Chili con carne

Chili con carne
Chili con carne
A pot of chili con carne with beans and tomatoes.
Alternative name(s) Chili
Dish details
Course served Main
Serving temperature Hot (60 degrees Celsius +/-10)
Main ingredient(s) Chili Peppers
Variations Multiple
Approximate calories per serving 400

Chili con carne (often known simply as chili) is a spicy stew. The name of the dish derives from the Spanish chile con carne, "chili pepper with meat". Traditional versions are made, minimally, from chili peppers, garlic, onions, and cumin, along with chopped or ground beef. Beans and tomatoes are frequently included. Variations, both geographic and personal, may involve different types of meat as well as a variety of other ingredients. It can be found in many countries in local variations and also in certain American-style fast food restaurants. The variant recipes provoke disputes among aficionados, and the dish is used as an ingredient in a number of other foods.


Origins and history

The recipe used by American frontier settlers consisted of dried beef, suet, dried chili peppers (usually chilipiquenes), and salt, which were pounded together, formed into bricks and left to dry, which could then be boiled in pots on the trail.[citation needed]

The San Antonio Chili Stand, in operation at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, helped people from other parts of the country taste and appreciate chili. San Antonio was a significant tourist destination and helped Texas-style chili con carne spread throughout the South and West.[1] Chili con carne is the official dish of the U.S. state of Texas as designated by the House Concurrent Resolution Number 18 of the 65th Texas Legislature during its regular session in 1977.[2]

Chili queens

During the 1880s, brightly dressed Mexican women known as "chili queens" began to operate around Military Plaza and other public gathering places in downtown San Antonio. They appeared at dusk, when they built charcoal or wood fires to reheat cauldrons of pre-cooked chili. They sold it by the bowl to passersby. The aroma was a potent sales pitch; mariachi street musicians joined in to serenade the eaters. Some chili queens later built semi-permanent stalls in the mercado (local Hispanic market).

Preparing plates of tortillas and fried beans to sell to pecan shellers, San Antonio, Texas

In September 1937, the San Antonio Health Department implemented new sanitary regulations that required the chili queens to adhere to the same standards as indoor restaurants. Unable to provide lavatory facilities, the queens and their "street chili" culture disappeared overnight. Although Mayor Maury Maverick reinstated the queens' privileges in 1939, the city reapplied the more stringent regulations permanently in 1943.

San Antonio's mercado was renovated in the 1970s, at which time it was the largest Mexican marketplace in the U.S. Local merchants began staging historic re-enactments of the chili queens' heyday. The Unofficial re-enactment is, "Return of the Chili Queens Festival".

Since 2006, the historic Bonham Exchange Building, located behind the Alamo, has hosted the official Chili Queens event, which is held in April as the first Sunday of every Fiesta.

Chili parlors

Before World War II, hundreds of small, family-run chili parlors (also known as "chili joints") could be found throughout Texas and other states, particularly those in which émigré Texans had made new homes. Each establishment usually had a claim to some kind of "secret recipe."

Ingredients for chili con carne.

As early as 1904, chili parlors were opening outside of Texas. After working at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Charles Taylor opened a chili parlor in Carlinville, Illinois, serving "Mexican Chili".[3] In the 1920s and 1930s chains of diner-style "chili parlors" grew up in the Midwest. As of 2005, one of these old-fashioned chili parlors still exists on Pine Street in downtown St. Louis. It features a chili-topped dish called a "slinger": two hamburger patties topped with melted American cheese and two eggs, then smothered in chili, all topped off with shredded cheese.[4]

One of the best-known Texas chili parlors, in part because of its downtown location and socially connected clientele, was Bob Pool's "joint" in Dallas, just across the street from the headquarters of the elite department store Neiman Marcus. Stanley Marcus, president of the store, frequently ate there. He also bought Pool's chili to send by air express to friends and customers across the country. Several members of General Dwight Eisenhower's SHAPE staff during the early 1950s were reported to have arranged regular shipments of chili from Pool's to their Paris quarters.

