Winter means chili season.
There’s no dish I start craving more when the temperature drops than a bowl of chili. It’s such a hearty meal during the cold weather months, with no two recipes ever the same: Savory, spicy, tangy. A slow-simmered stew loaded with beans, onion, garlic tomatoes, and meat of your choosing.
It’s also efficient: Make a pot of chili on a Sunday and it’s an easy, affordable meal for dinner and lunch for an entire week.
Everyone has a secret chili ingredient or two that takes their chili con carne to the next level. Sometimes the secret chili ingredient is a store-bought spice, sometimes it’s a out-of-the-norm meat, sometimes it’s a vegetable.
Sometimes it’s something totally out of the blue, like crushed pineapple or pumpkin to thicken.
The common denominator for all secret chili ingredients is that it has to enhances the overall flavor profile of the chili, elevating it to something beyond a tomato and bean stew with ground meat.
During a lazy autumn Sunday, while simmering a pot of chili on the stove, I asked my followers on Twitter what chili secret ingredients they put in their own chili recipes.
Making chili today. Everyone has a “secret” chili ingredient.
— brandon wenerd (@brandonwenerd) November 15, 2020
The responses blew me away. It included the usual suspects: Chocolate, beer, coffee, peanut butter, and zesty spices to add all kinds of delicious flavor. It also included things I’ve never thought of before for chili: refried beans to thicken, sweet corn, Zatarain’s Shrimp & Crab Boil, crushed pineapple, mustard, etc
I’m a natural-born pepperhead, so most of my secret chili ingredients tend to lean towards things that increase the spiciness of the dish, cranking up the Scoville level of the chili. Any given hot sauce accomplishes this pretty easily – I’m a fan of habanero sauces and Fresno chili sauces for a distinct kind of heat.
That said, once you try a chili made with pumpkin to thicken, there’s no turning back. It’s a great secret ingredient – a perfect blend of sweetness to spiciness.
Without further ado, here’s the list of secret chili ingredients to give you inspiration the next time you’re hankering for chili.
List Of Secret Chili Ingredients
Half a can of pumpkin puree
Roasted chipotle salsa
Chorizo and poblano peppers.
Beer – Only a stout or dark beer works
Brisket Au Jus
Mashed-to-a-powder tortilla chips to thicken
McCormick Pumpkin Spice seasoning (cinnamon + nutmeg + vanilla)
A can of refried bean to thicken
One can sweet corn.
Embasa Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce
Honey Mustard – Adds just enjoy tang and sweetness.
Ice cold fresh cut onions on top right before serving.
Smoked pulled pork.
A couple capfuls of Zatarain’s Shrimp & Crab Boil and tasso
Peanut butter – around two heaping tablespoons.
Bourbon – 1/2 cup as stock; typically use a rye with a rich flavor (warning: all the alcohol probably doesn’t cook out).
Leftover coffee from your morning pot, also throw in some dark chocolate for the past 30 minutes.
Bacon – toss it in raw and let it cook with the rest of the chili for a few hours. Usually cut it into bite sized pieces but that’s not necessary.
Instant espresso powder
Over the top with ground beef & chorizo pic.twitter.com/3alOMTrq2n
— eddie ⭕️xnard™ (@oc_mandolin) November 15, 2020
Unoaked Cabernet Sauvignon
Canned green chilies
Ancho / guajillo peppers
Red pepper flakes
Can of pizza sauce
Dry red wine
A few shakes of Maggi
Bennett’s Chili sauce
A tiny bit of nutmeg
A bunch of carrots and then put the pulp and the juice into the chili…
I once did one with a 14lb pork shoulder I smoked for 11 hours, 5lbs of bacon and 3lbs each of ground veal pork and beef. Stout beers and chipotle, chicken stock to sweeten it up some. A list of other shit a mile long. Was out-FUCKING-ragous lol
— Languedoctor (@Languedoctor) November 15, 2020
And that’s that. What secret ingredient takes your chili to the next level?
Let us know in the comments.