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Sure, everyone may be cooking more than ever these days, but it’s also very easy to get stuck in a rut. Trying to dream up several meals a day can be daunting, and the struggle to use up leftovers without feeling the monotony is the ultimate challenge.

Related Reading: 3 Time-Saving Tips for Batch Cooking During Quarantine

That is why one of my main objectives when I make a big meal—other than for it to taste great, of course—is to create something I can ultimately transform into something else. No, I’m not a magician: I just rely on a recipe that lends itself well to many other dishes, repurposing many of the same ingredients into future meals. It not only cuts down on dirty dishes and cooking time (by front loading the main part of the meal on day one, similar to batch cooking), but it also reduces food waste and, ultimately, time I have to spend in front of the stove. Win, win!

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So,  if you, too, are bored of that same pot of pasta, I encourage you to try my very simple recipe for chili.  You can choose your protein based on your diet and mood, or go for the vegetarian option. Either way, today’s chili becomes tomorrow’s sloppy joe, or you can get even more creative and make a one-skillet cornbread chili bake that is both savory and spicy. Take that same leftover chili, grab some tortillas from the pantry, and fry up some chili taquitos or bake a tray of enchiladas. If you are feeling ambitious, make a double batch and freeze it so after a quick defrost, all of these meals are mere minutes away.

Super Simple, Life-Changing Chili Recipe

Chili

Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons oil (veg, canola, EVOO)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (one teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 lb ground beef (ground turkey, ground chicken)
  • One 16 oz can of beans (kidney, black, pinto, or white)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup prepared salsa
  • Toppings: shredded cheddar, sour cream, avocado
Instructions
  1. In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil on medium heat and add onion and garlic. Cook for five minutes until they begin to soften.
  2. Add tomato paste and mix to combine for two minutes.
  3. Add the ground meat and cook until no longer pink.
  4. Add all the dried spices, salt, and pepper and mix to combine.
  5. Add the salsa and the sauce.
  6. Allow to simmer for 25 minutes.
  7. Serve in bowls with toppings

Sloppy Joes Recipe

Sloppy Joes

Ingredients
  • 1 batch chili, see recipe above
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 2 teaspoons worcheshire sauce
  • 6 soft sandwich rolls
Instructions
  1. Make chili as directed above and add ketchup and worcheshire sauce when adding the salsa and sauce.
  2. Simmer for 25 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and divide on sandwich rolls.

Veggie Chili Recipe

Veggie Chili

Serves: 5-6
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons oil (veg, canola, evoo)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (one teaspoon garlic powder)
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and chopped to 1-inch discs
  • 1 red pepper, chopped to 1-inch dice
  • 1 zucchini, chopped to 1-inch dice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Two 16 oz cans of beans (kidney, black, pinto, or white)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 cup prepared salsa
  • Toppings: shredded cheddar, sour cream, avocado
Instructions
  1. In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil on medium heat and add onion and garlic. Cook for five minutes until they begin to soften.
  2. Add the vegetables and cook for 7 minutes, until they are softened.
  3. Add tomato paste and mix to combine for two minutes.
  4. Add all the dried spices, salt and pepper and mix to combine.
  5. Add the salsa and the sauce.
  6. Allow to simmer for 25 minutes.
  7. Serve in bowls with toppings

Stuffed Peppers Recipe

Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients
  • 6 large multicolored peppers
  • 1 batch meat or veggie chili
  • 1 cup cooked rice, white or brown
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Slice and core six large peppers.
  3. Add 1 cup of cooked rice to chili of your choice and mix to combine.
  4. Fill each pepper with chili and rice mixture.
  5. Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce on the bottom of a 9x13 glass or metal baking dish.
  6. Place peppers in.
  7. Add one cup of water around the peppers.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  9. Remove foil, sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of each pepper and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Chili Mac Recipe

Chili Mac

Ingredients
  • 1 lb pasta, cavatappi or elbow is best
  • 3 to 4 cups of leftover chili
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano cheese
Instructions
  1. Boil 1 lb of cavatappi or elbow pasta according to package directions.
  2. Mix with three to four cups of chili.
  3. Sprinkle with parmigiano cheese and serve.

Chili Skillet Cornbread Recipe

Chili Skillet Cornbread

Ingredients
  • 1 box cornbread mix, Jiffy works well
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 batch chili of your choice
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Once chili is combined (step 5), turn off the heat.
  3. Mix a batch of cornbread and carefully pour and spread it on top of the chili.
  4. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until cornbread is cooked through and begins to brown on the top.

Taquitos Recipe

Taquitos

Ingredients
  • 1 batch chili of your choice
  • 6 medium flour tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola or olive oil)
Instructions
  1. Place a medium, flour tortilla on a cutting board and add ¼ cup of cooled chili.
  2. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of shredded cheddar cheese on top of the meat.
  3. Tightly roll up the tortilla.
  4. In a medium pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil and place rolled taquito, seal side down and press with a spatula.
  5. Turn after two minutes to brown the other side.
  6. Repeat with 6-7 tortillas.
  7. Serve with sour cream, guacamole, and salsa.

Enchiladas Recipe

Enchiladas

Ingredients
  • 1 batch chili of your choice
  • 5 flour tortillas
  • One 4 oz canned diced green chilis
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix heavy cream and chilis in a bowl until combined.
  3. Spread ¼ cup of chili cream on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish.
  4. Lay tortillas flat and add ¾ cup of chili down the center.
  5. Roll them up and place them seam side down in the dish.
  6. Pour the remaining chili cream on top.
  7. Sprinkle with all the cheese.
  8. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
  9. Remove cover and bake for another 15 minutes.Serve immediately.

Header image by Anna Gass.

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