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Copycat Zippy's Chili 

Let me begin by saying that it feels like I like have grown up eating Zippy's Chili.  A quick search revealed that the original Zippy's opened up in 1966 so yes, I have been eating Zippy's Chili as long as I've lived in Hawaii!  This chili is their signature dish and their website says they sell over 110 tons of chili every month.  So what makes this so successful?  My theory is that its a relatively mild chili that is thick, creamy and really sticks to two scoops of rice.  In this regard, it's the perfect "Drive-In" chili since it tends to stay on the plate, which was important in the days before styrofoam clamshell containers. 

Over the years I've made a lot of different chili recipes and while some might have been more "authentic" than others, for some reason we always ended up buying Zippy's Chili.  So I started trying to figure out how to replicate the mild, creaminess of this famous local blend.  While I think this will always be a work in progress, I think I have something I'd like to share. 

Ingredients (there are a lot):

  • 2.5 lbs. Ground Beef
  • 2 large Onions (about 2 cups diced)
  • 2-3 Ribs Celery (about 1 cup diced)
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper (about 1 cup diced)
  • 4 Dried Anaheim Chili pods (seeded)
  • 9 cloves garlic (minced or run through a garlic press)
  • 1ea. 14.5 Oz. can Diced Tomatoes
  • 1ea. 14.5 Oz. can Tomato Sauce
  • 1ea. 14.5 Oz. can Kidney Beans (if you like more, add two cans or delete entirely)
  • 2 Cup Beef Stock (or Chicken Broth)
  • 2 Cups warm water
  • 1 ea. Chorizo Sausage (dry type)
  • 3 Tbl. Ground Cumin
  • 2 Tbl. Paprika
  • 1 Tbl. Coriander
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger Powder
  • 1/4 cup Masa Harina (Mexican corn flour, use regular flour if not available)
  • 3 Tbl. Olive Oil
  • 2-4 Tbl. Mayonnaise (more on this later)
  • 2 Bay Leaves


  1. Seed and tear the 4 chili pods into small (1") pieces, place in the two cups of warm water to soak for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large pot, brown the ground beef, remove to a separate bowl, and drain fat.
  3. Add onions, celery, and bell pepper, sweat for about 10 minutes till translucent, remove and place with the cooked beef
  4. Place the softened chili pods, 9 cloves of minced garlic and 2 cups of water in a blender and process till smooth. 
  5. Peel the chorizo, cut loosely into chunks and place in a food processor.  Process till fine and crumbly. 
  6. Add olive oil to the pot, add the ground chorizo and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add the masa to the mixture and cook another minute, add the rest of the dry spices and cook for a minute till fragrant. 
  7. Add the chili mixture from the blender, add beef or chicken stock, tomato sauce and half of the kidney beans.  Using an immersion blender, blend till smooth. 
  8. Add the reserved beans, ground beef, and cooked onion, celery and bell peppers.
  9. Bring to a slow boil and reduce heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for about 2 hours.  Stir occasionally. 
  10. Till now, we haven't added much salt, check seasonings and adjust as necessary.  Be careful, there is a lot of salt in the chorizo so add slowly.
  11. Mayonnaise.  I've seen this mentioned in several places as the "secret ingredient" for Zippy's Chili.  A little suspect of this, I tried to use some sour cream but it just wasn't the same.  So mayonnaise it is.  If you're a little tentative, don't worry, I was too.  However, once you start blending it into the chili, there must be something happening with the egg in mayo, it seems to serve as a thickener that adds body to the sauce, helping it to suspend the meat and beans. 

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