Controversy over ingredients


A bowl of chili con carne with beans and tortilla chips.

Beans (frijoles), a staple of Tex-Mex cuisine, have been associated with chili as far back as the early 20th century.[5] The question of whether beans "belong" in chili has been a matter of contention among chili cooks for a long time. It is likely that in many poorer areas of San Antonio and other places associated with the origins of chili, beans were used rather than meat, or in addition to meat.

A bowl of Texas-style chili with no beans.

Texas-style chili contains no beans and may even be made with no other vegetables whatsoever besides chili peppers.[6] President Lyndon Johnson's favorite chili recipe became known as "Pedernales River chili" after the location of his Texas Hill Country ranch. It calls for eliminating the traditional beef suet (on Johnson's doctor's orders, after Johnson suffered a heart attack while he was U.S. Senate Majority Leader) and adds tomatoes and onions. Johnson preferred venison, when available, to beef. Hill Country deer were thought to be (and are) leaner than most beef.[7] Lady Bird Johnson, the First Lady, had the recipe printed on cards to be mailed out because of the many thousands of requests the White House received for it.[8]

In some areas, versions with beans are referred to as "chili beans" while the term "chili" is reserved for the all-meat dish. Pinto beans are commonly used for chili, as are black-eyed peas, kidney beans, great northern beans, or navy beans. Chili bean can also refer to a small red variety of common bean also known as the pink bean. The name may have arisen from that bean's resemblance to small chili peppers, or it may be a reference to that bean's inclusion in chili recipes.

Most commercially prepared canned chili includes beans. Commercial chili prepared without beans is usually called "chili no beans" in the United States. Some U.S. manufacturers, notably Bush Brothers and Company and Eden Organic, also sell canned precooked beans (with no meat) that are labeled "chili beans"; these beans are intended for consumers to add to a chili recipe and are often sold with spices added. A chili purist's proverb says "If you know beans about chili, you know chili ain't got no beans," though the evidence suggests that there is nothing inauthentic about their inclusion.[9] The Chili Appreciation Society International specified in 1999 that, among other things, cooks are forbidden to include beans, marinate any meats, or discharge firearms in the preparation of chili for official competition.[10]


Tomatoes are another ingredient on which opinions differ. Wick Fowler, north Texas newspaperman and inventor of "Two-Alarm Chili" (which he later marketed as a "kit" of spices), insisted on adding tomato sauce to his chili — one 15-oz. can per three pounds of meat. He also believed that chili should never be eaten freshly cooked but refrigerated overnight to seal in the flavor. Matt Weinstock, a Los Angeles newspaper columnist, once remarked that Fowler's chili "was reputed to open eighteen sinus cavities unknown to the medical profession."[11]

Other ingredients

Cooks may also include sweetcorn, peanut butter, pineapples, bananas, oranges, tomatillos, chorizo, cocoa, chocolate, coffee, ginger, tequila, cola, honey, cinnamon, allspice, cannabis, pasta, saffron, molasses, vinegar, wine (usually red), beer, whiskey, bourbon, potatoes and others. Cornstarch is frequently used as a thickener, as is corn masa.


Vegetarian chili

Pot of chili sin carne.

Vegetarian chili (also known as chili sin carne, chili without meat, chili non carne or chili) acquired wide popularity in the U.S. during the 1960s and 1970s with the rise of vegetarianism. It is also popular with those on a diet restricting the use of red meat. To make the chili vegetarian, the cook leaves out the meat or replaces it with a meat analogue, such as textured vegetable protein or tofu, or a starchy vegetable, such as potatoes. These chilis nearly always include beans. Variants may contain corn, squash, mushrooms, or beets. Corn, squash, and beans are known as the "Three Sisters" of Native American agriculture. They were cultivated together, and complement each other as foods.

