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What's the Best Way to Make a Chili Recipe Spicier?

I have a recipe for chili that I like, but it's not nearly spicy enough for my tastes. What would be the best way to alter the recipe to give it a little more heat? Some of things I'm considering:

-Add chili flakes at beginning
-Add chili flakes when it's almost done
-Add cayenne pepper at beginning
-Add cayenne pepper when it's almost done
-Add hot sauce at beginning
-Add hot sauce when it's almost done
-Add raw hot peppers at beginning
-Add dried hot peppers at beginning

Any thoughts? Additional suggestions?

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  1. I would vote for none of the above; rather, please consider canned chipotle chilis, chopped (not the whole can! one or two to start if you are not familiar with them), quite spicy and quite hot (to me, spicy and hot are not the same but some folks use the terms interchangeably) and they also add some smokiness to any dish. You would add them in the middle after you brown the meat and as you add the wet ingredients, tomatoes, beer or stock and then let it simmer.

    1. Yes to the chipotle! I add some pepper flakes at the beginning and then 1-2 chopped chipotle and a little bit of cayenne and chili powder (Mexican and a red chili powder from East Indian stores-very hot), along with some drops of chili sauce (like Tabasco). :) Can't go wrong!

      1. I bought some scotch bonnet peppers and roasted them, then added one or two to a big pot of chili. Too hot for me! I always add some tabasco type sauce and lots of black pepper too, not to mention a big spoonful of horseradish to round it out.

        1. It depends on how hot you want it and which chiles you plan to use. Chipotles, as already mentioned, add smokiness. Most hot sauces have vinegar in them so you need to think about that effect on your chili. Raw chiles are more potent than dried, and there's a big range of heat from habaneros (highest Scoville rating) to jalapeno (low Scoville rating).

          If you're looking for a lot more heat, add raw chiles near the beginning of cooking. My favorites are habaneros not just because of the heat but also the full fruity flavor. I've also used Thai birds eyes and serranos but you need more to get the same degree of heat.

          Dried chiles have a nice mellowness and depth. Depending on which chile you choose, you can get a smoky flavor as well. I'm no expert in the large range of Mexican and New Mexican chiles but I've used anchos, New Mexicos, guajillos and pasillas, all fairly mild with good flavor. I've never used dried Thai chiles in chili, only for Asian cooking so I don't know how it would affect the dish. I would also add these at the beginning of cooking.

          I would add cayenne at the end, only if the chili were nearly finished and still in need of some spicing up. The other chiles have more flavor IMO as well as heat.

          1. The chipotles are a great idea.
            You can also take the leftovers and puree them to use as a hot sauce to crank it up even more when you plate it.
            I would also consider srirachi as a spicer. It's pretty powerfull stuff.


            1. The chipotles will add a nice smokey flavor but they aren't that spicy. I'd recommend getting powdered chiles. Note, this does not mean generic supermarket chile powder which has other ingredients besides chiles.

              I use guajillo chile powder and pasilla chile powder, in addition to chipotle powder. The guajillo gives a nice burn in the back of the throat. I think the other key is to add it to the pot when you are browning the beef or almost done browning the beef. You want to bloom it in the oil before you add the liquids. The way I make chile is to brown cubes of chuck, add the various powdered chiles and cumin and cook for a few minutes. Then I add the liquids and cook till tender. Depending on how it tastes, sometimes I'll add more chile powder or hot sauce for the last thirty minutes or so to add some more flavor.

              1. I like jalapeno juice. I read the lables to find the kind with just peppers and water or vinegar. It gives a nice overall heat without hitting any sudden bits.

                1. I add chipotle to taste before I put the lid on the chili to simmer, and chopped Jalapenos to the meat while it's browning.

                  1. i add a tablespoon or more of cocoa powder to make it rich and brown...

