Canned Chili, Ranked Worst To Best

Whether you’re a fan of beans or no beans, we’ve got you covered.

While looking for a last-minute dinner idea last week, I rummaged through my pantry and discovered several cans of chili that had been sitting pretty for the past two years. Would my kids like it? I heated some up on the stove and served it with avocado, chips, sour cream, and shredded cheese on top, holding my breath as I awaited their reaction. Turns out, they loved it. Perhaps canned chili has more redeeming qualities than I gave it credit for.

Browsing the aisles at several grocery stores around town, I discovered that the selection varies depending on the store. Big chains like Walmart and Fred Meyer (part of the Kroger brand) have more than five brands and varieties to choose from, while stores like Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have less. I pulled together eight brands and varieties that are most likely to be found at your local supermarket, then ranked them based on their flavor profile, nutritional value, and price.

Note: Not all microwaves and stoves are created equal, so you should adjust your cooking time accordingly. For instance, the cooking instructions on most cans said to heat the chili in the microwave for two minutes, but I found that 30 seconds was plenty in my microwave.

Without further ado, here are eight leading brands of canned chili, ranked from worst to best.

8. Gardein Plant-Based Chili No Beans

Gardein Plant-Based Chili No Beans is just not good. Period. In the customer reviews section for this product on Gardein's website, someone complained about the level of sodium in the product—1690 mg per can, or 73% of the daily recommended value. That's... a lot. Indeed, this chili tasted very salty. The texture made me wonder why I was about to eat something that looked so indistinguishable from wet dog food. But for the sake of evaluation, I ate some—then promptly scooped a dollop into my dog's food bowl. Within minutes, she happily ate the entire serving, then came over to me, wagged her tail, and looked at me with begging eyes, demanding more. I rest my case.

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7. Amy’s Organic Medium Chili

This Amy's Organic Medium Chili is, according to the product description, "made from organic red beans and tofu simmered in a thick and flavorful Mexican-style broth." Everything's organic, which is great, but Amy's could stand to add a dash or two of something more—some spices, maybe, or a bit of salt? (Not as much as Gardein, of course.) It was so bland that I could not bring myself to finish a bowl; my kids and partner weren't impressed either. So we gave it to the dog, who walked away as soon as she tasted it. Dogs have preferences too, you know.

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At $4.49 per can, I expected better quality, and unfortunately, Amy's did not deliver.

6. Nalley Big Chunk Chili Con Carne (No Beans)

If you're not a fan of beans, this Nalley Big Chunk Chili Con Carne is a decent option. Beans or not, though, I felt cheated by the fact that there weren't "big chunks" of "more beef" as Nalley promised. Instead, modest chunks floated around and hid at the bottom of the bowl, requiring a bit of digging to find. Aside from that, there were hints of spices, all of which tasted decent.

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Similar to some of the other brands, this chili is loaded with sodium. At 1070 mg per serving (half a can), it's about 45% of your daily recommended value.

5. Hormel Chunky Beef Chili With Beans

Hormel Chunky Beef Chili With Beans is for those who like thick, thick chunks and a red velvet color. Out of all the brands, I'd consider this one the most "homestyle," or the kind that you'd eat when you're really hungry and there's nothing else to eat. This chili will fulfill your most basic need. There's some green chilies, spices, and jalapeno peppers in the ingredients and it shows. I found the chunks of meat to be a nice change of pace from the other brands, but none of my taste testers seemed impressed with the flavor. One of them said, "This is like eating a very dark mound of wet dirt." The best thing about this brand is that it's affordable and has good texture; otherwise, not a memorable meal.

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4. Kroger Original No Beans Chili

Kroger is a big grocery behemoth with brands like Dillons, Fry's, and Fred Meyer, my local grocery chain. Being a store brand, Kroger Original No Beans Chili was the cheapest we sampled—only $1.99 per can. Granted, it wasn't the greatest chili I'd ever had, and I thought it was a bit watered down and perhaps a bit too reddish in color, but it doesn't taste half bad for the price. My testers and I all enjoyed the taste, which resembled a homey beanless stew. It's not too spicy nor too salty, just somewhere in the middle. It has just as much fat, cholesterol, and sodium as Nalley, but with more discernible flavor.

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3. Marie Callender’s Angus Beef Chili with Beans

I love Marie Callender's products. They've always been so good to me, especially the lasagnas and mac 'n cheese products—so it's no surprise that the brand's Angus Beef Chili with Beans matches the quality I've come to expect. What's truly delightful about this brand is that it is quite affordable: about half the price of Amy's Organic. The easy-to-open can makes it a snap (literally) to cook up the chili. I found the precooked chili's color a bit off-putting, but once it was heated up, it tasted really great. To me, it seemed like there was a creamy base to it, as the flavor was truly decadent, thick and a bit salty (but not too much) with little meat bits. If you're looking for a high-protein canned product, this one contains 15 grams per cup.

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2. Stagg Classic Chili with Beans

Stagg is part of the Hormel Foods brand, but Stagg Classic Chili with Beans just felt different somehow. Unlike Hormel chili, Stagg is incredibly fragrant, rich, and chunky. Perhaps it's because it's "slow simmered," or perhaps because it's got two different kinds of beans, or less water—or it contains some insider secret. At any rate, it tasted very homestyle and very comforting. Out of 129 customer reviews on the Stagg product's website, 116 of them gave the product four or five stars. If it's possible, I would give it a 4.5, due to the only comment I received from my daughter, which is that it's "a bit salty." I think it would be great with a dollop of sour cream, chips, and guacamole. That might dilute the rich salty factor down a bit.

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1. Campbell’s Chunky Chili with Beans

Once upon a time, Campbell's had a really good tomato soup called Signature Tomato Garden Vegetable. Unfortunately, the product was discontinued in America and I stopped seeing it in stores in the mid-2000s. But my disappointment is now assuaged, because I might have just discovered Campbell's best product yet: Chunky Chili with Beans. I was so stunned by how good this chili was, I decided to forgive the brand for killing my favorite soup all those years ago. When I tasted Stagg chili, I thought I'd found euphoria. But then I tried Campbell's. There are not enough adjectives to describe how good this chili is, especially for a canned product. It's chunky, hearty, fragrant, and filling. There's a nice chocolaty brown color, very large beans, and a hint of sweetness toward the end. Overall, a perfectly balanced chili.

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