On Chili

Is chili a stew or a soup? Does chili contain chilies? Does chili that goes on a chili dog differ from chili that goes in a bowl? Can you serve chili on a plate?

In much of America (and generally speaking), chili is a stew with ground beef and beans with a varying degree of spices.

Image from Food Network and to this recipe

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Nah-baby-nah in Texas because chili has a spicy broth, and chunks or sliced bits of beef, but no beans.

Image from Food Network and to this recipe

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Then again, some substitute chicken for beef, plus switch from red beans to white.

Image from Food Network and to this recipe

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Others proclaim a chili without meat, so bring on the vegetarian chili.

Image from Food Network and to this recipe

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Other variations include using sausage, turkey, pork, lamb, and include this wonderful rendition from Argentina (a past post).

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By visiting us in Cincinnati, chili takes on an entirely different meaning … and on a plate.

Image property of Skyline Chili

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Come on St. Patrick’s Day, it’s taken to another level.

Image property of Skyline Chili

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85 thoughts on “On Chili

  1. The pile of cheese on the last one looks yummy skyline chili. I also like all the add ons the onions, the sour cream on the others. I don’t think I’ve tried lime on chili before at least I don’t think have. I bet that would be good. I’ll have to take a look at these recipes. I know I’m hungry now!

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    • Starla,
      Ha ha …. to satisfy your appetite, chili at your home soon? There simply are so many variations of chili, but the Cincinnati version is unique. I’ve always wanted to do a post about Cincinnati chili, and maybe this post will get me to do that! Thanks for commenting.

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      • I’ve been trying to collect new recipes to try new things. I like the idea of unique you never know when you give a new recipe a try it can be added to your favorties. :+) Life is a lot of cooking over the years we cook a lot here.

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    • Mags,
      Absolutely … then toss in the variations with spices, Wow! However, Cincinnati-style chili (over spaghetti and topped with cheese) is a local classic causing many out-of-towners to have a confused look when it is described to them! But we love it! Thanks for visiting.

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    • Beeze,
      That’s great news … and as you know, there are not that many of them in your area. You also know that a bowl of it would be a bit shaky at best …. knowing you are a cooking legend, and I imagine that your chicken chili would be very good. Thanks for stopping by!

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    • Spinny,
      Cincinnati-style chili is a great example of a regional dish … and you would be surprised to see the number of chili parlors in this area. When I first came to the area, I didn’t know anything about it, but once I tried it, I was hooked. Thanks for stopping by.

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  2. I thought I had chilli downpat but now you’ve confused me. I’ve been limiting myself clearly – there are so many other chillies I haven’t tried. More cooking to be done around here for sure! xx

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    • Spiced,
      Knowing your joy for cooking, your comment caused me to smile … now I will be curious to see what new creation you bring forth! …. and I imagine the Cincinnati-style chili (Skyline) caught you by surprise. Thanks for commenting.

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  3. Even though it is breakfast time here, I’m hungry for chili! The vegetarian looks great, have to try it. The Cinci version of chili reminds me of a local Pittsburgh sandwich tradition at Ptimanti Brothers – the french fries go inside the sandwich along with everything else. Every city must have its quirky “must try” foods – thanks for sharing this one, Frank!

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    • Lynn,
      Well said about the quirky nature of some local goods. I’ve never been to Primanti Brothers, but I do recall the first time I saw the experience on Food Network …. WOW! Thanks for sharing and visiting.

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  4. By chance, were you hungry when coming up with this topic 😉

    I discovered that in England – at least to students with limited cooking and purchasing abilities – “chili” meant ground beef with spicy sauce and perhaps some kidney beans, over rice. Neither soup nor stew!

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    • Twixt,
      Nope, I wasn’t hungry when doing this post. It has been in my head, but the green spaghetti experience brought it all together. Chili simply has so many definitions – or a common definition that is interpreted who knows how many ways. Thanks for visiting!

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  5. Oh Frank…thanks so much for making me crave chili at 8.30 in the morning! To answer your questions….in my opinion…

    1 – Neither….it stands alone.
    2 – Of course otherwise it would not be called ‘chili’.
    3 – Without question.
    4 – I suppose…though I think plates are highly over-rated and prefer just about everything in a bowl.

