The Anatomy of a Great Chili Recipe

December 04, 2015 Chili

Colder weather and shorter days make everyone crave hearty, flavorful meals. It's the best time of year to get a pot of chili simmering on the stove, send dinner invites and ladle out bowls of “soul” for friends and family. Don't forget to toss together a fresh salad and bake up some cornbread for side dishes.

The Ultimate Dish for Everything From Crockpots to Cook-Offs There are so many ways to make chili recipes, depending on whether you want something rich and spicy, sweet and fruity or something else totally different.

Regardless of what you're going for, all chili recipes have three elements in common: base (or “broth”), protein (either meat, beans or both) and veggies. Mix the elements together and customize with a blend of spices to make a truly unique, easy chili. (Click on the graphic to the right for a printable “cheat sheet” summarizing all the information in this story.)

For example, my family loves this chicken chili recipe, which has a citrusy zing. It's so easy to make — just combine precooked rotisserie chicken, canned beans, lemon juice, vegetables and spices.

All in all, a good chili is more than the sum of its parts. It's about nourishment and bringing people together!

Chili Base: the Foundation The base forms the foundation of your chili recipe, balancing all the other ingredients. It can be anything from stock to beer, red wine to tomato juice. The most common spices used in chili bases are cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper and garlic. For gameday, open up a can of chili beans, which have the flavors already added to the base, and wow your guests with this quick chili recipe.

Protein: Set Your Chili Apart Many chili lovers use ground beef to give their recipes a robust appeal. Other options are elk, venison, Italian sausage or chicken.

Some chili fans say it's all about the beans — savory, tender and intact. The most popular for chili is the kidney bean, but others are just as tasty, including black, pinto, garbanzo and butter beans. If you're cooking a chicken chili, look for great northern or cannellini beans. Beans also do two jobs for the price of one. The USDA considers them both a protein and a vegetable. This meatless chili recipe has two types of beans, onions, corn and tomatoes.

Veggies: Round Out the Dish Sautéing vegetables such as onions, garlic and green peppers first melds the flavors together, so always start with those. Later, add tomatoes and corn for a delicious Mexican-inspired dish. This easy chili recipe is packed with green peppers, onions, tomatoes and canned chili beans — all simmered in a rich, tomato sauce. Finally, be sure to provide a selection of toppings like onions, cheese, sour cream, corn chips and avocado.

All in all, a good chili is more than the sum of its parts. It's about nourishment and bringing people together!

MeetSandy Coughlin

View all articles by this author