Kitchn Love Letters

The $3 Canned Good I Buy on Repeat Every Fall

published Sep 20, 2023
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baked potato stuffed with chili, sour cream, cheese, and chives
Credit: Tara Holland

Five years ago, my youngest daughter (11 years old at the time) announced she was turning vegetarian after a memorable day trip to a famous English beach town back in our homeland. We were specifically going for lunch — the traditional seaside dish of fish and chips that we’d all been desperately longing for since living stateside for five years. We took a gentle stroll to the end of the long pier before lunch and, lo and behold, she was officially a full-fledged vegetarian by the time we’d reached the shore. (I’ll spare you the traumatic details, but let’s just say it involves a fisherman, his catch-of-the-day, a small mallet, and a lot of tears!) We sadly never did get to have fish and chips for lunch that day.

My husband and I secretly thought this “fad” would be short-lived once she realized Haribo gummy bears were not vegetarian. However, she’s proved us wrong and never looked back!

Although I am (of course) very proud of her, somewhat selfishly, this causes me extra hassle as I regularly have to cook two dinners (my other daughter is a full-fledged carnivore and loves her meat!). As I cook for a living, I can barely muster up the energy to cook one meal at the end of a long day in the kitchen, let alone two, but I do try to cook from scratch whenever I have the energy (it’s not very often, I’m not going to lie!).

I frequently cook British food to grasp onto our heritage (by a thread!). In the U.K., a midweek staple supper is baked potato (known as the ‘jacket’ potato to us Brits), and it’s topped with either baked beans and cheddar or chili con carne with cheese (or sour cream); it’s the ultimate comfort food. So now, when I make chili with ground beef — a firm family favorite — my youngest is left out.

Credit: Tara Holland

As she’s done so well, I want to commend her for her choice as much as possible, so I do my best to include her and make her not feel she got the raw deal. I did try making chili using Impossible meat, and although my husband and I loved it as a substitute, my eldest daughter is a bit fussier, so chili con carne family nights were knocked on the head. I was 100% not up for prepping and cooking (or the expense of) two bubbling pots of chili after a nine-hour day in the kitchen (no matter how much I love her!). That is until a can of Hormel’s Plant-Based Chili with Beans caught my eye in the grocery store — and the Holland family chili nights were officially back on! 

Credit: Tara Holland

What’s So Great About Hormel Chili Plant-Based Chili with Beans?

I’ll be honest; I used to be a bit of a snob and turn my nose up at canned meals, but the photo on the can looked quite impressive, so I thought it was worth a shot. The next time I made chili, I emptied the can into a small pot (for our little vegetarian) and passed it off as my own (of course I did!) while making the beef version in another pot. This chili really does look as good as the photo on the front of the can as it does IRL and as close to any beef chili I’ve seen or made. 

Credit: Tara Holland

It certainly doesn’t look (or taste) like it’s come out of a can, and you can barely tell it’s not beef — the texture is spot-on, thanks to the soy-based crumbles, and it contains the usual suspects you’d find in a typical chili: kidney beans, onion, red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, etc., plus there’s also some pink beans thrown in for extra protein (I’m always looking for ways to boost protein in my daughter’s diet). The flavor has a subtle chili and cumin-spiced undertone (if you like spicy chilis, I recommend a generous splash of hot sauce), and the soy crumbles give a surprisingly rich umami hit. (One day, I even tricked my husband with it!) 

And the best part? It’s so reasonably priced (between $2.79 and $2.99 for a 14-ounce can where I live), so it saves me money by not having to cook two family meals from scratch. 

Credit: Tara Holland

What’s the Best Way to Use Hormel Chili Plant-Based Chili with Beans?

Baked potatoes are the quintessential vessel for this plant-based chili. That first time I made it for my daughter, I seasoned the fluffy interior of the baked potato with her favorite addition, garlic powder (if you haven’t tried it sprinkled inside a baked spud, then, trust me, you are missing out!), plus some salt and white pepper, and a huge pat of butter. Then, I topped it with the plant-based chili and sprinkled it with a big pile of shredded cheddar — exactly how she used to have it when she ate the meat version. 

It wasn’t until she had wolfed down the whole dinner that I came clean and told her it was canned chili, and when she didn’t believe me at first, I knew it would become a regular family pantry staple. 

Credit: Tara Holland

If you don’t have a spare hour to bake a potato, here are some other ways you can serve the canned chili for a quick vegetarian midweek meal or lunch: 

  • Serve on a bed of fluffy white rice (or even Arroz Verde) and topped with sour cream, sliced jalapeños, and chopped cilantro. 
  • Mix with some rice and cheese for a burrito filling.
  • Use it as a substitute for beef tacos.

Buy: Hormel Plant-Based Chili with Beans $2.99 for a 14-ounce can at Instacart (prices vary)

What canned staples are you stocking up on this fall? Tell us about it in the comments below.