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How to spice up a pot of chili?

I've cobbled together what I think is a pretty good recipe for chili - simple, flavorful, colorful, great alone or with chips (turkey, beef, kidney and black beans, corn, spices)...but it needs a kick. Cayenne and/or chili powder didn't work. I'm thinking jalapeno or anaheim chili...? I live in the middle of nowhere, and though we have a full-service major chain supermarket, the pickings are slim.
Any suggestions?
Much thanks

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  1. Oooh....you need some chipotle in adobo for your chili...those are smoked jalapenos in a delectable sauce. Most grocery store chains sell them in the ethnic food aisle...San Marcos is a very good brand...Goya also sells them. A little goes a long way for these beauties...you can freeze whatever you don't use.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Val

      val, i wholeheartedly agree that a little chipotle in adobo goes a loooooong way! i only use one chipotle in a big pot of chili. you can also store unused portion in small glass jar in fridge. i save all sizes of glass jars for these purposes....

    2. Try some salsa verde or other spicy salsa.

      1. I'd toss in a small handful of whole generic dried red chilies. Simmer to amalgamate the heat with the chili. Taste during cooking until your desired heat level is reached and then fish out the chilies and discard them, or leave them in and play chile roulette with your diners.

        1. Different peppers add different kicks. Cayenne will generally not add much flavor, but mostly heat. Jalapeno will generally add a bright "popping" heat that will generally dissipate from the mouth quickly. Anaheim, I believe, will add a mildish heat that will grow in intensity while eating. Might I suggest for each quart of chili:

          2 tsp of ancho chile powder.

          A minced jalapeno and serrano added to your pan towards the end of your onion saute.

          I am also a fan of the chipotle in adobo. I would mince one of the peppers and add it to the pan near the end of the meat browning. The chipotle, however, will change the flavor profile a lot.

          Cilantro added during the last few minutes of cooking time.

          What this will do is layer heat. Ancho is a very mild heat. It warms the mouth.

          Jalapeno will "pop" out in each bite, but will die down quickly.

          Serrano, for me, is basically the same as jalapeno, but instead of "popping" and dying, it sizzles and then dies down. It's a little hotter, and lasts a tiny bit longer.

          The chipotle will add a touch of heat and a LOT of smokiness. Use with caution. I personally love them, but too much chipotle in adobo is not a good thing.

          The cilantro will add a bright citrusy burst.

          I stopped using commercial chili powders a LONG time ago. They generally taste "dirty" to me. Use better quality spices separately (cumin, paprika, garlic, etc.)
          Of course, there probably are some very good quality chili powder mixes, but I have never had any of them. I have all of the ingredients needed separately.

          2 Replies
          1. re: gordeaux

            I also have stopped using commercial chili powder and make it at home.
            Common dried peppers to use are
            ancho
            pasilla
            guajillo
            puya
            Chipotle or the little moritas

            Toast lightly in a cast iron skillet and let dry then grind in spice/coffee grinder. I keep some as single origin and mix some. Some is mixed with fresh ground toasted cumin and Mexican oregano for a basic chili powder mix.

            These fresh ground chilis will for sure pump up the flavor as well as adding some heat. I save fresh peppers like serranos for toppings as well as fresh cilantro for those that like it.

            I also use more cumin than many recipes call for. Again fresh is preferred as old ground cumin has little flavor.

            1. re: gordeaux

              Wow, great suggestions.

              I thought of the OP when shopping tonight. That bottled chilie powder is pathetic. They don't even say what type of chile it is. I'm guessing chile California which has zilch flavor.

              I don't know how limited your selection is ... like if you can get fresh jalepenos. I lived in a town where the market selection was very limited, but they did carry ortega canned chiles, so if you are desparate and need something immediately that might be the way to go. Otherwise I'd order some of the chiles suggested online.

              Don't use salsa. Most have vinegar in them and it would throw the flavor of your chili off.

            2. I make several different chilis all the time. If you can get jalapenos, I would definately start there. Are serranos available? Very good as well. Lately I've been making a chicken and white bean chili with tomatillo bast that I spice up with powdered jalapeno available through mail order from Penzey's spices. I love this powdered jalapeno so much that I put it on everything, and had to create this recipe around it. They have a wide array of powdered chilis, super fun to experiment with, and won't get rotten before you can use it all.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Rizza

                I use their dried crushed jalapeno all the time. As soon as I open the bag, I sneeze every time.

              2. We also live in the boonies and do have several supermarkets and as you said "the pickings are slim". You need ancho chile powder (Penzy's is a good source), cumin, oregano, garlic, a pinch of cinnamon, and some cilantro. Good luck.
                When you have things you can't find in grocery (as we do), go to Amazon.com. I have found about everything there.

                1. I keep on hand, some wicked hot Chinese chile to kick up the heat a few notches. Fusion(fission?) chile?

                  1. I am puzzled. Cayenne didn't work? What are you trying to achieve? If you are wanting to stay with a purer form of chili and not incorporate to many other things (yet, you mentioned jalapenos), I would stick with chile powder. Note: I did not say chili powder. I mean ground chiles. No blend of ingredients. There are hotter chiles and you can get a hot version of Hatch chiles and other chiles. I forgot you are in a slim pickin's area. Still you can order anything over the internet. See some of my other posts about chile powder.
                    I think chipotles in adobo should do it . One can work wonders. I still don't understand why cayenne can't provide the solution.

                    1. Not suggesting you do this, but I remember getting a great flavorful bowl of chili in a place called Little America, Wyoming, but It had no kick, I asked the waitress for some Tabasco and dumped about half the bottle to get the kick I wanted.
                      For cooking my preference is for jalapenos.