Tommy’s Chili (Copycat)

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Tommy’s Chili (Copycat) is a spot on recreation of the signature beef chili that has had Los Angeles natives hooked on Tommy’s Original for over 70 years!

Part of the reason we love Copycat Recipes is that we can recreate our favorite foods from growing up, like Pioneer Chicken, that you simply can’t get outside of their landmark Los Angeles locations. 

Tommy's Chili in a pot


Since 1946, Tommy’s Original Burgers has been iconic fast food for Southern Californians. I grew up ordering from their simple menu, enjoying signature burgers and fries made with quality ingredients. Nothing is more iconic and nostalgic to me than their mouth-watering Tommy’s Chili.

Now, if you are a Los Angeles native, you might be a bit skeptical at first when I tell you this copycat Tommy’s Chili recipe is the real deal. I get it, I’ve been looking for years to recreate their delicious, well-guarded recipe and tried my fair share of flops before I finally perfected it.

The thing that makes Tommy’s Burgers, and Chili, so good and world famous is their uncompromising commitment to quality and consistency. They don’t even sell franchisee licenses because they don’t want their signature dishes messed with or altered.

Whether it’s the original location on Beverly and Rampart, lines around the corner, or one of their over 30 locations spanning to Nevada, you are going to get the same spicy, buttery, meaty chili every time. That’s why it was so important to me to get this right before posting about it.

It didn’t hurt that I got to do a lot, A LOT, of taste testing of my absolute childhood favorite along the way to the perfect Tommy’s Chili Copycat!

I’ve picked up some essential tips to making this copycat recipe spot on and included them below. While your Chili will be delicious without following them, if you want an exact taste and texture (just as important!) to Tommy’s Chili make sure you read up on them before you start this recipe.



  • Process the carrots until very fine.
  • Cook beef and carrots together.
  • Add in your spices and cook.
  • Add in broth and masa harina.
  • Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.

Tommy's Chili Fries

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The classic way to serve Tommy’s Chili is on top of burgers, fries, and hot dogs, but there are a few key points if you are serious about to recreating these iconic menu items.

  • Fries: Use a thicker cut fry, but not steak fries. Thin shoestring fries get soggy too fast and steak fries don’t crisp up enough. We like to use Ore Ida Golden Fries.
  • Toppings: Unless you are a chili purest (only chili), the toppings you pick matter. You want dill pickles, diced white onion, and yellow mustard. We don’t know why but when you add these to your Tommy’s Chili, magic just happens.
  • Cheese: While there is a hack to use Velveeta slices, we are as uncompromising as Tommy’s Original and only use Extra Sharp American Cheese slices. Always put the chili on top of the cheese – it gets much more melty and gooey that way!
  • Hot Dogs and Burgers: Tommy’s uses 100% all beef dogs and burgers and white buns with no sesame seeds.
  • Peppers: The pickled yellow peppers that they offer are called Cascabella Peppers. In the grocery store, you’ll find them labeled as “Hot Chili Peppers” in the pickled peppers section (near olives).


  • Let it sit overnight so all the flavor can absorb. I know it’s going to be hard not to dive right in, and we totally sampled a bunch before letting rest, but it’s so much better once it’s had a chance to come together in the fridge overnight and then reheated.
  • Carrots are essential to the base of this chili recipe. You want them to be reduced to flakes to get the right consistency. If you don’t have a food processor, use a fine grater.
  • Don’t substitute the Masa Harina (corn flour). You only need a little bit so you might be tempted to just use regular flour. Instead, plan on using Masa Harina in another copycat recipe like Cheesecake Factory Corn Cakes.



  • Serve: This chili can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Place in a crockpot on low for 4 hours to keep warm for longer.
  • Store: You can keep your leftovers (if there are any!) in the fridge for up to 4 days in a sealed container.
  • Freeze: Tommy’s Chili keeps really well in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight and heat on the stovetop.

Tommy's Chili over a plate of French fries

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Tommy's Chili

5 from 12 votes
  • Yield: 6 servings
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Course: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: American
  • Author: Sabrina Snyder
Tommy's Chili (Copycat) is a spot on recreation of the signature beef chili that has had Los Angeles natives hooked on Tommy's Original for over 70 years!


  • 1 pound ground beef , (85/15)
  • 1 large carrot
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina , (corn flour)
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup flour


Note: click on times in the instructions to start a kitchen timer while cooking.

  1. Add your carrots to a food processor until they're very finely chopped and the food processor stops making them smaller.

  2. Add the ground beef and carrots to a large dutch oven on medium high heat and cook until the beef is no longer pink, breaking it apart as you go, about 5-6 minutes.

  3. Lower the heat to medium and add in the chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper and masa harina, stirring well to combine.

  4. In a small cup whisk together the beef broth, vinegar and flour until the flour is completely absorbed, then add it into the pot.

  5. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 30 minutes to thicken.

Nutrition Information

Yield: 6 servings, Amount per serving: 201 calories, Calories: 201g, Carbohydrates: 8g, Protein: 15g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 51mg, Sodium: 296mg, Potassium: 308mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 2589g, Vitamin C: 1g, Calcium: 26g, Iron: 2g

All images and text © for Dinner, then Dessert.

