Cafeteria Chili – The Nation Prepare dinner

This Cafeteria Chili is assured to take you again to your faculty days! It fills your stomach and warms your soul. Made with inexpensive pantry staple elements, this dish is all the time successful with younger and previous alike!


Look, I do know it’s June so it most likely is senseless to share this recipe however I simply couldn’t wait till fall as a result of it’s SO good! In case you are searching for a easy chili dish that can carry again some childhood reminiscences, this Cafeteria Chili is simply what you want! This chili recipe was really from a college lunchroom girl, Sally Paulson, who was a Faculty Cafeteria Supervisor. Everybody requested her for years for her recipe so when she retired she determined to publish it in her native newspaper (The Fast Metropolis Journal) on December 11, 1983. It’s been round some time and there’s a darn good cause, it’s so scrumptious! It has the proper chili taste, however it’s not too strong- it’s the proper chili for choosy eaters.

A bowl of Cafeteria Chili holding a bite of chili above.


How can I serve Cafeteria Chili?

This sort of chili is an effective “dipping” chili for dipping sandwiches in or for serving over rice. Within the midwest the colleges typically served this with cinnamon rolls (when you can consider it!) and even peanut butter crackers or a peanut butter sandwich. I suppose it’s that entire candy and salty vibe. My husband likes it with a ham sandwich.
I’m really engaged on a bread recipe to go together with this chili recipe, so keep tuned for it-you guys are going to adore it paired with this chili.
You’ll be able to get pleasure from this all by itself or along with your favourite toppings like shredded cheese, bitter cream, inexperienced onions, or different toppings. I additionally love consuming this chili with a sq. of cornbread.

What else can I add?

It is a nice base recipe to make use of and alter to make it precisely how you want to it. If you need some extra texture, you possibly can add a can of diced tomatoes. You would additionally add some diced inexperienced peppers for texture and taste.

Do I’ve to let it simmer that lengthy?

Sure! It’s an vital step and one that basically helps to develop the flavors and thickens the chili. Letting it simmer for an hour and a half is essential, so don’t skip this.

Can I make this in a crockpot?

Certain factor. First, simply cook dinner the bottom beef. Then toss every thing into the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. Give it a very good stir earlier than serving and luxuriate in!

Can I add some warmth to this?

Certain! In case you have some friends who get pleasure from a spicier dish you possibly can add some diced inexperienced chiles or a spicier chili powder and even throw in some pink pepper flakes or jalapeños. I used gentle chili powder, however you possibly can go for one thing with extra warmth if desired.

What are chili beans and the place do I discover them?

Chili Beans are sometimes made with both kidney beans or pinto beans. They’re simply beans which might be in a chili sauce so be sure to don’t rinse the beans  – you wish to pour all of it in so that you get all the flavour. See my ingredient picture beneath so you will have an concept of what you’re searching for. You will have a special model relying on the place you reside. You’ll discover them close to all the opposite canned beans in your grocery retailer.
If you happen to can’t discover chili beans, you need to use a mixture of each or only one or the opposite type of beans, no matter you favor.

The right way to retailer leftovers?

Leftovers may be saved in an hermetic container for as much as 3-4 days within the fridge. Ensure they’ve cooled earlier than putting in container. If you wish to maintain longer, you possibly can freeze leftovers for as much as 4-6 months.

A pot of Cafeteria Chili with a serving utensil holding a serving inside.


  • floor beef – you could possibly additionally use floor hen, floor pork or floor turkey on this (however after all, with each substitution you make, the much less and fewer it tastes how it’s alleged to style). Additionally notice, the unique recipe requires a pound and a half of meat. I do know it’s offered in a single pound increments so go together with what you possibly can afford. I simply freeze the opposite half pound for later however when you solely wish to go together with one pound right here, that’s high-quality. It can simply be rather less beefy, that’s all.
  • chopped onion – you could possibly additionally use a shallot and even add some diced inexperienced pepper in there for much more taste (I do know of us have a love/hate relationship with peppers).
  • gentle brown sugar – this doesn’t add quite a lot of sweetness, it simply provides to a pleasant steadiness of taste to counteract all of the acidity from the tomato sauce. Additionally, brown sugar additionally has a contact of molasses in it which provides to the depth of taste within the chili.
  • chili powder – I glided by the unique recipe right here and I feel I a lot want a extra gentle chili powder so you could possibly actually style all the opposite flavors. However when you actually get pleasure from quite a lot of spice then go together with the spicy model.
  • tomato sauce and tomato juice – once more, I’m going by the unique recipe right here and that is what she used and I feel it really works completely with this recipe. The tomato juice actually provides such a pleasant background taste and retains the chili from having an awesome plain tomato sauce taste. I haven’t examined this with some other substitutions so couldn’t say how that will end up.
  • water – when you like a reasonably thick chili, you possibly can miss the water. I discover although that this chili is their good steadiness between thick and skinny as a result of it makes it a very good droppable chili with out being like a soup – however do what you favor.
  • chili beans – I feel these are actually key to this recipe since you might be getting one other layer of chili taste from the seasoning within the beans. I’m certain you could possibly simply use both plain kidney beans or pinto beans (or each) however I feel if you’ll find chili beans, it truly is so significantly better.
Ground beef, onion, salt, light brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, tomato sauce, tomato juice, water, and chili beans.


In a big pot or dutch oven, cook dinner and crumble floor beef with the chopped onion. Drain any extra grease and put again into the pot. 

Ground beef and onion in a dutch oven.

Add all the opposite elements and stir properly.

Ingredients for cafeteria chili in a dutch oven.

Cowl and simmer for about 1 ½-2 hours (stirring often.) 

Cooked cafeteria chili in a dutch oven needing to be stirred.

Prime along with your favourite toppings (bitter cream, shredded cheese, inexperienced onions)

Close up looking at a bowl of chili with shredded cheese, sour cream and chives on top.


A spoon holding a bite of Cafeteria Chili above a bowl.

Forestall your display screen from going darkish

  • In a big pot or dutch oven, cook dinner and crumble floor beef with the chopped onion. Drain any extra grease and put again into the pot.

  • Add all the opposite elements and stir properly. Cowl and simmer for about 1 ½-2 hours (stirring often.)

  • Prime along with your favourite toppings (bitter cream, shredded cheese, inexperienced onions)

  • Please check with my FAQ’s and ingredient checklist above for different substitutions or for the solutions to the commonest questions.
  • A can of diced tomatoes may very well be added for a bit extra texture or some inexperienced peppers. 
  • I undoubtedly assume simmering for at the least an hour and a half actually helps to develop the flavors and thickens the chili so I undoubtedly wouldn’t skip this step. 
  • This may very well be performed within the crock pot after the bottom beef has been cooked first. I’d cook dinner on low for 6-8 hours. 
  • You will discover chili beans the place all the opposite canned beans are in your grocery retailer. 
  • Serve all by itself or along with your favourite toppings (shredded cheese, bitter cream, inexperienced onions, and many others.). I get pleasure from consuming chili with a sq. of cornbread. 


Energy: 497kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 30g | Fats: 25g | Saturated Fats: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fats: 2g | Monounsaturated Fats: 10g | Trans Fats: 1g | Ldl cholesterol: 81mg | Sodium: 2195mg | Potassium: 1614mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 17g | Vitamin A: 1704IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 107mg | Iron: 7mg

“The Nation Prepare dinner” will not be a dietician or nutritionist, and any dietary data shared is an estimate. If calorie depend and different dietary values are vital to you, we advocate operating the elements via whichever on-line dietary calculator you favor. Energy can differ fairly a bit relying on which manufacturers had been used.