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Chili Definition

My BFF and I always argue that a dish called chili should not have beans in it. But, everywhere I go, chili (con carne or vegetarian) always have beans. According to him, chili should only contain meat.. at least where he resided for over 30 years, which is Texas.

Any thoughts so we can settle this repeated argument? Thanks.

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  1. IMHO, it's a religious issue and I refuse to get involved. Well, actually, I will get involved: chili must contain chiles, tomatoes, onions and cumin. Everything else is negotiable. I like a good bowl of Texas red, sans beans, but when I'm making chili for a crowd I use beans to stretch it out.

    Now, we can get into a discussion on whether chili verde counts as a chili (I say yes, since tomatillos are kinda sorta close to tomatoes), and whether vegetarian chilis are possible (my opinion again is yes). Tofu in chili is right out, though: if a Texan c. 1850 wouldn't recognize the ingredients it ain't chili as far as I'm concerned.

    6 Replies
    1. re: tardigrade

      Chilli does not even need too much tomato in it either. I've made chilli with dried red chilles and tomato paste.

        1. re: tardigrade

          Hold the beans and serve it over rice or spaghetti!

              1. re: sandylc

                Heard it's good with bowtie pasta.

        2. When I make chill, I always boil some beans separately, and offer them as an optional garnish with the chile. My favorite beans are from the Central Coast in California, and they are very tiny beans much like pintos, and I believe they are called poquitos. I also like to use pinto beans if they are small enough. I make beef chile and for seasonings I also add pure cocoa powder and dark beer.

          Yes, the beans question is like religion, but I find they are a nice addition when I am in the mood.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Tripeler

            Pinquitos. Fabulous beans, too. I get the bag with the Santa Maria seasoning packet included, but use only about a quarter of it in the beans. The rest is an awfully good dry-brining rub for tri-tip.

            1. re: Will Owen

              Thanks, Will. I always get the name for pinquitos wrong. Never had the Santa Maria seasoning packet, but will look closer next time. They are great beans for chill.

              1. re: Tripeler

                When Mrs. O's niece was going to UCSB she would frequently stop be on her way home to Orange County, and a bag of the beans with the seasoning packet was her usual gift for the host. The brand is Susie Q's Santa Maria-Style; I'm guessing she got them at a gift shop or tourist trap near campus.

              2. re: Will Owen

                Pinquitos sound adorable. I wonder if I can find them here in Montréal - or anywhere in eastern Canada?

                Are they also found in any Latin American countries? I could try a Latino market...

                1. re: lagatta

                  Pinquitos are a California variety, with a strong association to Santa Maria BBQ. Beans readily hybridize and develop local strains.

            2. I'm afraid that this is Res Judicata. See H. Allen Smith's "The Great Chili Confrontation" (1967 I think) for the definitive work. It still applies to Common Law Jurisdictions so it is, perforce, sloppy.

              1. If it's going to be used as a topping for something (like hot dogs), then no beans. If it's the main course, then beans.

                1. The only ingredients that must be in chili are meat and chili peppers. You call it chili con carne because its meat cooked with chili peppers. Not because you can have a con or sin carne version. Vegetarian chili makes as much sense to me as veggie burgers. Sure, borrow the name, but don't pretend its really a burger or chili. No beans in chili. You can have some on the side if necessary. No tomatoes either. The color is supposed to come from the chili and meat. Tomatoes is a northern abomination. Once you add tomatoes, its just f__king spicy tomato sauce. Pour it over pasta which I have seen done. Makes me want to scratch my eyes out when I see that. The further chili gets from its roots, the stranger it becomes. Going again to the burger analogy, if you ask for nothing more specific than a burger and someone brings you a tuna/salmon/tofu or whatever patty on a toasted egg challah roll with mango chutney, what would your reaction be? Mine would be WTF? I asked for a burger, not this whatever you may call it. Think of chili as a spicy meat stew. That's what it is at its heart. A bowl of beans cooked in tomatoes and chili peppers is NOT chili. So I'm in your boyfriend's camp because he's right. You should not argue about this with a person from TX. They take their chili seriously and at a very personal level. It looks like you're in Hawaii. How would you feel if he made bean poke? Can poke be made without fish? How about veggie kalua?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Bkeats

                    Look up (online) the hereinbefore (supra) mentioned H Allen Smith "Nobody Knows More about Chili Than I Do." It addresses some of your points including tomato

                    1. re: hazelhurst

                      I'm sorry but no one from Decatur, Illinois will be my source for anything on chili no matter what he claims. I think Illinois is one of those places that serve chili on spaghetti. Amusing article and by the author's own writing style, nothing here that is supposed to represent anything other than many people's opinions.

                      So to add nuance to my first post, have you had chili made with and without tomatoes? I prefer it w/o and I feel that he flavor of the chilis and meat come through better without the tomato flavor. It takes more work to make it that way but I like it better. No beans no matter what the flatulent H. Allen Smith may think.

                      By the way, his recipe is to my eye at least, nothing other than spicy tomato meat sauce with beans. Ground chuck. Chili powder? Jesus christmas. WTF. Might as well start with a can of Hormel.

                      1. re: Bkeats

                        Take him on--even dead--at your own peril. The complete book--which the article spawned--is a classic. It is as true today as it was then

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          I like my chili with a simmering rage and a nice, steaming cup of ego.