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Great Ways to Add Zest to your Chili

Great ways to add zest to your chili

As with many classic dishes, there is a huge range of recipes available for chili, as well as a plethora of opinions about what constitutes an authentic chili: what meat should be used – beef or pork? What beans are best – red kidney or pinto? Should the dish include tomatoes or not? Unless you are entering the competitive world of chili cooking, these questions are of little importance: most of us will have a tried and trusted recipe for chili, which we, and our family, enjoy because it has been tweaked to suit the family palate. Chili is such a robust dish that it can be made in many different ways and yet still somehow be recognizably chili and if you want to try something a little different from your favourite recipe, here are some ingredients which you may not have considered.


*Sprigs of oregano and thyme can be added at the start of the slow cooking to give a slightly Mediterranean taste to the finished dish.

*Coriander, found usually in Asian dishes, adds freshness when chopped and sprinkled in to the serving dish.

2. Spices:

*Smoked paprika: You will probably already be using a range of chilies in your dish but you could also add a heaped teaspoonful of smoked paprika during the cooking and this gives a rich earthy taste to the chili.

*Cumin is often found in Indian food. Use seeds if you have them but ground cumin (as long as it is fresh) will do. Roast the seeds in a dry pan and then cook with the meat and onions or add ground cumin at this point.

*Cardamom: again, mostly found in Asian food, imparts a delicate citrus flavour to the dish – use 4-5 pods crushed and added at the start of the cooking.

*Cinnamon: this can be overpowering if you use too much so add either a small stick – about the size of the top of your little finger- or a teaspoon of powder at the start of the slow cooking.

*Cocoa powder: whilst strictly not a spice, adding cocoa powder or chocolate will give depth and richness to the dish. Both the powder and the chocolate must be good quality, dark and with some bitterness.

3. Stock:

You could try adding some of the following to your usual stock:

*Wine: a red wine that is drinkable but inexpensive, when combined with herbs and tomato will give a rich sauce.

*Beer: enhances the flavour of beef.

*Coffee: this should be freshly brewed – instant coffee won’t work.

*Coffee, like chocolate, gives an earthy richness to the finished dish.

*A shot of whiskey or brandy stirred in just before serving gives the dish a real zing!

Some ingredients on this list may seem a little strange but it is worth trying them, for each one of them can add a little zest to your favourite chili recipe.