Zippys Copycat Chili

Posted by on November 14, 2010 in Beef, Blog, Family Favorites, Soup, Turkey | 16 comments

Chili Zippy's - 1

This post is for my buddy, M-kun. I thought about you when I was making this chili because I know how much you appreciate the Islands, surfing, and of course, Zippy’s.

At our home, cold weather begets stews, casseroles, soups and of course, chili. I grew up with, none other than, Hormel Chili with No Beans. Chili is not something my native Japanese Mom cooked for us. As such, canned chili is not something we ate often, unless my Dad was making my brother and I a chili dog lunch over the weekend. Not the healthiest of meals, I know.

When my brother was in Boy Scouts, my mom discovered chili rice. It was a quick camp site meal (not that I ever camped except the one time I was forced to do so at church camp) but it was well-received among the boys, and it was also a favorite snack after basketball games or various potlucks. It took my mom some convincing to get me to try chili rice, but when I finally did, it wasn’t bad but it still didn’t make me a big fan of chili.

For some reason, guys are big chili fans. I suspect before Bebe Dada and I started dating, he ate chili dogs once in a while (or perhaps more frequently than he leads on). Every so often when I asked what we should have for lunch, he would say, “chili dogs?” I would often say, “no” and over the years, the number of chili dog lunches he’s consumed has drastically declined. In fact, he hasn’t asked for a chili dog lunch since the last time I actually indulged him with this request. Since I do the majority of our grocery shopping, I basically control what goes in our pantry and fridge. I bought whole wheat hot dog buns, turkey franks, and turkey chili with beans. This is drastically different from the enriched wheat white bun with beef franks and beef chili. If you’ve never compared the labels between turkey and beef chili or turkey and beef franks – – – it’s definitely an eye opener.

No one raved about our turkey chili dog lunch and no one really liked the whole wheat hot dog buns (except for myself) and while I thought the turkey chili and franks were fine, Bebe Dada was slightly disappointed. Needless to say, neither he nor Big Onechan has asked for a chili dog lunch since.

Once in a while, however, I’ll bring home a can of turkey or chicken chili from Trader Joe’s to satisfy our family’s chili needs. Just between you and I, I tell him that Trader Joe’s only sells turkey and chicken chili, no beef. They actually sell beef chili too, but I just tell him that I’ve never seen beef chili there. I know… I know… I really shouldn’t tell white lies to my husband but it’s similar to not telling him that I puree cauliflower (and occasionally broccoli) and hide it in our spaghetti meat sauce. It’s harmless, no? Oh, and he STILL doesn’t read my blog which is why I can share this with all of you publicly.

Chili Zippy's - 2

So, what is Zippy’s you ask? For those of you unfamiliar with Zippy’s, it’s a chain of family style restaurants (similar to Denny’s) found on the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. Whenever we go to Hawaii, I feel as though I need to have at least one meal at Zippy’s, although our last Lanai – Big Island – Oahu trip I don’t believe we made it. Zippy’s offers a full menu of “plate lunch” style items, in addition to Asian and Hawaiian cuisine. My favorite dessert there is Jello Cheesecake (I made this back in April but STILL have not posted it) and my favorite dish there is the chili. For someone such as myself who is not a big fan of chili, to say that my favorite dish at a restaurant is chili, is pretty big.

A few years ago, my friend on Oahu shared with me a recipe that she found for Zippy’s chili and she said it came out pretty good. It was my first attempt at making chili. I was never inspired to make chili, but when she told me it was a Zippy’s copy-cat recipe, I had to taste it for myself. I tried it, but I made do without a few ingredients and it came out so-so.

My next trial with chili was using a chili starter from Williams Sonoma and it was WAY TOO SPICY. I was pregnant with Bebe E at the time, and I could only eat two bites of the chili but for the very first time, I felt her kick. It was a powerful kick, enough to make me gasp, “oh!”  I’ll never forget that moment. I’m certain she was in agreement that the chili was definitely too spicy for us.

It’s been almost two years since I’ve made chili but I wanted to give the Zippy’s copy-cat chili recipe another chance. I read a few articles indicating the existence of a secret ingredient in the chili. Some believed it was mayonnaise and others believed it was Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. Since there is no way I would ever put mayo in chili, I went with Campbell’s. I had the contents of half a can of Campbell’s Chicken and Mushroom Soup in the freezer, so I went with this. It works. Mmm.. mmm.. good. After making and eating this batch of chili, I can proudly say that I am now a big fan of chili.

And now… (drumroll please)…  in honor of Mom’s chili rice and Hawaiian plate lunches all across the world….

Chili Zippy's - 3

Chili-and-(turkey) franks-over-rice “Hawaiian” plate lunch, just for Masabu.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend. I’m feeling a bit under the weather with what feels like a chest cold. Back to the couch for more R &R. Bebe Dada is off to the Asian market to buy ingredients for his tung qwa (Chinese winter melon) soup. He always makes this for me when I’m under the weather and it always makes me feel better, and could quite possible be an ancient cure!

Enjoy the chili!

