Choosing Your Chili
with Suzanne Klein
Chief Yummy Officer
Chili, as we know it, likely originated in San Antonio, Texas. Natives of the Canary Islands emigrated to San Antonio in the 1700s and brought with them a saucy, spicy meat dish. Over centuries, chili has morphed into a dish that elicits regional variations and personal customizations.
Texans, the Purists
Texas chile is the most classic iteration of the dish and is very simply meat and chiles. In the late 1800s, women affectionately known as “Chili Queens” sold their stews from their stalls in the open air market of San Antonio. The “Chili Queens” prevailed throughout the first half of the twentieth century but were eventually shut down over health code concerns. President Johnson was such a big proponent of his home state’s chili that Lady Bird Johnson had the recipe for their version, Pedernales River Chili, printed up for distribution to everyone who was writing the White House to request the recipe. The Johnsons’ chili is a point of pride for Texans, so much that it was officially declared the state food in the 1970s. For a taste of Texas-inspired chili, a simple and hearty dish of meat and spiced sauce, try our recipe for Norm’s Black Hills Barbacoa or braise your choice of meat in our Lodo Red Adobo Sauce.
Cincinnati, Five Ways
Cincinnati chili is almost unrecognizable when compared to Texas style chili. This renowned concoction was also a product of immigrants. Brothers who had immigrated from Macedonia were struggling to sell American palates on their native foods. So, like any good businessmen, they adapted. They modified a version of stew to be used as a topping and started serving it on spaghetti and hot dogs. This chili is known for the aromatic spices from which it draws its unique flavor; cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and cocoa are common ingredients. Famously, there are a number of “ways” to serve Cincinnati chili. “Two way” refers to spaghetti topped with Cincinnati chili. Add shredded cheddar cheese and you have “three way.” “Four way” means you want onions added on top of the chili but below the cheese. The piece de resistance is a layered masterpiece called “five way”: spaghetti, topped with chili, then a divided layer of pinto beans on half and onions on the other half, and the whole thing topped with cheese. For a chili that has the onions and beans already thrown in, as well as those rich and aromatic flavors of chili, chocolate, and spices, try our Black Canyon Beef and Sausage Chili.
White & Green, the Other Chili Colors
White chili generally refers to the type of meat used in the dish. While beef is the most common, in recent years turkey and chicken have become more diet friendly proteins. Often, green chiles instead of red, white beans instead of pinto, and a healthy dose of garlic and onion keep a white chili a creamy color. For a departure from the common beef chili, try our recipes for Old Market Turkey Chili or Savory Serrano Chicken Chili. Green chile is a southwestern creation. Perhaps the most famous chiles are from Hatch, New Mexico. Similar to Texas red, New Mexican green is traditionally very simple. Pork, green chiles, onion, garlic, salt, and sometimes cumin are the ingredients for Chili Verde. For a quicker version, use our recipe for Green Chile Sauce to top pork chops.
Good chili is, in many ways, like good barbeque. There are some broad categories that you can use to classify the type of chili, but the end result is open to innovation and adaptation. Add extra vegetables, spices, beans, or don’t. Either way, there are few dishes that satisfy the way a hot bowl of chili does.