Chili verde

Chili verde (green chili) is a moderately to extremely spicy Mexican and Mexican-American stew or sauce usually made from chunks of pork that have been slow-cooked in chicken broth, garlic, tomatillos, and roasted green chilis. Tomatoes are rarely used. The spiciness of the chili is adjusted with poblano, jalapeño, serrano, and occasionally habanero peppers. Chili verde is a common filling for the San Francisco burrito.

White chili

White chili is made using white beans and turkey meat or chicken breast instead of a tomato-based sauce and red meat (beef). The resulting dish appears white when cooked.

Accompaniments and additions

The dish may be served with toppings or accompaniments; grated cheese, diced onions, and sour cream are common toppings, as are broken saltine crackers, corn chips, cornbread, rolled-up corn or flour tortillas, and pork tamales. Chili can also be served over rice or pasta such as ditalini or spaghetti.

Pre-made chili

Canned chili

Willie Gebhardt, originally of New Braunfels, Texas, and later of San Antonio, produced the first canned chili in 1908. Rancher Lyman Davis near Corsicana, Texas, developed Wolf Brand Chili in 1885. He owned a meat market and was a particular fan of Texas-style chili. In the 1880s, in partnership with an experienced range cook, he began producing heavily spiced chili based on chunks of lean beef and rendered beef suet, which he sold by the pot to local cafés. In 1921, Davis began canning his product, naming it for his pet wolf "Kaiser Bill." Wolf Brand canned chili was a favorite of Will Rogers, who always took along a case when traveling and performing in other regions of the world. Ernest Tubb, the country singer, was such a fan that one Texas hotel maintained a supply of Wolf Brand for his visits. Both the Gebhardt and Wolf brands are now owned by ConAgra Foods, Inc. In the UK, the most popular brand of canned chili is sold by Stagg, a division of Hormel foods.

Brick chili

Another method of marketing commercial chili in the days before widespread home refrigerators was "brick chili." It was produced by pressing out nearly all of the moisture, leaving a solid substance roughly the size and shape of a half-brick. Wolf Brand was originally sold in this form.[12] Commonly available in small towns and rural areas of the American Southwest in the first three-quarters of the 20th century, brick chili has mostly outlived its usefulness and is now difficult to find. In southern California, the Dolores Canning Co. still makes a traditional brick chili called the "Dolores Chili Brick."[13]

Seasoning mix

Home cooks may also purchase seasoning mixes for chili, including packets of dry ingredients such as chili powder, masa flour, salt, and cayenne pepper, to flavor meat and other ingredients.

Other dishes made with chili

A Coney Island hot dog in Detroit, with chili, onions, and mustard
  • A chili dog is a hot dog served with a topping of chili (usually without beans).
Chili cheese fries

A chili burger is a burger topped with chili (usually without beans). The hamburger chain Original Tommy's specializes in these. Chili is also served on top of a ground beef patty alone.

  • Chili is also added to fries and cheese to make chili cheese fries, or Coney Island fries.
  • In southeast Texas, some people eat chili served over white rice. Chili over rice (frequently with beans) is also common in Hawaii (where it is known as chili rice) and is eaten this way in the UK and, to some extent, Australia.
  • Chili mac is a dish made with canned chili, or roughly the same ingredients as chili (meat, spices, onion, tomato sauce, beans, and sometimes other vegetables), with the addition of macaroni or some other pasta. Chili mac is a standard dish in the U.S. military and is one of the varieties of Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE).
  • Cincinnati chili is a variety of chili frequently served over spaghetti and on fries and cheese coneys.
  • A "Frito pie" typically consists of a small, single-serving bag of Fritos corn chips with a cup of chili poured over the top, usually finished up with grated cheese or onions and jalapeños and sour cream.[14] Frito pies are popular in the southwestern United States.
  • A chili stuffed baked potato is a large baked potato stuffed with chili and possibly with other ingredients, such as butter, Cheddar cheese, or chopped onions.



