There’s something bold and serious about winter comfort foods—no one jokes about stews simmering away or big meaty lasagnas. Chili, however, brings fun back into winter eating. Easy to make and deep in flavor, Southern chili recipes are often just guidelines for dealer’s-choice meals: Use whatever meat you have on hand (or no meat!), tomatoes and beans straight from the can, peppers if you have them, and a zealous dose of seasonings. Provide plenty of fixings for everyone to garnish their bowls to their liking—sour cream, shredded cheese, lime wedges, and extra peppers if you’re feeling frisky.
These one-pot meals serve many, and the ability for everyone to customize their bowl makes Southern chili recipes great options for cool weather gatherings, from dinner parties to game days.
Bring Heat with Southern Chili Recipes
This vegan recipe from Dr. BBQ in Saint Petersburg, Florida, gets plenty of texture from cannellini and kidney beans. The recipe as is will serve eight people as a small appetizer or starter chili, four as a meal. Feel free to double it if you think you’ll want more.
If you need meat in order to consider it chili, look no further than this chili con carne from The Chili Cookbook by Robb Walsh (Clarkson-Potter/Ten Speed Press), 2015. Made with more than three pounds of meat, this dish is not for the faint of heart. It also requires its own chili powder blend, which, along with ancho chilis, brings a wonderful, warm flavor. This Southern chili recipe needs at least two hours to cook. Make it on the weekend when it can simmer low and slow for hours.
The secret ingredient to a rich, velvety chili? Cocoa powder, which chocolatier Phillip Ashley Rix in Nashville proves through this recipe. The cocoa powder contains depth without the added sweetness found in chocolate. It complements the warm spices and mellows the acidity from the tomatoes.
Naturally lean, bison meat is ideal for braising. A hefty chili is a great way to bring bison back into the kitchen, and this recipe from the Local Palate Test Kitchen has it all: plenty of vegetables, two types of beans, dark beer, assorted spices, and, yes, ground bison meat. Similar to its varied ingredients, we also recommend every topping you love: avocado, cheese, sour cream, green onions. The world is your chili.
Forget about roasting root vegetables. Make them much more exciting incorporating them with hominy, black beans, and spices. Minimal broth gets used in this recipe, which lets the softened, seasoned peppers, parsnips, and carrots shine on their own.
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