No one can claim to be a true Texan without having experienced a bowl of hearty, delicious, and filling chili. It is for everyone in Texas; vegan and vegetarian chili recipes are aplenty online, so there’s that option for those with particular preferences. Anyway, what’s not to love? Chili is the state dish of Texas, and it is downright delicious. It always tastes and smells like food made using a family recipe. Eating this dish takes you back to a cherished place and time. A real comfort food and a truly unforgettable dish, especially for those who are eating it for the first time. This dish is timeless. It is nutritious and easy to make.
- A stew made of red meat and peppers is very common in Mexico, but the chances of Mexico claiming chili as a local dish are slim to none. Dave Dewitt, in his book Southwest Table: Traditional Cuisine From Texas, New Mexico, And Arizona, wrote: “Mexico disclaims chili; the Diccionario de Mejicanismos, a Mexican dictionary published in 1959, defines it as a detestable food passing itself off as a Mexican.”
- Chili aficionado and scholar E. De Grolyer describes chili as “the pemmican of the Southwest in the late 1840s” in a book. Pemmican is a type of fritter – a mixture of tallow, dried bison, deer, elk, or moose meat, and sometimes dried berries, common in North America.
- Chili lovers celebrate National Chili Day on February 4.
- American frontiersman, fur trapper, wilderness guide, Indian agent, and U.S. Army officer Christopher Houston Carson died in 1868 of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. His last words – allegedly – were about wanting to have another bowl of chili.
Chili Buying Guide
Where’s the best place that sells chili? If you want a delicious bowl of chili at the center of a very satisfying dining experience, consider these tips.
- Try top-rated spots (restaurants, food trucks) known for their chili.
- Besides reading customer reviews, try to read about a restaurant’s chili recipe. Is it traditional? Is it Texas-style? Is it new or modern? This will help you go somewhere where the chili and your food preferences align.
- Ask the locals where is the best place to eat chili here. Locals know best. Sometimes, local spots don’t get featured on the Internet, but many great spots fly under the radar so go ahead and ask around.
If you are in a restaurant or at a food truck, consider these tips before ordering or buying a bowl of chili:
- Consider that this dish is very filling. Order just enough that you can finish the entire bowl and avoid leftovers. This is one way to help curb the problem of food wastage.
- Assume that it has a spicy flavor; after all, it has peppers in it, and lots of them. Ask the waiter how spicy the chili is, or if there are chili varieties (e.g. mildly spicy, super spicy, etc.)
- Get familiar with the ingredients and check if you have any food allergies that a bowl of chili may trigger. While eating delicious food is great, as always, safety first!
Chili Production & Farming in Texas
Chili is very popular and common in Texas. Restaurants serve them. You can find them in food trucks. If you visit a home in Texas and someone cooks at home, there is a very good chance they’ll serve you a bowl of chili.
The two most important ingredients of chili – beef (or other types of red meat) and peppers – are very common in Texas.
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
Traditional chili is basic chili. But today, there are many versions of chili, and many new ingredients added to the original recipe affecting taste and flavor as well as color and appearance.
Additives. Different kinds of additives are used in making different versions of modern-day chili. Different kinds of additives are used in making different versions of chili, like drinks, fruits, herbs and spices, and other ingredients.
- Additives for added flavor
- Fruits and Vegetables
Cranberries (fresh and dried cranberries)
- Other surprising additives
- Sauces and liquid additive
Chemicals. Liquid smoke is used in making different dishes, including a version of smoked chili.
Pesticides. Commercial production of peppers involves the use of pesticides.
Chili is very popular in Texas. But it has also made its way to other parts of the US and around the world. Dave Dewitt, in his book Southwest Table: Traditional Cuisine From Texas, New Mexico, And Arizona, pointed out that chili is now “sold from Texas to New York City.”
Ready-to-eat or pre-cooked chili sold in groceries and supermarkets is sold in a vacuum-sealed plastic packaging bag, in a can, or in a disposable, microwave-safe food container.
You can have chili for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Even if a bowl of chili is filling, it is also a great choice for light snacking in between meals. Chili is best enjoyed freshly cooked, but leftover chili that has been refrigerated and re-heated is delicious also, as long as the food has been stored properly.
Chili is a great bar food too. It is not uncommon to see people eating chili while drinking cold beer.
You can eat just a bowl of chili and nothing else. You can also eat a bowl of chili along with bread (like toasted garlic bread), pita, or tortilla. You can either use chili as a dip or as filling.
A bowl of chili is perfect, especially during the cold, winter season. But even if chili is typically spicy and can cause us to sweat when it is hot, it is also normal to see people cooking and eating chili during the hot or warm season.
While chili is a simple food, it is not surprising to find it on the table during celebrations like the Fourth of July.
Leftover chili should be kept inside the refrigerator, where it will keep for three to four days. Use a shallow food container with a lid. If you want to store your leftover chili for more than four days, store it in the freezer.
Chili is delicious. It is more enjoyable if we know how chili was made the first time around.
The book Southwest Table: Traditional Cuisine From Texas, New Mexico, And Arizona offered to explain the beginnings of chili. The original chili is made in two parts. The first part is “pounding together dried beef, beef fat, chile peppers, and salt to make trail food.” Texans making the long travel from Texas to San Francisco need this food with them so that they have something to eat when they get hungry during the journey. And when they do, they bring out their preserved food and boil them in pots, creating what we now know as chili.
