Any cook knows that an award-winning chili recipe is a secret only to be shared with those you trust — and you know have an appreciation for good chili. But what makes one type of chili so distinct from another? Below, we explain how spices, peppers and other key ingredients that distinguish common types of chili.
Chili Base Basics
This soup or stew gets its name from the chili peppers (Capsicum annuum) that are the principle ingredient in any chili recipe. Other essential ingredients for a traditional chili base include meat (usually stewing beef), stock, white Spanish onion, garlic and salt.
Chili Stew Origin
The original, classic chili is chili con carne (chili with meat) and is traditionally a stew of beef in Colorado sauce. Spices and herbs to include: Chili powder, Adobo seasoning, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ground cumin seed, crushed red pepper flakes.
In the United States, classic chili con carne has evolved into versions simply called "chili" that include beans, tomatoes and ground beef. Hardcore traditionalists may frown upon these variations regardless of how delicious they may be.
Green chili is a catch-all for variations built on a green chili sauce. It can be vegetarian but often features white meats or seafood such as chicken, fish and shellfish. Green chili is usually created with a base of chopped or pureed roasted fresh green New Mexico peppers. Spices and herbs to include: Cilantro flakes, ground coriander seed, ground cumin seed, garlic powder, oregano leaf, parsley flakes.
White chili usually goes light on the chili peppers, which are used to flavor a broth or stock that often includes white beans such as cannelini, navy or black eyed peas. Sweet corn kernels, corn milk, masa flour, and/or whole kernels of nixtamalized maize (hominy) may also be featured in white chili ingredients. White chili may be a broth-based soup or a thickened chowder-type soup that incorporates cheeses such as Monterey jack, cheddar and/or queso fresca. Spices and herbs to include: Cilantro leaf, ground coriander seed, ground cumin seed, garlic powder, oregano leaf, parsley flakes.
Black Bean Chili
An inky, dark colored black bean chili is made with black turtle or frijoles negro beans. It is often vegetarian but may be made with a meat-based stock. It usually starts with a Colorado-type chili sauce which may include very dark-colored peppers such as dried anchos, pasillas and mulatos. Spices and herbs to include: Chili powder, black pepper, ground cumin seed, crushed red pepper flakes, ground chipotle pepper.
Please Pass the Chili Powder
The spice blend known as chili powder is essential to classic chili con carne and the latter Americanized versions. Chili powder may or may not be a part of green, white and black chili recipes as well.