All About Chili: Where it Comes From & How to Make Your Best Batch Ever

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Chili. It’s a dish so good — so beloved — that cooking it is a competitive sport.

Every year, in every state, pro chefs and home cooks go head-to-head in chili cook-offs, with thousands of hungry spectators coming out to judge who makes the best batch.

Of course, what makes a good chili is subjective. For some, chili isn’t chili if it’s not made with meat. For others, it’s go beans or go home.

But whether you like it mild and mellow, hotter than Hades, served on top of pasta (Cincinnati style) or with cornbread for dipping, there’s one thing we can all agree on:

It’s the perfect cold-weather dish.

 

The History of Chili: Where it All Started

The original dish that kicked off America’s chili obsession is chili con carne or “chili with meat.” It’s a thick stew traditionally made with meat (usually stewing beef), chili peppers, onion and Colorado sauce — a bright red sauce comprised of chilis, broth, oil and spices.

The spices in the sauce will vary based on personal preferences, but they often include a mix of chili powder, adobo seasoning, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ground cumin seed and/or crushed red pepper flakes.

 

Your Chili — Your Rules

 

In the U.S., classic chili con carne has evolved into multiple, hyper-regionalized versions that we simply call "chili." Hardcore traditionalists may frown upon these variations, but when you’re making a batch at home, the rules go out the window.

In addition to shaking up your ingredients, you can cook your chili however you want:

  • Make it from scratch and let it simmer in a Dutch oven.
  • Throw everything in a slow cooker and sit back.
  • Or take the quick route by making it in a pressure cooker.

 

To give your homemade chili a personal touch, take some inspiration from these popular variations from some of our favorite chefs:

 

Try It Yourself — Slow Cooker Chili Con Carne

Traditional built-from-scratch chili con carne takes hours to make, but there’s always room for shortcuts!

In this recipe, sautéed vegetables and browned beef are added to a slow cooker along with Simply Organic® Spicy Chili Seasoning Mix to give your chili the perfect level of heat — no guesswork required.

Technically, using a slow cooker won’t speed up the process — but it will free up your hands (and time), so you can work on something else, then be rewarded with a hearty, comforting dinner!

Slow Cooker Chili Con Carne

Green Chili

Green chili is a catch-all term for any variation built on a green chili sauce. It can be vegetarian but often features white meats like chicken, fish or shellfish.

Green chili is usually created with a base of roasted green New Mexico peppers. But don’t let the chilis do all the heavy lifting! Add bold, organic spices and herbs to round out the flavor. Favorites include cilantro, oregano leaf and parsley flakes.

Try It Yourself — Tomatillo Green Chili

All-organic spices like Simply Organic Cumin and Coriander turn up the brightness in this ultra-fresh version of green chili centered around plump, juicy tomatillos. We add chicken and cannellini beans for extra protein and richness, and top it with fresh slices of creamy avocado and lime for a bonus visual pop of green.

Tomatillo Green Chili

White Chili

White chili usually goes light on the chili peppers — or skips them altogether — making it a great dish for people who prefer their chili mild but still bursting with flavor. The key is to go big on other herbs and spices like ground coriander seed, ground cumin seed and garlic powder.

The base of this chili is a broth or stock that often includes white beans like cannellini, navy or black-eyed peas, sweet corn kernels, corn milk (a common staple in Mayan and some Asian cultures), masa flour and/or hominy are sometimes featured as well.

White chili can be soupy or chunky, depending on your preferences. But if you like it more on the chowder-y side, you can thicken it with cheeses like Monterey jack, cheddar and/or queso fresco.

 

Try It Yourself — Vegetarian White Bean Chili

Our vegetarian take on white chili includes white beans and corn to make it a complete protein meal. It might not be as colorful as other chili varieties, but don’t let that fool you — it’s packed with potent, organic spices and herbs like Simply Organic Garlic Powder to make every bite interesting.

Vegetarian White Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

Black bean chili is a colorful, thick stew made with black turtle or frijoles negros beans. It’s often vegetarian but is sometimes made with a meat-based stock.

Black bean chili usually starts with a Colorado-type sauce that can include extra dark peppers like dried anchos, pasillas and mulatos. Spices and herbs are essential add-ins, especially chili powder, black pepper, ground cumin seed, crushed red pepper flakes and ground chipotle pepper.

Try It Yourself — Black Bean Chili with Acorn Squash and Toasted Pepitas

To make our Meso-American take on black bean chili even more flavorful, we add squash and pumpkin seeds and spice it all up with a variety of organic dried peppers, including Simply Organic Chipotle Powder — a fitting seasonal remix.

Black Bean Chili with Acorn Squash and Toasted Pepitas

Whether you’re following a traditional recipe or winging it with ingredients from your pantry, the right organic spices will help your chili come together.

To simplify the process of spicing your chili to perfection, the culinary pros at Simply Organic created three versatile and genius Chili Seasoning Mixes that prove making chili can really be that easy:

Shop Simply Organic Seasoning Mixes

Want more cooking tips, weeknight recipes and dinner shortcuts? Follow Simply Organic on Instagram or Pinterest to keep the inspiration flowing.