Chili | Zippy's Copycat Version
Recipe type: Chili, Soup
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
  • 1½ pounds lean ground turkey (or beef)
  • 4 slices of uncured, smoked thick bacon, chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) red kidney beans, drained
  • 2 tubes of Trader Joe's concentrated liquid chicken stock
  • ½ teaspoon grated ginger (I used S & B Nama Shoga Oroshi - this is pre-grated ginger in a tube, found in Asian supermarkets)
  • 2 bay leaf, crushed into small pieces
  • ½ teaspoon paprika.
  • ½ tablespoon chili powder (for barely-there heat), add more to taste
  • ½ teaspoon oregano leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seed
  • 5 to 6 generous dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cans (14 oz each) Trader Joe's organic tomato sauce
  • ½ can of Campbell's 8 oz Cream of Mushroom Soup
  • Salt & Pepper, few shakes
  • Garlic powder, few dashes
  • Canola oil
  • Shredded cheese for garnish
  • Sliced green onions or diced brown onion
  1. In a large pan, add just a tad of canola oil. Brown the chopped bacon. Add diced brown onions, chopped bell pepper and chopped celery. Cook together until the brown onions are translucent. Add ground meat and cook to brown. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and dash of chili powder (Note: you'll add more chili powder to the chili in the slow cooker).
  2. Transfer meat mixture to a slow cooker. You can also simmer the chili in a large stock pot over medium-low heat for 45 minutes to an hour, but I prefer using the slow cooker as this really helps to meld all the good flavors together.
  3. Add canned beans and tomato sauce, concentrated chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce and all other spices (bay leaf, paprika, oregano leaves, cumin, ginger) into the slow cooker.
  4. Optional: Add ½ can of 8 oz Cream of Mushroom Soup. You can add the full can of soup into the crockpot but it changes the color of the chili slightly, and it also adds more salt which you may or may not want. The Cream of Mushroom may be omitted and the chili will still taste great.
  5. Set the slow cooker on low and cook for 6 hours.
  6. Top with shredded cheese and sliced green onions, if desired.
Recipe adapted from Aloha World.

TIP: For best results use slow cooker.


  1. avatar

    Chili looks ono!! I like onion on my chili frank plate. If I’m at home I add whatever cheese and negi usually.

    I personally think there is some portuguese sausage and white pepper in the Zippy’s.

    • avatar

      Thanks! Yes, there is definitely portuguese sausage but my husband doesn’t like it (although I love it) so I made it without it. I’ll have to try it with a dash of white pepper next time. The original recipe also called for Ajinomoto and sugar but I don’t use MSG and I found the chili was surprisingly sweet even without the addition of sugar. :) I should also mention I mixed in ground turkey but I believe Zippy’s uses all beef.

      • avatar

        Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup has MSG in it which is what Ajinomoto is.

        • avatar

          Hello, thank you for visiting and kindly leaving a comment. I am very familiar with Ajiomoto as this is what my grandparents and my mom used to cook with – a bit scary, but it was indeed the norm back then. Campbell’s now sells a brand of soup called “Healthy Request” and you can find Cream of Mushroom under this label as well. It has no added MSG. :)

  2. avatar

    Aloha, BebeMama!!

    Thank you for posting this! I’m planning to make this for dinner tonight for my parents and I seem to have misplaced the handwritten sheet from when I made this a long time ago. So, I had to resort to the internet, but I couldn’t seem to find the one that I had found the last time, so I compared your recipe with one that I found on Pretty similar.

    Hope you feel better after having BebeDada’s soup!! Take care!!

    • avatar

      Hi Friend, Thanks for stopping by again. Yes, I adapted the one I made from AlohaWorld. I left a link to the original recipe at the bottom of my list of ingredients. I was surprised the chili turned out so good this time. The first time I made it I was very disappointed but I’m certain it was because I omitted ingredients. Also, if your family likes portuguese sausage I definitely recommend including that. It would have been even better with the addition of sausage. :) Talk to you soon!

  3. avatar

    Another thing we have in common–I only ever had Hormel chili growing up. It’s not something my mother made either. In fact, I’ve never tried making it myself. This looks great, though. It’s always fun being able to recreate a restaurant dish you like.

    And yes, I sometimes tell those same white lies to my husband! :-)

    • avatar

      Always a pleasure to find out we have even more things in common once again! ;)

  4. avatar

    Guys like chili because it is comfort food, especially with a good dose of fresh chopped onions and melted cheese on top; come to think of it, I would love a serving of your chili too!

    • avatar

      I thought about adding fresh chopped onions too! I like them, but the rest of my family does not, so I went without. Definitely next time, since I’m making this again soon!

  5. avatar

    I miss hawaii so much, AND ALL THE FOOD!!! I can’t wait to try this receipe, I loved Zippys, thank you!

    • avatar

      Ohh~ I miss all the food in Hawaii too! I hope the chili comes out to your liking. Cheers!

  6. avatar

    Thank you for the recipe. I love Zippy’s chili but we can’t eat it due to my son’s dairy allergies. This recipe works great with my homemade vegan cream of mushroom soup. Both my kids loved it!

    • avatar

      Thank you for your comment. I’m so glad you enjoy the recipe as much as we do. Cheers!

  7. avatar

    I didn’t read the entire post so don’t know if this was mentioned….but….when do you add the beans?

    • avatar

      Sorry! I probably just forgot to mention it. Beans may be added along with meat and other ingredients into the slow cooker.

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