Chili can be a divisive dish, with debate raging over whether beans or tomatoes have a place in the pot, and whether whole dried chiles or chili powder is the more proper seasoning. No matter where Chowhounds fall in their chili preferences, they've got some nifty tricks for adding depth to chili's flavor.
Using fine cornmeal to thicken chili is somewhat common, but even better is using masa harina, the flour used for corn tortillas. The first time pine time used it, "it was a revelation!" she says. It's a method that DavidA06488 also uses: "The masa harina slurry during the last 20-30 minutes not only thickens the chili, but rounds out the flavor of it." If you don't keep masa harina on hand, toasted corn tortillas or finely ground tortilla chips can be used to the same effect.
Some hounds add chocolate to their chili, in the form of either unsweetened cocoa powder or a high-cocoa-percentage chocolate. It doesn't make chili taste of chocolate, but it does add "just a little 'something,'" eamcd says. gbque uses "a high quality 60% or above dark chocolate," and says, "I also like that it adds a bit of a silky mouth coating texture."
You can improve the flavor of chili by using alcohol as part of the cooking liquid as well. Beer is a popular addition. coll's beer of choice for preparing chili is Negra Modelo. "I always cook with dark beer and this is not only Mexican and dark, but cheap (ish) too," coll says. rob133 says, "I only buy Newcastle Brown for one reason - cook chili with it." paulj agrees that a brown ale "is probably a good choice for this role," with "enough of the complexity of the dark ales, but not heavily hopped." And coll complements the beer in her chili with a shot of tequila.