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 substances, this dish is at all times a success with younger and previous alike!


Look, I do know it’s June so it in all probability is senseless to share this recipe however I simply couldn’t wait till fall as a result of it’s SO good! If you’re searching for a easy chili dish that may deliver again some childhood recollections, this Cafeteria Chili is simply what you want! This chili recipe was really from a faculty lunchroom girl, Sally Paulson, who was a College 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, nevertheless 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 type of chili is an effective “dipping” chili for dipping sandwiches in or for serving over rice. Within the midwest the faculties usually served this with cinnamon rolls (for those who can imagine 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 along with this chili recipe, so keep tuned for it-you guys are going to like it paired with this chili.
You’ll be able to take pleasure in this all by itself or together 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?

This can be a nice base recipe to make use of and alter to make it precisely how you want to it. If you would like some extra texture, you possibly can add a can of diced tomatoes. You possibly can 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?

Positive factor. First, simply cook dinner the bottom beef. Then toss every part into the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours. Give it a superb stir earlier than serving and revel in!

Can I add some warmth to this?

Positive! When you have some company who take pleasure in a spicier dish you possibly can add some diced inexperienced chiles or a spicier chili powder and even throw in some purple pepper flakes or jalapeños. I used delicate 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 usually made with both kidney beans or pinto beans. They’re simply beans which can be in a chili sauce so ensure you don’t rinse the beans  – you need to pour all of it in so that you get all the flavour. See my ingredient picture under so you have got an concept of what you’re searching for. You might 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.
In the event you can’t discover chili beans, you should utilize a mix of each or only one or the opposite type of beans, no matter you favor.

How you can retailer leftovers?

Leftovers may be saved in an hermetic container for as much as 3-4 days within the fridge. Make sure that they’ve cooled earlier than inserting 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 would 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 purported to style). Additionally notice, the unique recipe requires a pound and a half of meat. I do know it’s bought in a single pound increments so go along with what you possibly can afford. I simply freeze the opposite half pound for later however for those who solely need to go along with one pound right here, that’s positive. It can simply be rather less beefy, that’s all.
  • chopped onion – you would 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 numerous sweetness, it simply provides to a pleasant stability 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 believe I a lot desire a extra delicate chili powder so you would actually style all the opposite flavors. However for those who actually take pleasure in numerous spice then go along 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 believe 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 every other substitutions so couldn’t say how that will prove.
  • water – for those who like a fairly thick chili, you possibly can miss the water. I discover although that this chili is their excellent stability between thick and skinny as a result of it makes it a superb droppable chili with out being like a soup – however do what you favor.
  • chili beans – I believe these are actually key to this recipe since you’re getting one other layer of chili taste from the seasoning within the beans. I’m positive you would simply use both plain kidney beans or pinto beans (or each) however I believe if yow will discover chili beans, it truly is so a lot 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 substances and stir properly.

Ingredients for cafeteria chili in a dutch oven.

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

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

Prime together 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.

Stop your display 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 substances and stir properly. Cowl and simmer for about 1 ½-2 hours (stirring sometimes.)

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

  • Please consult with my FAQ’s and ingredient listing above for different substitutions or for the solutions to the most typical questions.
  • A can of diced tomatoes may very well be added for a bit extra texture or some inexperienced peppers. 
  • I positively assume simmering for at the least an hour and a half actually helps to develop the flavors and thickens the chili so I positively wouldn’t skip this step. 
  • This may very well be carried out 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 together with your favourite toppings (shredded cheese, bitter cream, inexperienced onions, and so forth.). I take pleasure in 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” isn’t a dietician or nutritionist, and any dietary info shared is an estimate. If calorie rely and different dietary values are vital to you, we suggest operating the substances by way of whichever on-line dietary calculator you favor. Energy can differ fairly a bit relying on which manufacturers have been used.