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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 18, 2009

It's not Zippy's, but some say it's close

 •  Chili supreme

By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Wanda Adams makes a Zippy's chili surrogate with probably the most unexpected of all potential chili ingredients: mayonnaise.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Zippy's doesn't reveal its chili recipe, a closely guarded secret. But if you're wondering, check out http://www.hawaiithreads.com for a posting that posits the mystery ingredient is mayonnaise (a poster says he saw the ingredient listed on a bag of chili shipped to his local outlet from the company's Mililani production plant, and we've also heard this from someone who knows someone who worked there).

Which might make sense: The whipped and emulsified blend of egg, acid and oil adds richness, silky texture and flavor-enhancing qualities to many recipes, from chocolate cake to artichoke dip. And Zippy's chili has a sweetness and a pleasantly comforting thickness (I always thought they were pureeing some of the beans and stirring them back into the mixture).

My Zippy's copycat recipe follows, featuring mayo, pureed beans for thickness, beef base for a meaty flavor and a little brown sugar for sweetness. A colleague said it looked more like Zippy's than Zippy's but my husband thought it wasn't quite sweet enough. I liked it and thought it was very, very close.


  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil

  • 1 pound lean ground beef (71 percent beef or more)

  • 1 onion, very finely chopped

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, pureed, with liquid

  • 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, with liquid

  • 2 teaspoons chili powder

  • 1 tablespoon beef base (Minor's, Better Than Bouillon) or 2 bouillon cubes

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

    In a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 teaspoons vegetable oil and brown beef; break up beef into its smallest components. Pour into bowl and reserve. Heat remaining vegetable oil and fry onion over medium heat, until limp and golden. Transfer beef to pot along with pureed tomato sauce, pinto beans, red kidney beans, chili powder, beef base, brown sugar and garlic salt. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to medium or medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in mayonnaise and heat through. Taste and correct seasonings.

    Serves 4-6.

    Per serving: 480 calories, 28 g fat, 6 g saturated fat, 70 mg cholesterol, greater than 1300 mg sodium, 28 g carbohydrate, 8 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 28 g protein

    Reader Jimmy Nakagawa sent the following recipe, which he said appeared in The Advertiser 15 or so years ago, purporting to be Zippy's chili. But Nakagawa said it never has tasted exactly right to him.

    Nakagawa also offered an amusing side note: His sister once spent an afternoon tinkering with this recipe, tasting it and adding more spices because it wasn't hot or flavorful enough. "After an hour, no one could eat it," he said. "She used it as a base for other chili dinners."


  • 1 pound ground top sirloin

  • 1/4 pound bacon

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans

  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper

  • 2 teaspoons red wine

  • 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (or 1 cube)

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar

  • 1 crushed bay leaf

  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano leaves

  • 1/4 teaspoon powdered ginger

  • Pinch cumin seed

  • Pinch paprika

  • Dash of Worcestershire

    In a large, heavy Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium-high heat for a few minutes; stir in beef and onion and fry until browned. Drain fat, if desired. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 30 minutes.

    Makes 4-6 servings.

    Per serving: 280 calories, 13 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 60 mg cholesterol, 800 mg sodium, 18 g carbohydrate, 6 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 23 g protein

    Jimmy admits he doesn't use the recipe above; he much prefers his mother's simple approach, so familiar he doesn't even have a recipe.

    To make it, brown 1-2 pounds hamburger with 1 diced onion; drain fat. Add 2 (15-ounce) cans kidney beans, 1 (14.5-ounce) can tomato soup and 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce, 1 tablespoon chili powder, salt and pepper to taste and 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce. "The longer you simmer, the better it tastes," he says.

    Lei Brady made up this recipe when she was missing Island grinds while living in Chicago for 17 years. (She's back home now, retired.) It's pretty basic and as close as she could get to Zippy's, she said.

    Here's how: In a large, heavy saucepan, brown 1 pound lean ground beef or turkey and 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped onions; saute and drain fat. Add 1 package McCormick's Tex Mex Chili Seasoning Mix, 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice and 1 (15- 16-ounce) can kidney or pinto beans with juice. Simmer 15 minutes. Makes 4 servings.

    Under the heading Chili 101, Lindy Hashimoto sent in her Zippy's chili clone, which involves of all things a can of pork and beans. "Don't let the pork and beans 'scare' you," she wrote. "It adds just a little sweeter flavor. I've also heard that putting a big hunk of ginger root in lessens the 'flatulence effect.' Cook with it and take it out before serving."

    CHILI 101

  • 1 pound hamburger

  • 1 medium onion, chopped

  • 1 package preferred brand chili seasoning mix

  • 1 can kidney beans with liquid

  • 1 can pork and beans with liquid

  • 1 large can tomato sauce

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

  • 1/2-1 cube beef bouillon or garlic salt to taste

    Fry hamburger and onion together; drain fat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer.

    Makes 4-6 servings.

    Per serving: 330 calories, 9 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 55 mg cholesterol, greater than 1300 mg sodium, 38 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 11 g sugar, 24 g protein

    Two different versions of Hawaiian Electric Co.'s home economist chili sent in by readers combined hamburger or hamburger and Portuguese sausage, kidney or pinto beans, tomato sauce and diced canned tomatoes, onion and/or bell pepper, lots of fresh minced garlic and either a hefty prepared chili powder or this spice mixture: 1/4 cup chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, 2 teaspoons cumin, 2 teaspoons coriander, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

    Reach Wanda A. Adams at wadams@honoluluadvertiser.com.