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Chili Mix

A chili mix is a pre-blended spice mix that you can buy in stores. It expedites the process of making chili from scratch. But, what really is a chili?

Chili is not the chile pepper that you might be thinking about. Although it is partly made from different chile peppers, chili is actually a dish. Also known as chili con carne, it is a dish that is commonly prepared by Mexican and Texan women. Yet, the origin and history of chili remains disputed. Some resources state that the spirit of a Spanish nun from Mexico wrote down the first chili recipe in the early 1600s. Another story goes that the Canary Islanders who went to San Antonio, Texas in 1723 combined some wild onions and local chile peppers with meats to concoct chilis. With these disputes, some historians state that chili originated in Mexico. However, Mexicans are said to deny the statement while Texans proudly claim it. Still, they all agree that the earliest description of chili was in 1828, when J. C. Clopper visited San Antonio from Houston.

By the mid-1880s, San Antonio women started selling chilis in the market; they were even nicknamed “chili queens.” Consequently, chili started to gain its popularity within the state of Texas. Then, it was first introduced outside the state in 1893. By the 20th century, chili joints celebrated their debut in the state of Texas and chilis became popular on the west side. As a matter of fact, there was barely a town that didn’t have a chili joint.

Nevertheless, this comforting spicy dish became the official state food of Texas in 1977. It is a stand-alone meal traditionally served with tortilla chips or tacos. Its primary ingredients include ground beef, chili peppers, tomatoes, some spices, and flavorings.

Chili Mix Trivia

  • The National Chili Day is celebrated every 4th Thursday of February.
  • Chili joints were the midpoint of starvation and survival during the Great Depression; it was cheap and has complimentary crackers.
  • U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson loves chilis. Pedernales River Chili, his favorite recipe that became popular, was named after the location of his ranch in Texas.
  • Venison was the first meat to be used in chilis.

Chili Mix Buying Guide

From local artisans to large supermarkets like H-E-B and Natural Grocers, chili mixes are indeed scattered everywhere in the state of Texas. Nevertheless, here are some helpful things when you opt to buy the store-bought ones:

  1. You can find chili mixes in the spice aisle of the store.
  2. Check out the sodium content or better yet, opt for no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, or low-sodium, and just add salt as you normally flavor your dishes.
  3. Go for the ones that contain organic ingredients; this is an indication that the blend has not been irradiated as this process damages the quality of your spice.
  4. Be sure to always check out the ingredients list and pick the ones with lesser preservatives and hard to pronounce chemicals. Remember, mass-produced products usually contain these bad stuff (see below). 
  5. For dry mixes, pick the ones that are not lumpy as this is an indication that moisture has been penetrating the product, which means that your chili mix is not anymore in its best quality and it’ll have a shorter shelf life for sure. 
  6. Pick the ones that are completely sealed or vacuum-sealed if possible to assure that the product hasn’t been contaminated. Cans or packages that leaks, rusts, bulges, or is severely dented should be discarded.
  7. As always, chili mixes from local food vendors and artisans in farmers’ markets are better than the mass-produced ones. Here, you’ll get close to no preservatives and the ingredients are usually organic. Their products are also made in small batches and you might be able to get free samples along the way. And, don’t forget that our Texas Real Food website is home to all Texan vendors that would love to hear from you.

Chili Mix Production & Farming in Texas

With chili being the official state food of Texas, there is no wonder that this dish is one of the most popular and widely-produced specialties in the state. Based on a recipe that dates back to the 1850s, chilis are traditionally produced by pounding all the ingredients together, then forming them into bricks before finally leaving them out to dry. This method has helped our cowboys and armies back then. Nowadays, chilis are not left to dry. The meat is browned and all the other ingredients are added in to finally boil and simmer. To save some time, the state of Texas features countless local producers who craft chili mixes. Most of them are dry mixes, where you need to add liquids like water or stock, and an optional tomato sauce or undrained beans. On the other hand, ready-to-serve chili mixes just require you to reheat the mixture either in a stove or a microwave.

Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:

Indeed, store-bought chili mixes might be sometimes convenient than blending one at home. However, it will never be our best choice as most of them contain additives and chemicals for a lower cost yet fast-producing and shelf-stable products. Hence, here are some additives that we found on top brands:

  • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein – Abbreviated as HVP, this additive creates a broth taste without meat, bones, and vegetables. Common HVP includes hydrolyzed corn, hydrolyzed yeast protein (a.k.a. yeast extracts), hydrolyzed soy, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and hydrolyzed wheat gluten. Although HVP is a processed additive, it is a good source of protein. 
  • Thickening Agents – Added in the right amount, these thickening agents improve the viscosity of any food without changing its taste. Some natural thickeners include corn starch, potato starch, yellow cornmeal, wheat flour, and other flours.
  • Modified Food Starch – This additive is usually made with wheat, potato, corn, or tapioca. It acts as a binding agent, thickener, stabilizer, and preservative. This additive offers empty calories – they provide no nutritional value, yet it adds a considerable amount of carbohydrates which can promote weight gain. This ingredient should also be avoided by someone who is gluten intolerant.
  • Caramel Color – It is a water-soluble food coloring that is made from caramelizing natural sources such as sugar or corn. Nonetheless, it acts as an emulsifier and a dye for a more appetizing color. Although this additive is generally safe to eat, it might increase the risk of high blood pressure or hypertension if eaten regularly and in great amounts.
  • Citric Acid – This additive is a natural preservative in foods. It is a weak and organic acid that is found on citrus fruits. Thus, citric acid adds that sour or acidic taste to the product. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it may cause muscle cramps, weight gain, stomach pain, and convulsions.
  • Artificial Flavorings – These are usually chemically-formulated products that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. Although they are labeled as such due to its very small quantitative participation, it’s always a better option to stay away from these ingredients. For chili mixes, some of which come in the following names: disodium guanylate, disodium inosinate, disodium succinate, sodium phosphate, soy protein isolate, TBHQ, and alike. 


Chili mixes can be bought in either liquid or dry seasoning form. Chili seasoning mixes (dry) come in pouches, plastic containers, bags, and spice jars. On the other hand, ready-to-serve chili mixes (wet) come in cans, jars, jugs, pouches, and containers.

Enjoying Chili Mix

Chilis are traditionally enjoyed as a dipping sauce for tortilla chips. It is a stand-alone meal that is perfect to consume during lunch or dinner. But, it can also be vegetarian. Some side dishes that pair well on chili are the following: cornbread, quesadillas, salads, guacamole, nachos, potato skins, sweet potatoes, rice, and a whole lot more – basically, almost everything!


Chili mixes should be kept in a sealable and air-tight container. Homemade and cooked chili will only last for about 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Meanwhile, a chili seasoning (dry) and an unopened can or package of chili mixes (wet) should be stored in a cool and dry area far from humid and hot zones like stoves, grills, and ovens to prolong their shelf life. Properly stored, they can generally maintain their quality and potency for about 3-5 years. 

Make your own Chili Mix:

Chili mix is easy to blend at home. It only takes less than 5 minutes to gather your ingredients, measure, and finally blend. Below is a quick recipe that works perfectly on any meat. Usually, you will need to use two to four tablespoons of this seasoning per pound of meat. In addition, you can also make this ahead and do the full recipe as this seasoning can be used for a long time. 

Yield: 1 cup / 48 teaspoons


  • 9 tbsp chili powder
  • 3 tbsp cumin powder
  • 3 tsp paprika or smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp kosher salt or sea salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Using a funnel, transfer the mixture into airtight containers or spice jars with a tight-fitting lid. Store accordingly.
  3. To turn it into a chili, use 2-4 tablespoons per pound of meat. Simply brown ground meat in a skillet and add the seasoning. If you’re doing a pound, stir in a can of tomatoes and two cans of undrained kidney beans. Then, add ½ cup of water and cover to boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes and serve warm with tortilla chips!



  • Serving Size: 1 Serving
  • Calories: 30
  • Carbs: 5g 2%
  • Sugar: 1g
  • Fiber: 1g 4%
  • Protein: 1g
  • Fat: 1g 2%
  • Saturated Fat: 0g 0%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 290mg 12%
  • Vitamin C 6%
  • Vitamin A 15%
  • Calcium 2%
  • Iron 6%
  • Potassium 123.2mg 4%
  • Vitamin B6 0.1mg 7%
  • Niacin 0.8mg 6%
  • Magnesium 10.1mg 4%
  • Thiamin 0.1mg 6%

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