How many carbs does a bowl of chili have?

Quick Answer

The number of carbs in a bowl of chili can vary greatly depending on the ingredients used. On average, a one cup serving of chili made with ground beef contains around 15-25 grams of net carbs. The exact carb count will depend on factors like the type of beans, vegetables, seasonings and thickeners used in the recipe. Choosing lower carb options for ingredients like beans and omitting things like rice or pasta can lower the carb count.

What Ingredients Impact the Carb Count of Chili?

There are several ingredients commonly used in chili recipes that can add a significant amount of carbohydrates:


Beans are a classic chili ingredient and a staple source of protein and fiber. However, most varieties of beans also contain a high amount of carbs. For example:

– 1/2 cup of pinto beans contains around 22 net grams of carbs
– 1/2 cup of black beans contains around 20 net grams of carbs
– 1/2 cup of kidney beans contains around 13 net grams of carbs

Going with a lower carb bean variety like black soybeans or cannellini beans can reduce the carb impact. You can also control portion sizes of higher carb beans to limit carbs.

Ground Beef

Lean ground beef is often used as the base for chili. While not as high in carbs as beans, beef still contains around 3-5 grams of carbs per 100 gram serving. Using a very lean 90/10 or 93/7 ground beef can lower the carbs slightly compared to fattier options.


Crushed tomatoes are usually added to chili for thickness and flavor. One cup of canned crushed tomatoes has around 5 grams net carbs. Diced tomatoes or tomato sauce also contain around 4-5 grams of carbs per cup. Going easy on tomato products or using tomato paste can reduce the carb content.


One cup of chopped onions equates to around 8-9 grams net carbs. Reducing the portion size of onions in your chili is an easy way to cut some carbs. Consider using concentrated onion powders or granulated onion to boost flavor without all the carbs.


Bell peppers and chili peppers are commonly used to add flavor, vitamins and thickness. One cup of chopped red bell pepper contains around 7 grams of carbs. Jalapeno or serrano peppers have around 2 grams of carbs per pepper. Go for hotter pepper varieties and use sparingly to limit carbs.

Starchy Thickeners

Many chili recipes call for corn starch, all-purpose flour or masa harina to thicken and add body. Two tablespoons of these starchy thickeners can add around 15-20 grams of carbs. Skip these ingredients or use a very small amount for a lower carb chili.


Some chili recipes include sugar or other sweeteners which will quickly raise the carb count. One tablespoon of brown sugar contains around 12 grams of carbs while honey has 17 grams per tablespoon. Leaving out sweeteners is ideal for a low carb chili.

Low Carb Chili Ingredient Swaps

Here are some easy substitutions to make traditional chili recipes lower in carbs:

– Use black soybeans, cannellini or pinto beans instead of higher carb kidney or navy beans. Or skip beans entirely.

– Try mushrooms or extra vegetables like zucchini, carrots or cabbage in place of some of the beans to reduce carbs.

– Use ground turkey or chicken instead of higher carb beef.

– Skip starchy thickeners and use tomato paste plus gelatin or xanthan gum as a thickener instead.

– Use low carb sweeteners like monk fruit or stevia instead of sugar.

– Add more fiber-rich vegetables like spinach, kale or collards.

– Top with avocado, sour cream, cheese or cilantro instead of starchy garnishes.

How to Estimate Carbs in Homemade Chili

When making chili at home, you can get a rough estimate of the net carbs by adding up the grams of carbs from each ingredient.

Here is an example calculation for a basic homemade chili:

Ingredient Amount Total Carbs Net Carbs
Ground beef 1 pound 5g 5g
Onion, chopped 1/2 cup 8g 8g
Black beans 1/2 cup 22g 22g
Crushed tomatoes 1 cup 5g 5g
Chili powder 1 Tbsp 2g 2g
Total 42g 42g

Based on these sample ingredients, one serving of homemade chili would contain around 42 grams of net carbs. This will vary based on specific ingredients and portion sizes.

Carb Counts for Different Chili Styles

Adding certain ingredients or using signature spice blends impacts the carb count. Here are the carb counts for popular chili styles:

Texas Red Chili

– 1 cup: 15-20 grams of net carbs

This beef-centric chili gets its thickness from long simmering. Carbs come mainly from ground beef, onions and minimal beans.

