Top 5 Spices to Use in Chili

I’ve cooked a lot of chili since I first started cooking years ago. (Exactly how many years ago I will keep to myself)  It’s been long enough for me to have quite a bit of experience.  I started out with ground beef and a can of stewed tomatoes.

Definitely not my best tasting chili ever, but, hey, everyone has to start somewhere.  My next chili adventure was one I’m almost embarrassed to admit.  One summer, I was a short order cook at a truck stop.  Yes, I know it’s an odd job for a teenager to have, but at least I was making money.

The chili at the truck stop was a canned chili with some added “fixins”  In our case, it was ground beef, cooked and drained, added to the chili with some extra salt and pepper.  Before adding the ground beef though, we would chop the beef extra fine to produce a better consistency.  Again, not my best tasting chili.

I’ve come a long way since those first chili adventures but all of chili cooking escapades  have been so much fun.  Collecting and cooking chili recipes for has given me a chance to look at so many recipes. and I’ve been able to compare these recipes to each other.  I’ve noticed that some of the spices, peppers, and other seasonings tend to repeat themselves in many of the recipes.  The following five ingredients are the most popular to use based on my observations.

  1. Garlic
  2. Cayenne pepper
  3. Jalapeno peppers
  4. Cumin
  5. Red/green bell peppers


The garlic adds an all around good flavor to almost any dish

Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper adds heat and flavor.  If you add too much though, the heat can overpower the flavor.

Jalapeno Peppers

Jalapeno peppers can be added fresh, pickled or roasted depending on the flavor outcome you are trying to achieve. Since I love cayenne peppers for heat, I usually try to roast the jalapenos before adding to the chili to give them a milder taste.


Cumin is the spice that makes chili taste like chili in my opinion.

Bell Peppers

The bell peppers add color, texture and some sweetness to a hot bowl of chili.

Keep in mind that most of the chili recipes that I’ve “studied” (aka eaten) so far have originated from the United States or Mexico.

Recently I’ve discovered spices from India and a whole new world has opened up for me.  I will be doing  a post on Indian spices very soon.