Tommy’s Chili (Copycat)

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

TOMMY’S CHILI

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.

POPULAR COPYCAT RECIPES:

HOW TO MAKE TOMMY’S CHILI

  • 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

HOW TO SERVE TOMMY’S CHILI

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).

TIPS FOR MAKING TOMMY’S CHILI

  • 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.

MORE POPULAR RESTAURANT COPYCAT SIDE DISHES:

HOW TO STORE TOMMY’S CHILI

  • 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

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!
Yield 6 servings
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Author Sabrina Snyder

Ingredients
 

  • 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

Instructions

  • Add your carrots to a food processor until they're very finely chopped and the food processor stops making them smaller.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In a small cup whisk together the beef broth, vinegar and flour until the flour is completely absorbed, then add it into the pot.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for an additional 30 minutes to thicken.

Nutrition

Calories: 201kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 51mg | Sodium: 296mg | Potassium: 308mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 2589IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 2mg
Keyword: Tommy's Chili (Copycat)

Tommy's Chili collage

About the Author: Sabrina Snyder

Sabrina is a professionally trained Private Chef of over 10 years with ServSafe Manager certification in food safety. She creates all the recipes here on Dinner, then Dessert, fueled in no small part by her love for bacon.

Sabrina Snyder is a professionally trained personal and private chef of over 10 years who is the creator and developer of all the recipes on Dinner, then Dessert.

She is also the author of the upcoming cookbook: Dinner, then Dessert – Satisfying Meals Using Only 3, 5 or 7 Ingredients which is being published by Harper Collins.

She started Dinner, then Dessert as a business in her office as a lunch service for her coworkers who admired her lunches before going to culinary school and becoming a full time personal chef and private chef.

As a personal chef Sabrina would cook for families one day a week and cook their entire week of dinners. All grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning was done along with instructions on reheating. As a private chef she cooked for private parties and cooked in family homes in the evenings for families on a nightly basis after working as a personal chef during the day.

Sabrina has been certified as a ServSafe Manager since 2007 and was a longstanding member of the USPCA Personal Chef Association including being on the board of the Washington DC Chapter of Chefs in the US Personal Chef Association when they won Chapter of the year.

As a member of the community of food website creators Sabrina Snyder has spoken at many conferences regarding her experiences as a food writer including the Indulge Food Conference, Everything Food Conference, Haven Food Conference and IACP Annual Food Professionals Conference.

Sabrina lives with her family in sunny California.

Dinner, then Dessert, Inc. owns the copyright on all images and text and does not allow for its original recipes and pictures to be reproduced anywhere other than at this site unless authorization is given. If you enjoyed the recipe and would like to publish it on your own site, please re-write it in your own words, and link back to my site and recipe page. Read my disclosure and copyright policy. This post may contain affiliate links.

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Comments

  1. Is this just like Tommy’s? No. Does it taste good? YES! It was a little too salty for me (and I love salt) so next time I think I’ll eliminate the salt and add at the end if I think it’s necessary. Also, I used an immersion blender at the end to make it smoother.

  2. It’s not Tommy’s but I really liked it a lot. It is close but there is just something missing. Great Chili anyway.

  3. I made this recipe last night as a surprise for my wife who used to live in California many years ago. I did everything to the letter and let it sit overnight in the fridge. Tonight I plan to make the chili cheese fries, I’m hoping she’ll be surprised. I never ate at Tommy’s but she said their chili and especially served over one of their cheeseburgers is something she really misses about living out there. I hope this will bring back those memories. I think it came out pretty good I can’t wait!

  4. Can I sub the
    White flour for Arrowroot flour (or something else instead – to make
    Gluten free? Im corn free so
    – is the masa a deal breaker? Anything else we else can sub? What exactly does the masa do?

  5. Hi there! Followed the recipe but accidentally messed up the process…I puréed the carrot and added all the dry ingredients mixing them together first. You can’t even tell there are carrots in this Then I browned 3/4 burger1/4 sweet Italian sausage mix.the only ingredients I strayed at. Then added the beef broth to the dry mix… Mixing it thoroughly.Then adding to the browned meat. It tastes great now! Can’t wait until it has rested the day.

  6. I’m a long time lover of the famous Tommy’s on Rampart in L.A.
    I’ve always hoped they’d publish their recipe. I made this recipe to the ‘Tee’ but sadly it did not taste like the famous Tommy’s chili. The appearance didn’t resemble it either.
    It was a good Chili but not Tommy’s.

  7. Sabrina, Can I sub cornstarch for the flour? I have always found it to be a better thickener in most recipes. Shall make this part of this week’s menu plan…

  8. This recipe is the best and closest to Tommy’s chili. Chili Cheese fries for me tomorrow! Thanks. I can’t wait for the sloppy mess I love so much from a Tommy’s chili cheeseburger. Great recipe!

