Chili is classic American comfort food. The famous dish was introduced to the country in the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair when Texas wowed tourists with its San Antonio Chili Stand. The rest is history. Americans cannot get enough of this spicy dish with chili cookoffs around the country and celebrity chefs sharing secret ingredients. Celebrate National Chili Day on February 23rd with your own Great American Chili Cookoff.
Chili is typically made with tomatoes, beans, chili peppers, meat, garlic, onions, and cumin. With endless variations to a basic chili recipe, this easy one-pot meal can often be made in a pinch with pantry staples. Whether you are feeding a hungry crowd or want to prepare a quick family meal, chili answers to the call. Chili also freezes well and is great to have on hand for a quick bite any time of day.
Check out these simple tips for healthy, hearty and satisfying chili:
- Spice it Up: Boldly spicing up chili is a great way to add flavor without extra salt, fat, or calories. Classic chili spices include chili powder and cumin. For those that like it hot, stir in cayenne or ground red pepper. Different seasonings like cinnamon and allspice can add wonderful depth of flavor. Premixed seasoning packets are always a quick easy option but can be high in sodium. This hearty Texas Chili made with cocoa and molasses gives a deep flavor that is even better the next day.
- Add a Lean Protein: To make a classic beef chili that’s still healthy, choose beef that is at least 90 percent lean, which fits into the USDA guidelines for lean meats. You can also opt for lean and flavorful ground turkey or chicken breast instead. This Turkey Chili can be ready in 30 quick minutes. Other protein options include adding plant-based meat products – or just sticking with a variety of legumes for veggie-based dish.
- Toss in the Beans: Some chili recipes are strictly meat based, but beans add fiber, flavor and texture along with a healthy dose of plant protein. Use a single type of bean such as kidney beans or black beans, or mix several types of beans together. It all works. Vegetarian chili tends to have fewer calories and contains less saturated fat than chili made with meat. This hearty Vegetarian Chili is made with hominy or dried corn, a staple in Mexican cuisine. Chickpeas or corn can easily be substituted for hominy in this recipe.
- Serve it up with Whole Grains: Consider serving chili with whole grains such as brown or wild rice, farro, barley, quinoa, bulgur, or wheat berries. Whole grains add fiber which keeps you fuller, longer. Either serve chili over a grain or stir it right in your pot.
- Don’t Forget the Veggies: Just like soup, chili is very versatile. Beyond the traditional tomato base, it is easy to sneak extra nutrition into your chili by adding with different vegetables. Try this healthy Harvest Chili that raises the bar by including butternut squash and zucchini.
- Add a Secret Splash: A bit of lime juice or cider vinegar added to chili at the end of cooking helps to brighten the dish and enhances the flavors. If you’re reheating chili that’s been frozen, a bit of citrus juice or vinegar stirred into the bowl just before eating can help bolster the flavors.
- Watch the Salt: Choose no-salt-added canned tomatoes and reduced-sodium broths to control sodium levels in your chili. Rinse canned beans before stirring them into the chili to significantly reduce sodium levels. If using seasoning mixes, choose the lower sodium option.
- Top it Off: Fresh flavors like chopped avocado, cilantro, diced red onion and shredded Monterey Jack cheese are literally “the icing on the cake.” Greek Yogurt can add a boost of protein and creaminess. And for those who like it hot, don’t forget the hot sauce.