Hearty Chili Meal-in-a-Jar

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We’ve been LOVING the convenience of meals-in-a-jar lately. Not only are they awesome for healthier “fast food”, but they are also a great alternative to just-add-water meals that are convenient in emergency situations. We are always looking for great jar recipes but today we wanted to share with you how you can take one of your own favorite recipes and change it into a meal-in-a-jar.

Hearty Chili Meal-in-a-Jar from YourThriveLife.com

Hearty Chili – Regular Version

We originally posted this recipe over on our Food Storage Made Easy blog as a great way to use pinto beans. But as you can see it’s not very quick or simple.


1 lb. lean hamburger (use canned) 2 tsp. salt
2 c. dried pinto beans ¼ tsp. paprika
8 oz. can tomato sauce 1 ½ tsp. ground cumin
1 lb stewed tomatoes 1 T. oregano
2 T. oil 1 pinch chili pepper flakes
1 onion, chopped (use dehydrated) 3 T. chili powder
1 clove of garlic (finely chopped) 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Directions: Soak beans overnight. Drain and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 hours. Drain and add to crock-pot. Sauté the chopped onion and garlic in oil until limp. Stir in all seasonings. Add tomatoes and sauce and simmer for 20 minutes. Brown beef in small fry pan. Drain and add to crock-pot. Add the tomato/seasoning mixture that was simmering plus 5 cups of hot water to crock-pot. Simmer in crock-pot at least 7 hours.

Hearty Chili – Meal-in-a-Jar Version

In order to fit in one quart jar I made about a half recipe. This will serve 3-4 people (I fed one adult and four children with it). If you double the recipe you could seal it in a larger Foodsaver or mylar bag.

Meal-in-a-Jar Ingredients

3/4 c. Freeze-Dried Ground Beef (on sale in October)
1 1/2 c. Instant Pinto Beans (on sale in October)
1 c. Freeze-Dried Tomato Dices (on sale in October)
2 T. Dehydrated Chopped Onions
2 T. Tomato Powder
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. paprika
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 T. oregano
1 1/2 T. chili powder
1/16 tsp. cayenne pepper
tiny pinch of red pepper flakes

Place all ingredients in a quart-sized canning jar in order listed above. For longer shelf-life we recommend placing an oxygen absorber inside and sealing using the jar attachment on a Foodsaver Vacuum Sealer.

When ready to cook, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add jar ingredients and let simmer for 20 minutes. This will make a delicious thick chili. If you like a thinner soup feel free to add a little more water.

Converting the recipe

I have found that one pound of fresh ground beef is about 1 1/2 cups of freeze-dried beef so it was easy to convert that for this recipe. The beans were a little trickier. Instant beans definitely bulk up after cooking but not quite as much cup for cup as dry beans. I initially tried it with 1 cup of instant beans and it wasn’t thick or “beany” enough. 1 1/2 seems perfect to replace 1 cup of dry beans. My recipe called for one can of stewed tomatoes so I just guessed that 1 cup of freeze-dried tomatoes would be a similar equivalent to 1/2 a can. It seems like more, but the tomatoes break down and shrink down quite a bit once cooked. I calculated the tomato powder based on using about 1/2 cup of tomato sauce but added a little more to enhance the flavor. It’s a little bit of a guessing game. For onions I usually use 1/4 cup of dehydrated for one onion. So to half the recipe I used half that much of the dehydrated onions. The rest of the spices were added as normal, just cut in half. Hope that helps you a little as you develop your own meals in jars!

Meals in Jars

I LOVE having all of these jar meals on the shelf ready to make quick easy dinners! (left is the Hearty Chili, right is our delicious Thrive Chicken Chili)

For more great Meal-in-a-Jar Recipes you can download our kindle book on Amazon which includes links to cute labels you can use for your jars of chili.

- Jodi and Julie


  • sherry

    Hey, Jodi and Julie. If you put a whole fresh carrot into the soaking and cooking water of the beans it will absorb and minimize the beans ‘musical effects’ Make sure you discard the carrot, it’s effects will be horrifying, 🙂

  • patricia

    Are you saying that your meal in a jar is a blend of dried foods that make up a meal when you add water and cook it? I am new here. I hoped that you weren’t talking about canning cooked foods ha ha too much work.

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