According to another Texan – J.C. Clopper from Houston – poor families in San Antonio would buy just enough meat for the family and mix it with as many peppers (peppers acting as an extender) and cook these in a stew, and this could be one man recounting his experience with chili in 1828. This is also mentioned in Dewitt’s book, which also mentions the presence of “chili queens” – women who sell bowls of chili in a municipal market in San Antonio. Another version of chili’s origin story involved the use of chilipiquins (considered the true Texas chile, growing wild in many places in Texas and the official native pepper of Texas), herbs, and beef to make trail drive chili, made by foraging travelers who stop to have a full meal during a long journey.
If you haven’t made chili before, it is very easy. Here’s how:
Simply brown the ground beef, and stir in onions, bell peppers, and garlic, before adding chili powder, cumin, dried oregano, and paprika. tomato paste, broth, and bay leaf. Simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes. You can cook it for3 to 4 hours, just make sure to add more broth and water so that it does not fully dry out and gets burnt.
Here is a cooking tip: if you have time and you want a delicious chili, make your own beef broth.
If you want to make an authentic Texas chili, remember to keep one thing out of the pot: beans. An online article from The Dallas Morning News listed the best Texas chili recipes and it explicitly says “no beans allowed.”
Staness Jonekos and Marjorie Jenkins, in the book Eat Like a Woman: A 3-Week, 3-Step Program to Finally Drop the Pounds and Feel Better Than Ever, called chili more than just comfort food but healthy food as well. The book also mentioned that a bowl of chili “contains lots of protein” and that “it’s a great source of fiber that helps keep you full for a long time after eating.” According to the book, chili can also help a person lose weight and increase metabolic rate.
Let’s take a look at the two basic ingredients of chili: beef and peppers.
Eating ground beef in moderation can provide you with different nutrients and minerals.
Iron: Ground beef is rich in Iron which is quickly absorbed into your body. A decrease in iron can lead to anemia which results in bouts of tiredness and weakening of the muscles. The heme iron produced by beef is easily soaked up in the system. Studies also show that the iron in beef is more potent and effective than iron supplement tablets.
Niacin: Vitamin B3 or Niacin lowers the risk of heart diseases by reducing bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing good cholesterol (HDL), and regulating triglyceride levels.
Vitamin B6: This is essential for metabolizing your energy and is important for circulation and blood formation.
Zinc: Ground beef is rich in Zinc and is great for the growth, maintenance, and repair of your cells.
Taurine: The taurine found in meat acts as both antioxidants and amino acids which are essential for circulatory and muscular performance.
Peppers, like bell pepper and chili peppers, also have nutritional value:
Carbohydrates: Bell pepper is naturally low in calories, which are primarily composed of water and carbohydrates. These carbohydrates are mostly sugars, such as fructose and glucose, since they’re the ones that give these bell peppers their sweet taste.
Fiber: Bell pepper contains small amounts of fiber, accounting for 2% by weight. Still, it makes a decent source of fiber.
Vitamins and Minerals: Bell pepper is an excellent source of vitamins C, B6, K1, E, and A. As a matter of fact, one medium-sized bell pepper gives 169% and one large-sized gives more than 300% of RDI for vitamin C, making this fruit one of the richest dietary sources of this nutrient. It’s also a good plant-based source of potassium and folate.
Antioxidants: Bell pepper is loaded with antioxidants. These include the following: Capsanthin, violaxanthin, lutein, quercetin, and luteolin.
Bell pepper promotes weight loss because of its high water content. The high levels of vitamin C also act as an antioxidant. It helps in boosting immunity and repairing cells, which retards the human aging process. It can also reduce the development of gout significantly. High levels of vitamin B6 reduce the development of rheumatoid arthritis. But if you already have one, bell peppers can help control the pain. The high levels of vitamin K1, which is also known as phylloquinone, contribute to bone health while reducing the formation of blood clotting. The high levels of vitamin E also act as a powerful antioxidant. It plays a vital role in keeping healthy muscles and nerves. High levels of vitamin A and lutein promote healthy vision. It helps in preventing cancer too.
Potassium and quercetin improve heart health while folate improves our body’s function. Folate is especially important to consume during pregnancy.
Surprisingly, chile peppers contain a lot of vitamin C. Some even provide a lot more than oranges! And although we don’t eat chile peppers in large quantities, they’re still a significant source of this vitamin. In addition, they’re also rich in vitamin A and red chile peppers are also full of beta-carotene.
Moreover, chile peppers contain the substance capsaicin, which gives these peppers their heat. Capsaicin has been proven to kill cancer cells efficiently. It also has positive effects on blood cholesterol and it boosts our immune system to help our bodies fight against inflammation. Furthermore, it also contributes to weight loss as it speeds up our metabolism.
Interestingly, the burning feeling on our mouths or tongues from consuming high amounts of capsaicin is perfectly safe. As a matter of fact, some scientists theorize that in response to this discomfort, our brain releases endorphins, a natural pleasure-generator, stress, and pain reliever.