    This said….ALL your photos look incredibly appetizing! And I’d definitely be willing and wanting to try them all.

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  6. Ah – now that explains why my daughter in law’s Mexican grandmother’s recipe for chilli had NO beans in it, and being polite I was wary of asking her whether she forgot to write beans.. chilli has beans doesn’t it? I thought.. and I have been afraid to make it in case she says where are the beans and i have to say, they were not in the recipe! and .. well…You can never be too careful with daughters in law!! thank you frank for clearing that up and have a grand day! c

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    • Celi,
      Being a one is knows her way around the kitchen, I was hoping you would see this. Plus, a New Zealander now in the US provides a fresh perspective … so I appreciate your comment and perspective!

      Like

    • H.E.
      Glad that I was able to create an appetite. Of course only time will tell how long it takes to solve the chili urge. In terms of the green spaghetti, we enjoyed it … and it was a first for us. I have learned that Skyline is planning to offer it again on March 17, 2013. Thanks for stopping by.

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  7. Hey there, Frank. From my little spot in the Lone Star State – here’s the spin on chili: neither a stew or soup … it’s chili. Yes, contains chilies or chili powder. Yes, what goes on dogs is different. Bowls Only. Beans, mos def. We don’t put a bunch of glop on top because it’s so good, it needs nothing more. That white stuff isn’t chili even though it snags the name in some areas. Turkey can be substituted for beef, veggie chili good too. All in a bowl. Good post, my friend!

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  8. Beans are a hideous addition to chili – hence my love for Texas-style. I have heard of Skyline – we had a few of those back in Chicago. We used to have a GREAT place called 5-way Chili, which (literally) served chili either plain or with 4 additional steps of “add-ins”. They did theirs with macaroni, rather than spaghetti, but NEVER with beans. Unfortunately, they didn’t last long – too many bean-loving heathens in the Windy City! 😀
    And beans may be the mark of heathenism, but I think trying to serve chili on a plate can get you the death penalty in a number of states. Skyline’s product withstanding, of course. 😉

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    • John,
      Thanks for your perspective on beans in chili, thus supportive that they seem to be a controversial ingredient. (Then again, volatile for some.) Seems the Chicago restaurant was doing their version of Cincinnati chili – just another attempt of “Often imitated, never duplicated.” 😉 … Just so you know, when I go to Skyline, I order a 4-way bean. 🙂 BTW – (for your next trip to the city) they are in Columbus! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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  9. Ok, the green spaghetti freaked me out a bit. But I’d love to try it.
    Entering a chili cook-off competition is actually making its way from the bottom of my list to nearer and nearer the top.

    I just have to let my friend know he’s entering with me…

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  10. Frank! You made me hungry. I used to have a Man Party at my house for about 10 years (another story) and we had a chili cook-off. There was definitely chili peppers in it, and it was stew!

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    • Les,
      Chili cook-offs are always a lot of fun. I’ve never entered one, but have attended and even judged. Those events also demonstrate the wide-range of tastes and expectations that different people have about the dish. Thanks for sharing.

      Like

  11. That Cincinnati chili looks scrumptious. There’s a Skyline in the Tampa Bay area (Clearwater, specifically) but it’s quite a drive from my end of town. I can only make it there about once a year. It’s not quite the same buying it in the frozen food section. Thanks for including it in your post!

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    • Luke,
      Back in the day, Tampa was the only place outside of Cincinnati to have a Skyline restaurant. Then again, that’s because the Reds trained in Tampa at the time. Since most people outside of this area plus those that have never visited, the Cincinnati style isn’t as well known. However, Food Network has included it on several episodes. Glad I was able to rekindle mouth-watering thoughts from your past! Thanks for commenting.

      Like

  12. Okay Mr. Frank.. you have successfully made me want chili on this first day of spring lol. And I won’t care if I get hot eating it either. I LOVE chili without beans.. since I am still new to beans.

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    • Kay,
      Good news is that you are not the only person who has craved chili after reading this post. Beans or no beans, bottom line is there are so many variations …. but Cincinnati style stands on its own in terms of uniqueness. Thanks for visiting.

