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How Long Is Leftover Chili Good For? Your Complete Guide

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

Throughout the world, chili is a popular and much loved dish enjoyed by many – providing a comforting and tasty treat for those with the means and the inclination.

How Long Is Leftover Chili Good For? Your Complete Guide

One of the joys of chili is that it is also easy to make, and relatively simplistic in terms of ingredients – not to mention being versatile and easy to preserve. 

But exactly how long can you save leftover chili after use, and what are the best methods? 

How Long Can You Keep Leftover Chili? 

When it comes to leftover chili, the shelf life depends entirely on how the product is stored – both in terms of tubs and dishes you keep it in, and the method of storage you use. 

At Room Temperature

If you have cooked your chili and then allowed it to cool on the countertop, then you need to ensure that you transfer it to a colder storage unit before 2 hours has elapsed.

After this time, it is no longer considered safe to eat, and should be disposed of straight away. 

This is unlikely to be anyone’s favored method of storage, but if you have cooked some chili and left it to cool in anticipation of freezing or refrigerating it later, then it can be easy to forget about it. 

In The Refrigerator

If you are storing your leftover chili in the refrigerator, then you can safely keep it for approximately 3-7 days – although this depends on how much meat is within the chili, what container it is kept in, and how often the fridge is left open. 

However, generally speaking, the 3-4 day mark is usually the sweet spot, and after this time, it is not unusual for there to be some decline in taste, texture, smell, or overall appearance. 

In The Freezer

If the chili is properly cooled beforehand, and stored within an airtight container, then it can be stored within the freezer for approximately 6 months. 

This depends on the quality of the container, the temperature of the freezer, and whether or not the temperature varies at all (due to black outs etc).

Generally speaking though, the first 3 months are the sweet spot for thawing and eating leftover chili, and after this point, you might start to notice some changes in the overall appearance, and quality of the food. 

Which Method Is The Best? 

For those looking to save their leftovers with a view to eating them at a later date, the best method depends entirely on how long they intend them to be saved for. 

If you are intending to eat them the next day, or in the next couple of days, then you are perfectly alright to store them in the refrigerator.

However, if you intend to save them for a longer period, and consume them, say, in a month’s time, then you would be better off freezing them. 

What Is The Best Way To Store Chili? 

Whether you are storing the leftover chili in the refrigerator or the freezer, it is important that you use the right materials when doing so. 

Airtight Containers

Whichever method you choose, you will require an airtight container. This can include any tightly sealed tub or container, which will stop any bacteria or debris from entering the chili. 

Sandwich Bags

You can also use a sealed bag (or bags, plural) to keep the chili safe when in the freezer.

For extra safety, you could always wrap the container in an additional bag to ensure it is sealed – although a container is usually sufficient by itself. 

Thermal Flasks/Containers

If you are storing your leftovers in the refrigerator with a view to taking them to work for your lunch, then you could always chill them in a thermal flask of container.

However, this should only be done when using it for the next day, and should not be used for longer storage periods. 

How To Know If Leftover Chili Has Gone Bad? 

Of course, if not stored correctly, or if left beyond their recommended storage dates, then leftover chili can turn bad. However, there are certain signs you can look out for. 

How Long Is Leftover Chili Good For? Your Complete Guide


The first sign is the smell test. Especially with chili that contains meat, you will be able to tell when it has gone bad due to the smell of the meat decomposing. 

This will generally be a foul, strange, or putrid smell, and you will recognize it as soon as you smell it. In this instance, you should dispose of the chili immediately. 


If the consistency of the chili seems different – such as watery – then this could be a sign that it has gone bad.

In this instance, you are better off throwing the chili away, as it is not worth risking illness by consuming bad chili. 


The chili might also look strange, be a funny color, or otherwise seem less appealing than it did when it was first made. If this is the case, then it might have gone bad, and in which case you are better off throwing it out. 

If you are not sure by sight alone, then you could always try smelling the chili, or checking the consistency to make sure. 

Can Bad Chili Make You Sick? 

If your leftover chili has gone bad, then it can indeed make you sick, and depending on what ingredients are included within, you run the risk of food poisoning and other unpleasant side effects as a result. 

This is due to the germs and bacteria that have formed when it has been left beyond its shelf life, and some of the side effects will include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and stomach cramps. 

These symptoms will usually present themselves within the first 6 hours after consuming the chili, but they can manifest themselves at any time within the 12 hour period after initial consumption.  

How To Protect Against Bacteria? 

When it comes to ensuring the longevity of your chili, and avoiding bacteria, there are some  things you can do. 

Firstly, it is important to use a clean work surface, utensils, and containers when making and storing your chili – not to mention ensuring clean hands during preparation and serving. 

Secondly, you need to keep a clean refrigerator, and ensure no debris or germs can get on the chili. This is where airtight containers come in, as well as saran wrap, and foil. 

Lastly, you need to keep the fridge at the optimal temperature by keeping the door closed as much as possible. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about chili, and how long you should save leftovers for. 

It is certainly true that chili is a favorite dish for many – offering meaty, spicy goodness that is both comforting and tasty.

However, without the proper storage choices, and the proper knowhow, this dream food can soon become a nightmare. 

So if you want to know how long to store leftover chili, then be sure to refer to this handy guide!

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that we know a little more about leftover chili, and how long you should safely store it for, it is now time to answer some frequently asked questions that you might be interested in. 

Does Leftover Chili Lose Spiciness?

While leftover chili is usually just as potent after being stored in the refrigerator for a short time, freezing for extended periods can indeed cause the spiciness to decline somewhat. However, this is not always the case. 

How Can You Use Leftover Chili? 

There are many ways to use leftover chili, including Sloppy Joes, chili dogs, chili fries, or even just eating it in a bowl for simplicity.

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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