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We’re Crazy for Chili, Neighbor

Chili is a classic American comfort food. Even though it varies in different parts of the country, people everywhere love this hearty dish. Chili con carne (chili with meat) is the official state dish of Texas, but where did chili originate? That’s as much of a question as whether it should contain beans. Being true Texans ourselves, Food Town delved into this glorious creation we call chili.

Chili Queens
Image Courtesy UTSA Special Collections/San Antonio Express-News/Zuma Collection

There are many legends and stories about where chili originated. Historians often cite Texas as the birthplace of chili con carne. But can Texas take the credit? The most popular theory suggests Canary Island immigrants who came to San Antonio in the early 1700s cooked a spicy stew made with peppers, cumin, and various meats. This may have led to the “Chili Queens” on Military Plaza in San Antonio, from the mid-19th Century through the early 20th Century, who sold “Chili Con Carne” in kettles over open flames. One historian claims that chili became popular among cowboys on the cattle trail (most of whom were Mexican) and gold-seekers on their way to California. Another similar story credits women who cooked and washed clothes for the Mexican Army while traveling through Texas in the early 1800’s. Finally, some sources cite a myth about a Spanish nun who supernaturally visited Native Americans in west Texas and learned a chili recipe from them.

No matter what story is true, or perhaps all have some merit, it seems clear that both Spanish and American cultures were instrumental in creating modern-day chili.

There are several different regional chili styles throughout the United States. Here are a few of the most famous ones.

  • Texas Chili – often called a “Bowl O’ Red.” Texas chili is pepper-marinated beef, usually chuck, with some added spices such as red chile peppers or a combination of peppers (ancho peppers, guajillo peppers, pasilla chiles, and spicier cayenne peppers), which gives it its signature heat and reddish color. And let’s not forget, any true Texan chili aficionado (where most Texans proclaim, “my famous chili” when serving to guests) knows that beans and tomatoes have no place in their chili! See an authentic Texas Chili recipe here:  https://www.yourfoodtown.com/recipe/true-texas-chili/

    Texas chili also had a milestone moment in 1962, when the recipe for Frito Pie appeared on millions of bags of corn chips: “Heat chili, pour into a bag of Fritos, and sprinkle with grated cheese and chopped onions.” Usually, this recipe calls for canned chili. You can read more about Frito Pie here: https://www.yourfoodtown.com/frito-pie/
  • Cincinnati Chili – A combination of ground meat, Mediterranean spices, cinnamon, and spaghetti. Also known as 5-Way chili, depending on how many toppings you want, such as onions or cheese. Then, the chili is served over the spaghetti.
  • Chile Verde, New Mexico – Pork shoulder marinating in traditional green chile pepper sauce made with tomatillos.
  • Springfield Chili, Illinois – bacon, ground turkey, tomatoes, beans, and a can of beer. It’s traditionally topped with oyster crackers and shredded cheese.
  • Kansas City Chili, Missouri – Made with brisket or pork shoulder, sometimes with burnt ends, Worcestershire sauce, beans, and cumin. Many different toppings can be added.

Most cooks have their own recipe or a combination of the different styles of chili. There are also many commercial mixes and seasonings to shorten the chili-making process (but still make a delicious chili).  Food Town carries various seasonings and mixes at low prices to help you make the best chili, brands like Tony Chachere’s, Pioneer, McCormick, Zach’s, Carroll Shelby’s, and Wick Fowler’s. We have great tomato products, too; Rotel, Red Gold, Hunts, and Hatch are just a few brands you’ll find here. Food Town also takes pride in carrying a wide selection of fresh, dried, and canned peppers. And if you do decide to go the bean route (but keep it a secret), we offer a wide assortment of brands and flavors of canned beans. Need some good chili recipes? See some of our wonderful ones here: https://www.yourfoodtown.com/recipe-cat/soups-chili-stews/

If you are craving chili and want a quick and easy solution, your Food Town offers many great premade varieties like Wolf Brand Chili, Hormel Chili, and Austex. These are great choices for Frito Pie or hot dogs.

So don’t waste time debating with your family and friends about beans or NO beans! Head on down to Food Town and get all the ingredients you need for that warm, satisfying, and tasty bowl of chili.  

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