Asking someone for a chili recipe is like asking someone what heaven looks like: endless variations, endless possibilities, and everyone believes that he or she is absolutely right. That’s why you have to know the sects of chili—what goes where and how and why. The borders are strict and the rules are many; luckily the results are always delicious.
Smoked Chili image and recipe from CHOW

1. Texas Chili

All meat, no beans, and for heaven’s SAKE, no tomatoes! This version from Everyday Southwest is traditional in that its signature red color comes from ground, dried chile pods that soak in water and fry in oil with the cubes of beef.
Photo and recipe from Everyday Southwest

2. Chili Con Carne

This chili recipe is one of the more relaxed ones. All that it has to have is some meat in it—usually ground beef, but any meat will work. This version uses both puréed and canned tomatoes, along with dried chile peppers and other aromatics. Beans would not be amiss in this Chow recipe, and don’t be scared to load it up with toppings—this is one dish where the more’s the merrier.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

3. White Chicken Chili

Red and brown hues, be gone from this alabaster potage. Chow includes bone-in, skin-on chicken parts, mild poblano chiles, and some crushed cannellini beans to thicken the chili. A final addition of shredded Monterey Jack cheese and a sprinkle of lime juice make this one of the more subtle versions of chili.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

4. Slow Cooker Chipotle Chicken Chili

For those days when you just want to come home from work to a home-cooked meal that you didn’t spend any time cooking. Chow’s recipe mixes chicken thighs, cannellini beans, and a slew of spices and vegetables in the slow cooker straight from the fridge. Five hours later, just pull the chicken apart into shreds, garnish with sour cream and cilantro, and serve.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

5. Rocky Mountain Chili

Ground beef and chicken don’t get the monopoly on chili. Michael Mina’s recipe uses lean ground elk, dark chocolate, beans, two kinds of paprika, and a ton of other spices and ingredients to create this complex, deeply flavored chili. Make it ahead of time to serve for a crowd, and garnish with sour cream and Fritos for a festive, fun touch.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

6. Cincinnati-Style Chili

Chili preconceptions have no place here—this is chili, Cincinnati style. Cincinnati chili is a ground beef and tomato version loaded with cinnamon, paprika, and other spices; it’s said to have originated with Greek immigrants. Now, it’s the stuff of legends, served on hot dogs or, more commonly, spaghetti!
Photo and recipe from Home with the Lost Italian

7. Hamburger or Hot Dog Chili

This stuff isn’t the main event; it’s a condiment, made to complement, not overwhelm, the other aspects of your hamburger or wiener. Serious Eats demystifies the steps of this loose, but not too thin, all-beef chili. Special tips include masa for thickening, butter for flavor, and using a whisk, not a spoon, to stir the mixture. All this needs is your grill and a hot Memorial Day picnic.
Photo and recipe from Serious Eats

8. Jerk Turkey Chili

Feel free to use any leftover holiday bird you have lying around for this Chow recipe—substitute chicken or duck just as easily. Just shred the leftover poultry, then put it into a flavorful, Jamaican-influenced bean and tomato broth spiked with allspice, bittersweet chocolate, and jalapeños.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

9. Seafood Chili

Tablespoon’s take on chili is not for purists, but it is for foodies. Fresh squid, mussels, and other shellfish swim in a coriander- and chipotle-scented broth. The flavors are reminiscent of chili but with a light, fresh kick that is something entirely new.
Photo and recipe from Tablespoon

10. Vegetarian Chili

Because everyone deserves some chili love. Chow’s recipe is ready to eat, start to finish, in about 30 minutes, and it’s loaded with kidney beans, bell peppers, zucchini, and onions. What it lacks in meat, it makes up in creamy toppings like sharp cheddar cheese and sour cream. This is so tasty that carnivores won’t miss the meat at all.
Photo and recipe from CHOW

11. Fruit Chili

Fruity chili? Yes, it’s a reality, and a delicious one at that. A Nut in a Nutshell’s Peachy Pepper Pot Chili doesn’t shy away from the sweet or the spicy. Canned peaches in syrup, ground beef, kidney beans, and both habanero and jalapeño peppers all sit in a spicy, savory stew underneath a blanket of bubbly melted cheese. Bring on the antacid!
Photo and recipe from A Nut in a Nutshell

Sarah Spigelman Richter is a New York City–based writer, blogger, and social media manager. She has developed recipes for Tabasco, blogs about her favorite restaurants and recipes at Fritos and Foie Gras, and can be found, most Friday nights, watching “Arrested Development” reruns.
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