American Cooking
US Culture


Chili is a popular food that you can find all over the USA in restaurants, at fast food stands and in homes from the East coast to California. It is an inexpensive, easy-to-prepare meal that tastes great. Chili began with Mexican; Hispanic roots, but is now an all-American favorite.

Chili began as cowboy trail food

Chili was probably invented in the range lands of the old west by an unknown cowboy cook or perhaps in old Mexico by a hungry vaquero. It is a way to prepare tough, almost inedible, range-fed beef or other trail meats. The original Spanish name "chili con carne" simply means meat with chili peppers.

Beef, buffalo, venison, rabbit or rattlesnake meat was cut into small chunks, seasoned with spicy dried chili peppers and slowly simmered in a pot over a campfire. This simple recipe has been improved only slightly with the addition of a few tomatoes and possibly an onion. Traditionally, it was served with a side dish of cooked beans and some freshly prepared tortillas.

Chili peppers ©
Nearly everyone has a special chili recipe, many of which contain a variety of chili peppers.

Nearly everyone has a special chili recipe

Nearly everyone in the USA has a special recipe for chili. Today, most people put beans in the same pot with the meat to make it a complete one-pot meal. Chili served in restaurants usually includes beans. Traditionalists insist that beans do not belong in authentic chili. Authentic chili, also called Texas Chili or No Bean Chili, should contain only meat and chili peppers with possibly some tomatoes and a few spices.

Many folks claim to have their own special recipe for the best chili in the world. They might use chicken, sausage or even seafood in their chili. They may add mushrooms, vegetables, sugar, vinegar or secret spices. The one common ingredient in all recipes is chili peppers. These can vary from mild sweet green peppers that add only a subtle flavor to the fiery hot habenero peppers that can make every bite taste like hot coals on your tongue.

Chili cookoffs are popular events

Chili cookoffs are a popular attraction in many towns and cities across the USA. These festivals are especially popular in the southwestern states. They include music, entertainment and a chili-tasting contest to determine the best and the hottest chili. Chili cookoffs always provide an opportunity to taste many different styles of chili. Be careful when tasting the red-hot chilis! Some recipes can be so spicy that they are horrendously painful to your palate.

Easy chili recipe

1 pound (500g) beef, ground, chopped or cubed
1 large onion chopped
2 green peppers diced or a few hotter chilis
2 tablespoons flour (corn flour preferably)
1 can (500g) diced tomatoes
1 can (500g) red kidney beans or brown pinto beans
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons red chili powder (hot or mild)

Saute the beef, onion and peppers in a few tablespoons of oil until browned. Add flour and stir a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients, and simmer over low heat for about 45 minutes.

Serve it with tortillas or crackers

The traditional way to serve chili is with some freshly cooked tortillas. Tortillas are Mexican flat breads that resemble thin pancakes. Many people eat their chili with crackers. You can serve it over rice or pasta. If you spoon chili over a plate of shredded lettuce and tomato, top it with salsa and cheese, you have a taco salad.

Make a pot of chili! It is very easy to prepare and tastes great. You might even create your own secret family recipe for the best chili in the world.

Written by: Mike Leco
Top Photo Credit: ©
Photo Description: Chili peppers hang out to dry at an outdoor farmer's market.