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Chili is a simple and easy meal to make. It's a meal meant to cook over a long period of time, which means it's ideal for crockpots or stay-at-home days! There are many different types of chili, and everyone seems to have their own recipe for the 'perfect' chili. However, there are some ingredients that a traditional chili must and must not have.

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What is a Traditional Chili?

Chili originated in the 'Old West' with Chili Queens' serving bowls of chili con carne, or chili with meat, to cowboys. It was a popular trail food because it could keep for a long time and was filling. Many people believe that traditional chili, or chili con carne, is chili in a red sauce with spices, vegetables, and beans. However, the International Chili Society states that beans and pasta are strictly forbidden in any traditional red chili!

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What Are the Ingredients?

There are some basic ingredients that every good chili needs:

  • Beef, generally beef brisket cut into big chunks, but stew beef works as well
  • Olive oil
  • Flour
  • Chili peppers
  • Chili powder
  • Jalapeño peppers
  • Spices including garlic, cumin, salt, and pepper
  • Onions
  • Bell pepper
  • Tomato sauce
  • Beef stock

Gather all your supplies and a crockpot or big soup pot and get ready to make chili!

traditional chili crockpot fcafotodigital / Getty Images
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How Do I Cook the Meat?

The first step in creating chili is to brown up the meat. Start by heating the oil in a wok or fry pan until it is shimmering. Add the flour to a zip-top bag, toss in the meat and shake until all the beef is coated, then carefully add it to the hot oil. Brown each side of the beef and then set aside. Browning the meat helps to keep the beef tender, and it provides your chili with extra flavor!

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How do I prepare the vegetables?

Start by de-seeding your peppers. If you like spicy chili you can add some of the seeds and membranes from the chili and jalapeño peppers into the chili - the seeds and membranes are where the heat is. Dice the peppers and onion, and if you are not using garlic powder then mince up the garlic. Heat some fresh oil in a frying pan and sauté the vegetables until they are just beginning to soften.

preparing traditional chili vegetables THEPALMER / Getty Images
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How to make the chili

Once your beef is browned, and your vegetables are soft, add beef stock, tomato sauce, and remaining spices to your crock pot or soup pot. Stir in the browned beef chunks and the vegetables until completely combined. Set your crockpot on low for 6-8 hours or simmer on your stove on low for about the same time. Remember to stir your chili occasionally if you are cooking it on the stove; scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure nothing is sticking and burning!

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Should I chill my chili before I eat it?

Many chili aficionados say that after cooking your chili you should chill it in the refrigerator over-night to ensure that the flavors combine and infuse the meat. This is entirely up to your own personal preferences! Chili is a very versatile dish. Consider setting some aside to chill overnight and compare that against the chili you ate on the same day. Allow your taste buds to make the decision!

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What are the best sides with chili?

Traditionally chili is served with cornbread - another 'on the trail' treat from American history. It can also be served with crackers, tortilla chips, mashed corn, corn or flour tortilla's, or pretty much anything that you want to have alongside it. Normally it is also served with grated cheese, diced raw onion, and sour cream as optional toppings for people to add as they wish.

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What other meals can I have with chili?

Just because you have a big pot of chili doesn't mean you have to eat it alone in a bowl. There are several dishes that incorporate chili.

  • Chili Dogs
  • Chili Burgers
  • Chili Fries
  • Chili Mac and Cheese
  • Frito Pie or the Walking Taco

Each of these meals incorporates chili into the dish but doesn't leave you wandering around with a bowl of 'Ol red' that you're trying to eat with a spoon.

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What is green chili?

Chili Verde, or green chili, is another traditional chili but instead of using tomatoes and beef it uses green peppers, tomatillos, and pork. Chili con carne is known to have originated in Texas, but Chili Verde has a much harder history to trace. It is very popular in the Southwest, especially in New Mexico where they have very specific opinions on what chili peppers should be used.

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What are the best chili peppers for chili?

Whether you're making red chili or green chili you want to use peppers that bring more than heat. You want flavor and depth that leave people hungry for more of that delicious, mouth burning chili you've made. In general, the best chilis to use are Anaheim peppers, Poblano peppers, and of course the Jalapeño. If you're looking for more ways to bring depth of flavor to your food, try roasting the peppers before you chop them up and add them. Roasting the skin until it blackens and can be removed gives a smoky flavor without tasting burned!

traditional chili peppers jgareri / Getty Images

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