Keyword: Tommy's Chili (Copycat)

Tommy's Chili collage

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  1. I’ve made this twice now, following the recipe exactly. Absolutely wonderful. Nice copycat while we can’t get to Tommy’s. Thank you for sharing this recipe. Its my go to chili now!

  2. This was a great recipe! We had just eaten at Tommy’s yesterday, and thought we’d give this recipe a try to see if it would even come close to Tommy’s! Much to our surprise, it was pretty close! I followed the recipe *almost* exactly. I only had ACV, not white, and only had Organics chili powder, so used 3 tablespoons of that and it wasn’t too spicy. At the end just before serving, I used an immersion blender to try to duplicate the texture, and was glad I did!
    My boyfriend loves Tommy’s, so I’m super excited that this recipe was pretty darn close!! Thank you very much!!

  3. did i do something wrong or read something wrong? i put in 3 TABLESPOONS of chili powder and that’s all that can be tasted. Hot as Heck with no flavor even resembling Tommy’s chili. Did you mean 3 TEASPOONS?

      1. Different brands of chili powder have extremely different levels of spice. I found it out the hard way recently. I write cookbooks and I have only really used McCormick brand chili powder. I have a sauce that used 2 Tbsp of it and it was great. EVERYONE was contacting me saying how insanely spicy it was. So i went and bought a cheap brand chili powder off amazon… and OH MY GAAAWD!!! My mouth was on fire!!!

        To get the same amount of heat my sauce had with 2Tbsp of McCormick chili powder…. I used ONLY 1 tsp of the different brand chili powder. It was insane!!!!!

        I had to rush back in and edit all recipes that called for chili powder, putting a miiiinum amount, saying to adjust for taste… and put a note in every recipe that different brand chili powders have a wide range of heat, start with a little and add more, to taste.

        I felt horrible because that cookbook had been out for 2 years… and I’d been butning the roof off people’s mouths without realizing it 🙁

        McCormick is on the milder side of chili powder. That cheap brand I bought, was “US-Farmers” brand… it was like powdered magma.

  4. I’m surprised there is no cumin in the recipe. You can taste it in the original. I assumed it must be in the chili powder. It does list “spices” in the ingredients.

    I still plan on trying the recipe as written but first I had to ask if you ever included cumin in previous iterations of this recipe? .

    1. If you decide to try, I’d love to know how much you used and if you thought it was more of a match than this version.

  5. My second comment.
    I have made this dish-probably 25 times now !!
    I follow the recipe EXACTLY– and it is Perfect every time !!!
    Never heard of “Tommy’s Chili”, but a lot of my friends know of it now–thanks to you !!

  6. Used organic Costco hamburger (1 1/3 lbs.) Used 1/3 can of petite diced tomatoes. Also used fresh hatch chilies. Put in a little ketchup. It was delicious.

  7. So far looking good. Mine did come out way to thick since I have no grease from my hamburger meat. I just added more beef broth. Taste good. Waiting for supper now and the flavors to marry.

  8. I’ve never tried the original Tommy’s chili, but I can see how it’s so popular if it’s as good as this. This has got to be one of our favorite chili recipes. 🙂

  9. Nothing better than a warm bowl of chili on a cold day. This chili was easy to make, flavorful and my entire family enjoyed!

    1. The best part of Tommy’s Chili is having it in top of French Fries with Melted Cheese on top. For this if you who have never had Tommy’s, Try this and great on Burgers too with a wedge of Beefsteak Tomato, Mustard and pickles on the Burger… topped with fresh diced onion if you like onions (yum)
      Sabrina, do you have a good hack for crispy fries for those of us without air fryers?
      Thank you for this recipe!

  10. Never been to Tommy’s but I have to say this is the best chili ever and best over spaghetti and on fries. A superb dish for feeding a crowd.

  11. I have heard of Tommy’s but have never been there. This chili looks amazing and it’s interesting with the added carrot and masa.

  12. thank you, bless you, wonderful, marvelous, fantastic, for a Tommy’s chili-head this is the greatest news.

    I couldn’t afford to have the chili shipped to me, and 40 years from the start of my addiction leaves me hankering. And I know about those lines… ugh. Tommy’s chili burger is what I’ve compared all wannabes to the crown. Except for New Mexico’s chile-burger, which is a completely different animal, Tommy’s is the King.

  13. Wow, Wow !! (2Wow Worthy) !!!
    This chili is awesome–and I haven’t let it sit overnight yet !!
    I have made a thousand chilis, a thousand ways…but this recipe intrigued me.
    The masa harina, the flour, and the fact that this contains absolutely no tomato product-prompted me to try this. It is worthy of 10 Stars !!
    I had never heard of ‘Tommy’s Chili’, but I will be making this over and over.
    Mine got thick quick…I could only simmer for about 5 minutes.
    Thank you so much for this, and all of your recipes !!!

    1. Hey, that’s pretty darn close to Tommy’s! I sweetened it just a tad, and that seemed to offset some of the heat-I think I accidentally added a little more cayenne than what you called for. Thanks for the recipe-couldn’t be easier too!