  9. Your missing an ingredient lol. As a former Tommy’s employee that used to make the chili. You’re missing the flour lol!! We put lots of it and that’s what gives it’s consistency

  10. Seasonings are the right combo. I had to add 8 ozs of tomato sauce and the juice from 1/2 a can of Goya black bean soup plus the beans. Left out the masa since the flour was enough of a thickener.

    1. Tommy’s does not use Beans. Why comment if you did not do the recipe? You make yourself look foolish.

      1. Usually on recipe sites, cooks will report back with any substitutions or changes they made and how successful they were. It’s useful to share this information since many readers will be wondering about possible changes. They may have allergies, taste preferences, or just prefer to use what’s in their pantry rather than make a trip to the grocery store. This recipe is a copycat version so people who want to make Tommy’s chili (as I do) may be less inclined to substitute anything, but even so…it’s just a recipe, not scripture. Joann’s comment is really the norm, and as such, perfectly fine.

  11. This is great. I had been trying to find a chilli for chilli dogs and never been satisfied. This is a winner. I used to go to Tommy’s with my late husband when we visited his Dad in LA. Brings back lots of good memories. Thanks ?!P

  12. Hi Sabrina! You say 1 large carrot? How much exactly does that “big carrot” make measurement wise? 1/8 c., 1/4 ,c.? My son has told me he does not like chili with beans so am looking forward to giving this a go as soon as I find out how much carrot to use…Thanks! Cee

  13. 3 tablespoons of chili powder for 1 pound of meat ? Obviously you’ve never really eaten a Tommy Burger. This recipe is burn your face off spicey. Tommy’s does not burn your face off with heat. I call BS. Lower the chili by 85% and you’ll capture the taste of a Tommy Burger. Apologies to Southern California. I ate at the Santa Monica Tommy’s frequently. I never had after burn heat fire syndrome. You want heat with no taste, use 3 tablespoons of chili for 1 pound of meat.

    1. If you didn’t like it you shouldn’t have commented. This chili is not as spicy as you are saying. My kids even love this.

    2. chili powder is mostly cumin, oregano, garlic and salt with just a bit of actual ground up dried chilis. almost zero spicy hotness, ya wimp.

    3. It calls for chili powder. Chili powder does not carry heat like cayenne. Did you try the recipe before commenting?

    4. I believe it is 3 T for 3 lbs. ground beef. Use just 1 T for one pound and reduce the other items accordingly.

    5. Chili powder does not make things hot usually. Perhaps you are confusing it with Cayenne pepper.

    6. I do not like spicy and my recipe is 3 T. of chili powder. It is not an issue –
      perhaps your chili powder is different though I have used different ones and never had problems.

  14. I moved to Thailand and would have my mom ship frozen containers of Tommy’s chilli to me from Long Beach, California. When I ran out I was screwed. This recipe saved the day, its not Tommys exactly but its the closest I’ve tasted. The texture is perfect, I just made another batch to freeze for the near future, thanks!

  15. I miss the Los Angeles food culture and Tommy’s is definitely a southern California icon. I’ve made this recipe several times now and it really does remind me of the original! Don’t forget to eat your chili burger/fries/tamale with some hot chili peppers (check out Mezzetta Hot Chili Peppers). Thanks for a great recipe!

  16. I am from Cali and I made this recipe for my YouTube channel and while nobody can duplicate Tommy’s Original, this recipe is real close and it turned out sooooo amazing, my family went bananas!! Thank you so much for sharing! I love and use your recipes all the time!

  17. Hi, love the chili-this will be my 3rd time this week making it, my daughter loves it !! My question is the part that says1/4 cup flour do I use the masa or reg flour? I also substituted with ground chicken and chicken broth( I don’t eat red meat and I’m gluten-free) Thank you again for the recipe I haven’t eaten at Tommy’s in a long time….

    1. Happy New Year, y’all! Just following up on that question as to whether the 1/4 cup flour means regular flour or is also the masa harina? Thanks so much! Looking forward to surprising my husband with a warm treat when he gets home from work today.

      1. So sorry I’m just now seeing this. The flour in this recipe is all purpose flour. Hope you husband enjoyed it!

  18. 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!

  19. 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!!

      1. No they use RC provision chili con carne, flour and spices. I used to make the chili when I worked there for 6 years .

      2. Pretty sure it’s RC Provisions chili, cut 1:1 with water and thickened with flour. Also added are some herbs and spices.

        If you are lucky enough to be near a Smart&Final you can pick it up in a chub.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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 !!

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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. 🙂

  26. 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!

      1. The only way to get true crispy fast food style fries is to double fry them. Meaning, you fry them partially. pull out let cool, then fry again. You will love it

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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.

  30. 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. Yay!! Thank you so much for taking the time to come back and let me know how much you enjoyed it. You just made my day!

    2. 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!