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Chili or gumbo, you have to pick one.


Which one would you choose if you could only have one the rest of your life? They are both rich, protein-based stews. They both have a (sometimes incorrect) reputation for being scalp-sweatingly spicy. They are both uniquely American dishes. And they are both delicious! Let’s break it down into two sub-questions:

1) Chicken and andouille gumbo VS 100% purist Texas Red chili

2) Your favorite kind of gumbo VS your favorite kind of chili

Which one shall it be, and please provide your reasons!

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  1. any gumbo over any chili any day.

    I love gumbo, and cajun food in general.

    I will make gumbo often, while I rarely if ever make chili. I can eat bowls of gumbo, whereas I only eat chili on a hot dog. Chili is more of a condiment than a meal for me.

    5 Replies
      1. re: swsidejim

        Chili a condiment? Really? It is the "backbone" of many dishes, if that is what you meant to say. People add lots of things to chili but chili is not added to that many things: chili dog, chili on tamales. It should be capable of standing on its own merits or it isn't decent chili.

        1. re: Scargod

          nope, I stand by my post.

          I will rarely(one or two times a year) have a bowl of chili, while I will have numerous chili dogs each month. Different strokes.

        2. re: swsidejim

          agreed, any gumbo, over any chili, any day.

          Now, I do love chili, but I have to be in the right mood for it. Gumbo, it's a one a week meal around here from when the leaves start changing colors until May.

          1. re: tzurriz

            excellent, once a week? I may have to get with that program. I only make it about once a month.

        3. Chicken and Chourico gumbo. I choose that due to the fact that I grew up on chili and gumbo has entered my life only in the last ten years or so. I prefer Chourico over Andouille because I live in NE and the quality of Chourico outweighs that of any Andouille I have come across in this region...

          1. I love my dad's chili, influenced by Hawaiian, Japanese and LA flavors, it's not your typical Texas "bowl of red." Beans included, it's fantastic as chili rice, on a tamale, or just served with bread. I'm still trying to memorize the recipe, but I have to refer to notes.

            That said, gumbo is another thing entirely. I think there's more variation within gumbo than chili, bite by bite. You might get a piece of okra in this bite, a bit of meat next. I've had it straight, but again, I really like it over rice.

            The tough thing for me about picking gumbo is that it doesn't get ladled onto nearly as many things that I enjoy as chili. I don't think I could live without chili fries, or chili rice, or chili on a tamale, or chili dogs, or chili spaghetti (it's a bachelor thing, but pretty darn good)...maybe that will change as my tastes mature, but right now, I'm sticking with chili.

            1. Chili with beans all the way. I've had gumbo in the French Quarter and I've made it at home using different recipes from Emeril, Justin Wilson and others and I've never found it as satisfying as a bowl of chili and beans. I've had bowls of Red and it's o.k. and is a much different animal than chili and beans, but the only time I'll eat it is when I'm visiting the Lone Star State.

              1. not even close. Gumbo any day (doesn't even matter what kind) as long as I have a bottle of crystal or tobasco.

                1. I love Chili-my husband makes the best with steak, sausage, ground beef and fresh peppers that is incredible! No beans for me.

                  Gumbo is great as long as it doesn't have chicken

                  1. but WHY must we choose, RealMenJulienne (great name, btw)? hehe, j/k.

                    1) Texas Red Chili by a hair -- I love me some spicy food and, while gumbo is great, for me chicken and andouille is the least compelling gumbo combo (not that it's bad).

                    2) Favorite kind of gumbo -- I don't have a particular one in mind though -- I'm thinking something with a spicy sausage, say a chorizo, and some seafood. Gumbo, and Cajun cooking in general, almost defines "savory" in my book.

                    1. Gumbo -- which I love -- is probably healthier, but you can't put gobs of cheese on top of it.

                      Well, I suppose you could...

                      Well, if I get to vary the garishes, I'd go for the chili.No beans.
                      Otherwise, gumbo. And, as I don't/can't eat seafood, chicken and andouille is aces.

                        1. chili with beans. I rarely eat gumbo, not that I don't like it, I just don't think about making it! Wah!

                          But I love dem beans. And I love nothing more than a steaming hot bowl rich dark red chili with steak, then I add tons of fresh red onions piled high in the bowl with a healthy handful of gooey cheddar, avocado cubes, cilantro, cold tomatoes, and my bottle of Crystal ready to go to work.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            I'll take your bowl, chicklet. May I add fritos?

                            Chili over gumbo any day, but must have beans.

                            Andouille and chicken is good, but there is a muskiness to gumbo that requires that I be "in the mood," which isn't the case with chili.

                            1. re: NeNePie

                              hmmm nenepie, what do you think accounts for the muskiness, as you describe?

                              1. re: alkapal

                                Probably the okra, which I do like prepared dry-ish in the indian way, but not as much in a soup or stew, when I find it overpowering. I dunno, does file powder have a strong flavor? I've never made gumbo.

                                1. re: NeNePie

                                  well, imo, file doesn't have a strong scent at all --- though the cited article (below) does describe it as "earthy". i agree, and that may be the "musky scent...."

                                  if okra was used in the gumbo, file is not used. file is used in okra-free gumbo, by spooning some over the gumbo at the table (or adding to pot just before serving).


                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    I strongly disagree about not using file in gumbo that contains okra! Where do you get that idea from the article you linked to?
                                    Is this your personal opinion?
                                    I agree that file gets added at the end of cooking or added like salt or pepper if it suits you. I think it adds that earthiness.