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  13. Holy cow Frank at the first chili picture! I love chili and you just made me hungry again, tsk, tsk! Happy First day of Spring! I made carrot cake a few moments ago to celebrate this change of season, although it had been quite Spring like for the past month or two. Great post!

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    • Java,
      This post has made more than a few people hungry! Celebrating the change of season with a cake seems like a good idea. 🙂 …. and carrot cake is good for all seasons. Thanks for visiting.

      Like

  14. We make it with beans, and I guess that’s the way I was raised. I like it spicy and love to smother it in chopped onions. But I think there couldn’t possibly be a chili, meat or beans, that I wouldn’t just love! I’m glad we’re still having cool weather here in Southern California, and chili and cornbread is still a good idea. You’ve made my mouth water! Debra

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  15. A very interesting post to show how chili is so different in regions of the country. I like all varieties…be it in a bowl, on top of a dog or even over spaghetti.

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  16. Ahhh. food!!! Sad to say, I am not a fan of chili dishes *pout*

    Here in Sweden, chili is: chili is a stew with ground beef and beans with a varying degree of spices. —- yup! Like how you’ve described it above. Many Swedes love it and I have no idea why.

    Oh… the Cincinnati chili looks like my kind of thing. Interesting! I want to taste it!

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    • Maxi,
      Many thanks for the Swedish interpretation of chili. Given the wide range of recipes, I bet you could come up with a your own chili variation that you would like.

      Cincinnati chili is quite different. Actually a variation from the Greek community here many years ago. But it is for topping on spaghetti (as shown), hot dogs, baked potatoes, and it makes a great dip! Some have claimed to replicate the recipe, but I’m not sure how close they are. See this Google search result for something you may want to try. Thanks for stopping by and I hope all is well with you.

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  17. I am not a fan of Skyline Chili, but it was Skyline Chili that taught me how to eat chili Cincinnati style. I love it on pasta, with onions, cheese, etc.

    That vegetarian chili looks scrumptious. I’m off to check it out. Thanks! 🙂

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    • Robin,
      Cincinnati chili is an acquired taste for town-of-towners. I came to the city after college, and once I had it, I was hooked. I’m glad you have learned to eat it the correct way. 🙂 Thanks for visiting.

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  18. Hi Frank! I was referred to your blog by Alex and fasab. Good stuff, all! I have to comment on the Ohio/Texas chili conundrum. I was born in Leipsic, Ohio, but moved to Texas at seven (7) years old. The “beans vs. no beans” thing is so funny to me! Texans are adament THERE ARE NO BEANS in “real” chili. Everyone else in the world thinks “YES” to the bean. No point, really. Just think it’s odd. Especially since so many “Yankees” fought at the Alamo…:)

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    • Airport,
      Welcome first-time commenter! … and one with an Ohio connection as well. Being a BGSU grad, I know Leipsic! .. and kudos to Alex and fasab for the referral. Thanks for confirming the beans/no beans thing. Interestingly, up here I get strange looks when I say Texas chili doesn’t have beans! Then again, Texans don’t have Cincinnati chili. 🙂 … loved the green spaghetti on St. Patrick’s Day. Oh well … glad to have you and please come back.

      Like

  19. I don’t mind chili as long as it’s not too spicy. Spicy & I don’t get along.
    As for the green spaghetti – something to keep in mind for next St. Patty’s Day. I think the kids would get a kick out of it.

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    • Kim,
      As you can tell, there is quite the range in the variations of this classic dish. Bottom line is finding the taste that is most appeasing to one’s pallet. For instance, some like a lot of heat, others not, and others in the many ranges in between. Thanks for visiting the two past posts about chili.

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Beyond chili, this goes to the vernacular of food, Frank. Simple, unpretentious and tasty. Comfort food for what ills you, and with a regional signature to boot.

    I think here, in rural North of the 49th, anything meat and potatoes –hamburger hash is what most grew up with. An the variations are endless. With influence from Irish, Scottish, German and French. Chili is still sort of a exotic food. Coincidentally, am planning on making Sriracha sloppy joe sliders in a few weeks for get together. which is chili of sorts I reckon..

    Liked by 1 person

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