How long can chili sit out?

In this brief guide, we will answer the query, “How long can chili sit out?” and will discuss some tips to properly store the chili.

How long can chili sit out?

Chili can sit out for about 2 hours. Cooked chili should be thrown away if it has been left out for more than two hours at room temperature because bacteria grow fast between 40°F and 140°F. In the refrigerator, a well-preserved, cooked chili may survive for up to four days if kept properly.

In the temperature danger zone (40°F – 140°F) is the optimum temperature for psychrotrophic pathogenic bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes and Yersinia enterocolitica. At this temperature, many mesophilic pathogenic bacteria, including pathogenic Escherichia coli, Salmonella spp., and Bacillus cereus, can also grow. In addition, spores can germinate in this temperature range and cause foodborne disease. The USDA Food safety and inspection service recommends the refrigeration of perishable foods within 2 h (the so-called 2 h rule), but when the outdoor temperature reaches 90 F (32.2 C), perishable foods should be refrigerated within 1 h (1).

How long can you keep chili in the fridge?

Chili may be stored in the same manner regardless of whether it’s tinned, home-cooked, or vegetarian. Chili should be refrigerated within two hours after serving in most circumstances to ensure its safety. Before serving, reheat the leftovers to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

According to the USDA, the chili sauce, being a leftover dish, can be stored for a maximum time of 3-4 days in the refrigerator (2). 

Unheated chili

You should treat chili the same way you would any other prepared food, especially if it includes meat. Within two hours after serving, refrigerate it. Reduce that safety buffer to one hour if the weather is hot and you are outside. Bacterial growth is slowed by both low and high temperatures, extending the shelf life of food. Once your chili has reached room temperature, germs may begin to grow, which can lead to food illness. If you can, put it in the fridge within the two-hour time limit (1).

To prevent bacterial growth, it’s important to cool food rapidly so it reaches as fast as possible the safe refrigerator-storage temperature of 40° F or below. To do this, divide large amounts of food into shallow containers or use a cold water bath to rapidly chill the portion (3). 

Heated chili

You may leave chili out for up to six hours if you keep it warm on the stove or in a slow cooker. Bacteria cannot develop in the heat above 140°C (3). You’ll have a difficulty in keeping it heated enough to kill germs without drying it out or causing it to catch on fire. Add lots of liquid, such as tomato sauce, tomatoes with juice, water, or broth, for lengthy, slow cooking. It’s best to keep the temperature at a low level and stir constantly. Add extra water if the chili appears too dry.

Chili Storage

Let the chili cool down for about 20 minutes before putting it away in a container, such as a plastic or glass one. The chili may be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days if it is firmly sealed. You may preserve chili in the freezer for up to three months. Store the package at 0 °F by labeling it with the date. To securely defrost it, put it in the fridge overnight. On the stovetop or in the microwave, bring chili to a boil before reheating it (3).

Chili Safety

As tempting as it may be to serve the chili again after being left out for a few hours or overnight, the danger of food-borne disease is just too high. Toss away any chili that has been sitting out for more than 2 hours. Even if the chili hasn’t sat out, toss it if it smells or tastes off.

Is it safe to keep chili out overnight?

Chili should never be eaten after being left out overnight since it’s a perishable meal. Even if chili is left out for a lengthy amount of time and still smells great, germs may develop to dangerous levels if it is kept in the temperature danger zone for more than two hours.

In the case it is left out overnight, it is recommended to be discarded (3).

Can you determine whether something is terrible by looking at the color of chili?

The texture of the chili should be tested before reheating it. The stew is dangerous to consume if it has a slimy texture. It doesn’t matter whether your refrigerated food tastes delicious or smells wonderful if it’s not safe to consume. You may want to go back and see when you made the food.

Keeping and eating leftovers past the recommended amount of time can lead to foodborne illnesses/food poisoning. Common side effects of food poisoning include diarrhea and/or vomiting. These symptoms can occur within a few hours to a few days once food containing bacteria is eaten. Bacteria can be present even though you may think the food looks, smells and tastes ok. Even tasting a small amount of the food can make you sick (4).

What should you do with chili left out in the fridge?

Chili must be cooled soon after serving to avoid the formation of germs. In a shallow dish, put the chili and put it in the fridge to cool down rapidly. Chili that has been out at room temperature for more than two hours should be thrown aside.

Chili can be frozen for up to how long?

After your chili has been cooled to a temperature below 140 degrees Fahrenheit for at least two hours, transfer it to a shallow freezer-safe container, leaving some space for expansion while the chili freezes. Keeping chili in the freezer for up to three months has no negative impact on its quality. 

What is the shelf life of white chili?

According to the USDA, all leftovers, whether it contains or not meat, should be stored for the same periods of time, when refrigerated or freezed (2). The chili may be stored in the refrigerator for up to three days if it is firmly sealed. You may preserve chili in the freezer for up to three months. Store the package at 0 °F by labeling it with the date. To securely defrost it, put it in the fridge overnight.

Other FAQs about Chili that you may be interested in.

What can I substitute for Korean chilli powder?

Can you eat green habaneros?

Can I substitute chilli powder for cayenne pepper?


In this brief guide, we answered the query, “How long can chili sit out?” and discussed some tips to properly store the chili.


  1. Kim, S. A., et al. Temperature increase of foods in car trunk and the potential hazard for microbial growth. Food control, 2013, 29, 66-70.
  2. FSIS. FoodKeeper Data.  
  3. Leftovers and Food Safety. USDA. 2020.
  4. Klavinski, R. There are limits to leftovers. Michigan State University Extension. 2013.