Cincinnati Chili

– 1 cup: 20-30 grams of net carbs

Features a tomato-rich meat sauce sweetened with spices like cinnamon and chocolate. Carbs come from tomato sauce, beef and thickeners.

White Chicken Chili

– 1 cup: 10-15 grams of net carbs

Uses white beans and chicken as the base. The lighter color comes from skipping tomato products. Carbs are lower without tomatoes or red meat.

Vegetarian Chili

– 1 cup: 25-35 grams of net carbs

Packs a mix of beans, corn, peppers, sweet potatoes and other hearty vegetables. Higher in carbs without meat.

Green Chili

– 1 cup: 8-12 grams of net carbs

Gets vibrant color from green chilis and tomatillos. Mostly contains pork and vegetables over beans for fewer carbs.

Carb Count of Common Chili Toppings

Garnishes and toppings also contribute extra carbs. Here are the carb counts for popular chili toppings:

Topping Serving Size Net Carbs
Shredded Cheddar Cheese 1/4 cup 1g
Sour Cream 2 Tbsp 2g
Chopped Onion 2 Tbsp 1.5g
Diced Avocado 1/4 cup 2g
Corn Chips 1 oz 15-20g
Cornbread 1 piece (2″x2″) 15g
Oyster Crackers 1 oz 15g

Stick to high fiber, low carb options like cheese, sour cream or avocado to keep carbs down. Avoid corn chips, bread products or crackers for chili dipping.

Tips for Low Carb Chili

Here are some useful tips for making chili lower in carbs:

– Use lean ground turkey or chicken instead of fatty ground beef
– Choose low carb beans like cannellini or black soybeans
– Load up on non-starchy vegetables like celery, mushrooms and zucchini
– Skip corn, peas, carrots or sweet potatoes as mix-ins
– Use tomato paste and gelatin instead of corn starch as thickeners
– Skip the sugar and add heat with chili flakes and cayenne instead
– Garnish with avocado, cilantro and cheese rather than corn chips or bread
– Make it vegetarian or “no bean” for dramatic carb reduction

With thoughtful ingredient choices and smart swaps, it’s easy to make hearty low carb chili that doesn’t compromise on flavor.

Carb Counts for Chilis from Popular Restaurants

Many fast food and restaurants offer chili, though carbohydrate counts can vary a lot depending on preparation. Here are some estimated net carb counts for chilis from popular chains:

Wendy’s Chili

– Small (12 oz): 33g net carbs
– Large (16 oz): 44g net carbs

Features ground beef and beans. Carbs come from beef, tomatoes, onions, beans and thickeners.

Panera Bread Chili

– Bowl (16 oz): 45g net carbs

Contains white beans, ground sirloin, tomatoes, corn and bell peppers. Higher in carbs than beef-based chilis.

Chili’s Chili Con Carne

– Bowl: 15-25g net carbs

Signature Texas-style beef chili made with chili peppers and spices. Reasonably low carb for a beef and bean-based chili.

Chipotle Chili

– Bowl: 35-45g net carbs

Packed with pinto beans, meats, tomato, corn and starchy thickeners resulting in higher carb counts.

Skyline Chili

– Small (8 oz): 15-20g net carbs

Features a cinnamon-spiced meat chili sauce over spaghetti noodles so carbs add up quickly.

The Best Low Carb Chili Options

To keep carbs down, your best bet is to choose Texas-style beef chili or green chilis made with mostly meat and vegetables. Stay away from sweeter tomato-based chilis, vegetarian chilis, and any chili served over rice, pasta or cornbread.

Making your own low carb chili at home is ideal. But you can also ask restaurants to go easy on starchy thickeners, corn and higher carb bean varieties. And beware of deceivingly carb-loaded toppings and sides.


Chili can be a deliciously hearty low carb meal with some modifications. Focus on ingredients like meat, vegetables, and low glycemic beans while limiting tomatoes, onions, sweeteners and starchy thickeners. Consider the carb counts of garnishes and sides as well. With smart substitutions and recipe tweaks, you can enjoy flavorful and satiating chili on a low carb diet. Aim for homemade chilis with around 15-25 grams of net carbs per one cup serving for a lower carb option.

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