                                    1. re: Scargod

                                      no, it is not my personal opinion. it is my conclusion after years of reading recipes, articles, listening to cooks, etc. file is a thickener. okra is a thickener. why use both?

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        If you read this: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/511430,
                                        I think you could draw the conclusion that there is no "right" way to make gumbo, or thicken it.
                                        Why use both? Taste. I have an old, small recipe book that has 200 year old Cajun recipes and there are many combinations and variations for making gumbo.

                              2. re: NeNePie

                                yes, and you can also add tortilla chips to the bottom and let them get all soggy and yummy...

                            2. actually, wiki has a very informative precis on gumbo (which is my choice over chili any day -- esp. with seafood!):

                              1. Chili topped high with white onions, scallions, and sharp cheddar!


                                1. 1.)I love Texas chili but I think I would get bored of chili before I would get bored of gumbo, as there are many other flavors.

                                  2.) Ive only eaten gumbo twice, and made my first batch on fat Tuesday, so I will have to say gumbo.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Kelli2006

                                    Chili for me, please. With beans or not. Just make sure to SLOW-cook it on the stove or in the crock-pot. I've used a number of excellent recipes over the years, some with ground beef, sirloin, chuck, chili grind, venison, sausage, turkey, chicken...It doesn't matter. You get a slightly different flavor and texture with each ingredient that changes. Slow cooking is the key.

                                    Oh, and by the way, although I do love a good gumbo as well, what really peppers my palate Cajunwise is a rich, tomatoey ettouffe!

                                  2. Gumbo all the way.

                                    I don't really like chili - especially if there are beans in it. But I did win the charity chili cook-off at the work 3 years in a row. My secret was spciy italian sausage and chipoltle peppers.

                                    1. Would have to say gumbo w/o okra. I don't care at all for chili

                                      1. 1) C&A Gumbo. I prefer the complex flavors of gumbo to the straight-up chili.

                                        2) My favorite Chili, Cincinnati style, would be my choice. I don't care what Ron White thinks about it, either!.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: The Engineer

                                          Because of the very scary okra (sorry, okra), I'd have to say chili. With lots of Tabasco.

                                        2. I grew up in the Southwest, so chili is in my blood. I'd pick chili over gumbo any day of the week.

                                          1. I would have to lean towards gumbo, but it is a hard choice. Gumbo can contain the kitchen sink and may or may not make you sweat. Chili, on its own, is rather one-dimensional.
                                            I would doubly have to pick gumbo if it were seafood gumbo with oysters in it. As I said, tough choice. Chili with add-ins can be spectacular.

                                            1. Chili over gumbo, hands down. Chili over most other dishes, for that matter. And most other dishes over gumbo - I won't touch an okra with a ten-foot fork!

                                              1. 1)Chicken and Andouille Gumbo
                                                2)Chili made in the way my family makes it. It is very tomatoey and thinner than many I have seen. It includes beans, but not to excess. It's best garnished low-brown with tons of saltines crushed in and a PB and syrup sandwich on the side. I actually haven't cared for many of the chilis I have tried elsewhere. They tend to be a bit too thick for my taste and just not what I'm accustomed to and prefer.

                                                1. I went through my old threads and realized I forgot to provide my own answer to this one. Sorry about that.

                                                  1) Chicken and andouille gumbo. Like others have said there is a lot more flavor and texture variance than you get with Texas red, which is actually low on my list of favorite chilis.

                                                  2) I pick my favorite kind of chili over my favorite gumbo. My chili choice is homemade, and it goes heavy on the fresh chopped chiles, garlic, and chipotles. I also think beans are indispensable and I usually have two kinds in there. I could eat it every day, whereas my favorite gumbo has a lot of seafood in it and like NeNePie, I really have to be in the mood for it.

                                                  I really enjoy these responses! I at first thought it was going to be overwhelmingly one way or the other, but It seems to be split almost evenly.

                                                  1. 1) Chicken and andouille gumbo over Texas Red chili. I like my chili with beans.

                                                    2) I like my mom's chili, made with kidney beans over gumbo. I like gumbo, but I never really crave it. On a cool rainly fall night a bowl of chili really hits the spot.

                                                    1. Chile gumbo (rhymes with file gumbo)!

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                        This is probably a good time to confess that my favorite gumbo involves roasted , skinned, seeded chiles. Now would be a good time for Southerners to curse that left coast. But it's really, really good.

                                                      2. Chili, loaded up with serranos, jalapeños, hatches, and a dash of fresh habañero. The hotter the better.

                                                        1. Gumbo. No contest. Texas Red is not even in the same galaxy.

                                                          1. since I'm a Gemini which is universally known as the twins, I feel I get to have both!

                                                            My top pick for Chili is purist Texas Red w/ sirloin or some such thing - NO GROUND BEEF in real chili. Although, for hot dog chili - well, that's another topic

                                                            As for gumbo, my top pick is chicken/andouille with shrimp thrown in at the end.

                                                            In fact, I'm making my stock for the first batch of the season right now - dinner's at 4:00 on Sunday!

                                                            1. Chili.

                                                              I already know I can eat chili everyday. When I've had leftover gumbo in the fridge, I've often passed it up for something else. Never happens with chili.

                                                              1. chili. easily.

                                                                probably has more to do with being raised eating chili than anything else, but i'll certainly rationalize it for you:

                                                                [1] i have always enjoyed southwest food more than creole
                                                                [2] cheaper in my area (seafood more expensive)
                                                                [3] quality of beef better than quality of seafood in my area

                                                                i've always preferred jambalaya to gumbo, anyway. gumbo seems like jambalaya's watery cousin, imo.