                    1. One thing to remember when using chiles (any kind of capsicum fruit, any form, whether ground cayenne, dried anchos, chipotle powder, etc): capsaicin (the primary compound making chiles hot) will dissolve in oil or alcohol, but barely dissolves in water. Thus, you should always add some chile-heat to the oily steps of your cooking--ie, when browning onions, browning meat, etc--for serious depth of flavor. Many indian recipes call for adding the powdered chile to the onions after they've browned sufficiently.

                      So to answer your question more precisely, I put ground cayenne into the browned beef at the beginning of chili-making, then I like to re-hydrate dried ancho chiles & puree 'em in their soaking liquid along with two or three canned chipotles en adobo. It is important to taste as you go, because not all chilis have equal heat. Sometimes you need more, sometimes less.

                      Black pepper & white pepper (piper nigrum) get their heat from piperine, which is more easily soluble in water than capsaicin. So you can add black & white pepper with the liquid stages of a dish, toward the end of cooking.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        Celeste, I did not know that about capiscums! Thank you so much for that!

                        1. re: Hungry Celeste

                          You're probably right about the solubility of capsaicn in oil vs water...But the one thing no one has mentioned here is how long the chili is going to cook. I have found that the longer you cook any kind of stew sauce etc. that I've added hot pepper to, the less heat the peppers will give. The heat is obviously responsible for breaking down the capsaicin over time. If I want to have alot of heat I add some pepper at the beginning and then for the last 1/2 hr of cooking I add more till I reach the desired level of spicyness.

                        2. I read all of the replies to your posting and find them all very informative and full of good tips. They appear to have all been posted by knowledgable "chili" cooks, and all would provide solutions to your question.

                          In order to uncomplicate things I simply add a can of Rotel "Extra Hot" Diced Tomatoes & Chili Peppers to my other ingredients after browning the meat. This simply provides heat & spice without fussing about the adding "before" or "after" or "during" the cooking process.

                            1. re: bbqboy

                              In my ethnic cooking tradition, multiple sources of heat in the same dish are de rigeur. Cayenne (most common), black, white, and an aged pepper sauce make appearances in the same dish. Pepper vinegar is a common table condiment. Some restaurants offer multiple kinds of pepper sauce...everyone has their own favorite brand, or even a couple of favorites, matching the sauce to the food.

                              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                Which points up the value of using several kinds of chilis for a broader range of flavor and heat.

                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                  My dad was from Texas, so i grew up eating and learning to make Chili from him. Crystal Pepper Vinegar was standard issue in our condiment rack and at Chili Parlors in KC, but vinegar in the cooking Chili has never pleased me. Same with Black Pepper. I can taste it seperately no matter how long the simmer.
                                  Chocolate, Coffee, multiple Pepper types: I'm all for that.

                              2. Humbucker, A tablespoon of Dave's Insanity Sauce will more than do the trick. Taken straight, Dave's will also cure Asian Bird Flu and Herpes.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Walters

                                  It will also cure that annoying thumping in your chest!!!


                                2. although not spicy, cumin, more of a smokey flavor is really good!

                                  1. If you want to increase the heat without changing the flavor, try adding some hot chili oil at the end (or pass it at the table). Usually found in the asian food section at the grocery store. Not the kind with lots of flakes or made with sesame oil, because those will change the flavor -- you're looking for a clear red liquid that usually comes in a small glass jar. It's pretty potent stuff, so a few drops in a bowl go a long way.

                                    I frequently use chipotles or habaneros, or pass different hot sauces at the table, but each of those brings its own distinct flavor to the party. I gather from the OP that you like the flavor profile of your recipe, you just want it to be hotter. If that's right, hot chili oil may be the way to go.

                                    1. Nobody's answered "All of the above"?

                                      My batches usually have heat added in different ways throughout the process, the earlier additions mellow and give a long burn, the later ones tend to smack you right upside the head.

                                      I once watched a Justin Wilson recipe on TV that involved adding more cayenne everytime he stirred the pot, it was pre-Tivo or I would have backed it up to figure out exactly how much he had added, it had to have been near a cup to a pot of jambalaya. Freakin hilarious.