  • Frank X. Tolbert. A Bowl of Red: A Natural History of Chili con Carne. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1966. [Much of the material in this book originally appeared in the author's newspaper columns in The Dallas Morning News beginning in the early 1950s.]
  • Charles Ramsdell. San Antonio: An Historical and Pictorial Guide. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1959.
  • Joe E. Cooper. With or Without Beans. Dallas: W. S. Henson, 1952.
  • H. Allen Smith. "Nobody Knows More About Chili Than I Do." Reprinted at the International Chili Society web site.
  • Jack Arnold. The Chili Lover's Handbook. Privately published, 1977.
  • Robb Walsh. The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos. New York: Broadway Books, 2004. [A very knowledgeable and very well-written "food history", including a long chapter on "real" chili, chili joints, and the San Antonio chili queens.]
  • Fr. Michael Muller. The Catholic Dogma, 1888

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Chili Con Carne — aus Schweinehack, Rindfleisch, Chilis, Bohnen und Tomaten (garniert mit Tortilla Chips) Chili con Carne (Chili mit Fleisch), (Náhuatl chilli, con carne Spanisch), kurz auch nur Chili genannt, ist die Bezeichnung eines scharfen Gerichtes aus… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Chili con Carne — aus Schweinehack, Rindfleisch, Chilis, Bohnen und Tomaten (garniert mit Tortilla Chips) Chili con Carne (dt. Chili mit Fleisch), (Náhuatl chilli, con carne Spanisch), kurz auch nur Chili genannt, ist die Bezeichnung eines scharfen Gerichtes aus… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Chili con carne — aus Schweinehack, Rindfleisch, Chilis, Bohnen und Tomaten (garniert mit Tortilla Chips) Chili con Carne (Chili mit Fleisch), (Náhuatl chilli, con carne Spanisch), kurz auch nur Chili genannt, ist die Bezeichnung eines scharfen Gerichtes aus… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Chili con carne — en un plato. El chili con carne o simplemente llamado chili (proveniente de la palabra Chili en Náhuatl) es una comida tradicional de Texas..[1] Se considera un plato de lo que se denomina cocina Tex Mex Es el platillo naci …   Wikipedia Español

  • chili con carne — ☆ chili con carne [chil′ē kän kär′nē ] n. [< MexSp chile con carne, lit., red pepper with meat] a highly seasoned Tex Mex dish of ground or chopped beef, chilies or chili powder, and other spices, and often, beans and tomatoes …   English World dictionary

  • Chili con carne — ● Chili con carne plat mexicain très épicé à base de viande hachée et de haricots rouges …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Chili con carne — Un bol de chili con carne avec des haricots et des chips tortilla Le chili con carne (chili à la viande) est une sorte de ragoût épicé dont les ingrédients essentiels sont la viande de bœuf et les chiles, originaire du Sud des États Unis. Il en… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • chili con carne — /chil ee kon kahr nee/ a Mexican style dish made with chilies or chili powder, ground or diced beef, chopped onion and pepper, and usually kidney beans and tomatoes. Also, chile con carne. Also called chile, chili, chilli. [ < Sp chile con carne… …   Universalium

  • Chili con Carne — Chi|li con Car|ne [ tʃi:li kɔn k...] das; s <aus gleichbed. engl. chilli con carne »Chili mit Fleisch«; vgl. ↑Chili> mit Chilischoten od. Cayennepfeffer scharf gewürztes mexikanisches Rinderragout mit [Kidney]bohnen …   Das große Fremdwörterbuch

  • chili con carne — chil′i (or chil′e) con car′ne [[t]kɒnˈkɑr ni[/t]] n. coo a highly seasoned dish of ground or diced beef, chilies or chili powder, and often tomatoes and beans • Etymology: 1855–60, amer.; < Sp chile con carne chili with meat …   From formal English to slang

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