I learned how to make chili from an old pro who has been making this chili recipe for her husband for over 50 years, starting on the honeymoon.
Dehydrating chili is easy. Make a big batch, dry it, and divide it into individual servings.
This is my go-to chili recipe for every backpacking trip. It rehydrates well on the trail, and I hear from lots of folks who love it. I also use it in my chili mac and chili & rice recipes, which you’ll find further down this page.
If you're looking for vegetarian chili recipes, explore how to make chili with green lentils, Beyond Burger, or textured vegetable protein.
Work breadcrumbs into ground beef with your fingers and set aside for a moment. I add breadcrumbs because dehydrated meat infused with breadcrumbs rehydrates better on the trail. Also, the breadcrumbs absorb and lock in more of the chili flavor. If you are not planning on dehydrating this chili recipe for backpacking, there is no need to add breadcrumbs to the meat. You can make your own breadcrumbs by dehydrating bread.
Sauté onions and garlic in a little olive oil using just enough to coat the pan. It really helps to use a non-stick pan.
Add ground beef and cook for about 10 minutes until browned, stirring continuously.
Add chili powder and cook for 1 more minute.
Add tomato puree, diced tomatoes, and drained beans.
Cook until bubbling and then reduce heat to a simmer for 1 hour.
Photo: 2 cups of chili on Cosori dehydrator tray before drying.
Allow chili to cool, then spread it out on dehydrator trays covered with non-stick sheets or parchment paper.
Dehydrate at 145°F (63°C) for 6–10 hours. This chili recipe takes up 3 Excalibur or Cosori dehydrator trays. After 3–4 hours in the dehydrator, break up any meat and beans that are stuck together and redistribute the chili on the trays.
Once dry, divide dehydrated chili into 1-cup or larger servings and pack in zip lock bags.
Yield: 5 cups weighing about 12 ounces dry. (340 g)
Photo: Dehydrated chili.
Combine 1 cup dried chili with 1 cup water and soak for 5 minutes. For a larger serving, combine 1½ cups of dried chili with 1½ cups of water.
Light stove, bring to a boil, and continue cooking for 1 minute.
Transfer pot to an insulating pot cozy for 10–15 minutes.
Garnish with crackers or cheddar cheese.
Combine all ingredients with water in pot and soak for 5 minutes: Light stove and bring to boil.
*If using macaroni straight from the box, maintain light boil for 2 minutes. If using precooked and dried macaroni, then boiling for 1 minute is sufficient. Transfer pot to an insulating pot cozy and wait 10–15 minutes.
Learn more about precooking and dehydrating macaroni for chili mac and backpacking mac & cheese recipes.
Explore: Dehydrating Macaroni.
Photo: Chili & Rice rehydrated in a thermos food jar.
Pot Cooking: Combine rice and water in pot and soak 5 minutes. Light stove and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Transfer pot to an insulating cozy and wait 15 minutes.
Thermos Cooking: Increase water to 1¾ cups. Add boiled water to chili and rice and wait 20 minutes up to 3 hours.
Thermos Tip: If you plan to eat the meal for lunch, and want to boil the water in the morning, consider packing the rice separately and adding it 20 minutes before you eat it. The shorter soak time will help the rice retain its texture. Rice tends to get mushy with long soak times in boiled water… but it tastes good either way.
To make a larger meal, (shown above) add ¼ cup dried vegetables and increase rehydration water by
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