @ Frugal Upstate October 15, 2007 at 8:18 am

Annette-actually, the original chili was with leftover beef roast etc, not “ground beef” :) The Wendy’s potato is a great idea-I had forgotten about those. I’ve been trying to eat more with an eye to dropping a few pounds, and on the rare occasions I’m caught out and need a “fast food lunch” a baked potato with chili would be cheap, filling and fairly healthy.

M2F-Yup, chili, chowder, soup. . . tis the season :) I didn’t give Princess milk, but should have thought of it. She really doesn’t particularly like milk, but will drink it when I make the curry etc too hot. . . and thanks for the nomination-it may be a few days before I get to it. . .

T’pol-that is the beauty of these recipes, you can use a lot up. American style corn bread is dead easy-it isn’t a yeast bread, so no rising time. You literally just mix the ingredients together and pour it in some sort of baking dish/pan (it is usually something like an 8inch by 8inch brownie pan or such-not a bread loaf pan) If you check recipezaar.com or just google it you’ll find tons of simple recipes.


Milehimama October 15, 2007 at 8:44 am

I just wanted to let you know that if you use dried kidney beans, you have to cook them first (boiling). They have a toxin that is destroyed by high temps, but the crockpot doesn’t get hot enough.
Canned beans are no problem though!


Jenn @ Frugal Upstate October 15, 2007 at 8:55 am

Milehimama-Thanks for the reminder! I did indeed boil my beans first :) Isn’t it funny about Kidney beans being the only ones where that is a problem? I also found out that if you sprout kidney beans you are supposed to cook the sprouts and not eat them raw for the same reason.


Grace @ Rose Cottage Lane October 15, 2007 at 12:18 pm

Here’s a quick tip – when you grill or fry burgers, keep the leftovers for chili. That’s what Wendy’s does (I worked there once upon a time). All the burgers that get too dried out on the grill get put in the cooler for the next day’s chili. True story, or at least that’s how they used to do it.


Carmen Vick September 30, 2010 at 7:15 pm

First time I’ve seen your site and the Chili recipe sounds like something my hubby will like. Thanks. Hope to see more of your recipies in the future.


Jenn @ Frugal Upstate September 30, 2010 at 8:11 pm

Carmen-So happy you stopped by, and liked the recipe! I post one a week, usually on Thursday, so stop back often!


Becki Foster October 25, 2010 at 3:01 pm

We love chili and I make about 3 gallons at a time and freeze it in 1/2 gallon containers. Used to serve it with crackers but then we tried it with corn chips, shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream! YUM!


Jenn @ Frugal Upstate October 25, 2010 at 3:06 pm

Ohhh, corn chips sound like they would be fantastic! Why have I never thought of those before???


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