Chefs share 9 of their favorite ways to make canned chili better

Chili is a popular and convenient dish.Aimee Lee Studios/Shutterstock

  • Professional chefs have shared their favorite ways to turn a can of chili into a tastier option.

  • Cocoa, beer and cinnamon are ingredients that will enhance the flavor of your dish.

  • Fresh toppings are an easy way to add new flavor and texture to the pre-made meal.

Adding beer to your chili can make it more complex.

Bottle of beer next to a pot with food in the kitchen

Beer can give the chilli a malty flavor.Kai Forest/Shutterstock

Sometimes it’s easier to opt for a can of chili, so several chefs have shared some easy ways to improve the convenient meal.

Jim Dunleavy, catering manager at Eatzi’s Market and Bakery, told Insider that beer is an easy but impactful addition.

“Adding beer to the chili will add complexity by imparting a malty flavor from the sugars and other ingredients,” Dunleavy said. “Just be sure to simmer, so the alcohol cooks.”

Mix in cocoa for a deeper flavor.

White bowl of cocoa on light wooden table

A simple pinch of cocoa powder can make the difference.Roberto Machado Noa/Getty Images

Sometimes canned chili can lack flavor, but Dunleavy said cocoa powder can add a new level of richness.

“Similar to a mole sauce, the unsweetened cocoa will deepen the flavor of the chili,” Dunleavy said. “You don’t need much – start with a dash and add more if you wish.”

Fresh, chopped ingredients make great chili toppings.

half of a white onion on a cutting board next to a knife and a chopped onion

Onions, cilantro and jalapeños are great over chili.Viaseleva Elena/Shutterstock

Since the canned meal often doesn’t include a variety of textures, Dunleavy recommended adding freshly chopped ingredients for a flavorful contrast.

“Adding fresh ingredients — like diced onions, cilantro, and jalapenos — will take any canned chili to another level,” Dunleavy said. “The fresh burst of flavor will brighten and enhance the chili while adding exceptional texture and crunch.”

You can also top your meal with cooked bacon.

Four slices of bacon cooking in a black skillet on a stove

Cooking bacon at home is simple.Zachary Zirlin/EyeEm/Getty Images

To enhance the tasty meal, Chef Kai Chase suggested adding fresh bacon on top.

“To further exploit the bold flavors of chili, you can also consider cooking bacon as a topping and possibly using the leftover bacon drippings to roast your peppers or candied garlic as a delicious umami topping,” said the chief.

Roast and mix in some chillies.

lots of red chili peppers in a silver bowl

Hatch, chipotle, or ancho chiles are all great options.Anucha Muphasa/Getty Images

If you prefer a little extra heat, Chase also recommended adding the chili of your choice to the dish.

“You can roast chopped chiles, chipotle or ancho, puree the chiles and stir them into canned chiles on the stovetop to add depth and heat to the flavor profile,” Chase says.

Common spices and pantry staples can also enhance your meal.

white spice rack with lots of different spices

Cinnamon, the power of chilli, black pepper and cumin combine perfectly with chilli.Suzanne Oesterling/Getty Images

Chase told Insider that you can enhance your canned chili with ingredients you likely already have in your kitchen, like cinnamon or espresso.

“I love using a teaspoon of ground Saigon cinnamon or espresso to accentuate the meaty flavors of a chili,” Chase said. “You would do this on the stovetop to give the cinnamon or coffee a chance to mingle with the other flavors and spices in the chili.”

Manuel Hewitt, executive chef and owner-operator of The Barrel Room, also suggested “adding extra chili powder, black pepper and cumin” to “broaden and deepen” the flavors of the dish.

Refresh your canned chili with sautéed vegetables.

casserole of sautéed vegetables like red onions and bell peppers

Red onions and bell peppers are great in chili.Photo by Cathy Scola/Getty Images

Hewitt told Insider that stir-fried vegetables and produce — like serrano chiles, corn, bell peppers and mushrooms — can make canned vegetarian chili taste like a home-cooked meal.

The chef also said caramelized red onions, okra and black beans go well with these additions.

Sauce is a simple ingredient that can bring out some key flavors.

Bowl of a red sauce with a spoon on it on a wooden table

Sauces with flavors of roasted peppers, roasted garlic and sun-dried tomatoes are ideal.Simon McGill/Getty Images

Chef Neel Kajale, test kitchen manager and recipe developer at Haven’s Kitchen Sauces, told Insider that adding sauce is an easy way to amp up canned chili.

Kajale said “canned chili doesn’t have the oomph and punch that a freshly made jar of chili would have,” but sauces with flavors like roasted peppers, roasted garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes can take the meal “a notch higher”.

Buy vegetarian chili and add your own meat.

Ground beef cooking in a black skillet on the stove

You can add a variety of proteins to chili.AlexDonin/Shutterstock

If you want to control the protein in your chili, Kajale suggested buying a vegetarian option and cooking your meat of choice.

“Get a hot pan of oil, then brown your ground meat in the pan until the pan gets a lot of brown bits and bits of meat are stuck to it,” Kajale explained. “This phenomenon is called the ‘Maillard reaction’ and it is what will bring flavor to your chili.”

When you add chili, the chef said, the tomatoes deglaze the pan and absorb the flavor, resulting in a “richer” meal.

Read the original Insider article

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