While January brings winter’s perpetual gloom, it also brings two essential American traditions: the Super Bowl and chili. American Football is so American that only American teams play in the world championships and an American team, obviously, always wins. Originally from Texas in the late 1900s, chili is so American that Americans fight to claim their region’s version as the best ever.  The combination brings us an adrenaline, beer, bean, and melted cheese fueled extravaganza that the whole family can enjoy. I even have friends who never watch sports, but will fight their managers or call out sick to make sure they can enjoy the Super Bowl and its food offerings.

The best part about chili or chili con carne is that it comes in all shapes and sizes—even sin carne (without meat). Essentially, it is just a spicy stew made of meat, fat, chili peppers, and salt. So, even the tomatoes and beans are optional and you can always make substitutions. This is what makes it such a great dish. Between my recent issues with acid reflux, my sister’s gluten intolerance, as well as the increasing number of people who are paleo, vegan, vegetarian or can’t do dairy, we are entering a world where making American classics requires flexibility. So, if you are living in this brave new world with me, I have decided to put together a list of mouth-watering chilis that keep your taste buds salivating regardless of your diet.

Paleo Chili

Bakerita

Can you keep a secret? This bean-free, non-dairy, and Whole 30 approved recipe is how you honor your New Year’s resolution to get summer abs while indulging in bacon and Italian sausage. This recipe is so good, people have won chili contests. So, you can deny yourself while feeling free to treat yourself. Get the recipe.

Crock Pot Paleo Sweet Potato Chipotle Chili

Cotter Crunch

Given my general holiday weight gain, one good paleo recipe deserves another. Sweet potatoes and chipotle flavor this hearty, juicy, sweet meat chili. The best part of the recipe is that it is basically only five steps before you garnish and it is done in a Crock Pot. You can cook the perfect meal while making sure the rest of your life is perfect. Get the recipe.

Killer Vegan Chili

Eat Healthy Eat Happy

This vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free recipe had me at avocado instead of vegan cheese, but it didn’t stop there. When I was vegan, I struggled to find satisfying proteins. While veganism is not for me, adding nuts and nut butter to dishes always made my tummy happy and hit tastebud home runs. This recipe cracks this same code by adding walnuts, quinoa, and black beans to get that full range of protein and healthy fat. Get the recipe.

Now that we have been good, why should all the healthy people have all the fun? Let’s move on to some exotic chilis.

Peruvian Chicken Chili with Peanuts

Chicken Satay is a major thing, so this chicken and peanut chili is as well.  Paired with allspice and jalapeño with milk and Parmesan to cut the heat, this chili will take your mouth around the world and back. Get our Peruvian Chicken Chili with Peanuts recipe.

Buffalo Chicken Chili

Slow Cooker Gourmet

All white bean chilis are significant, but this comfort food combo is a brilliant ode to Super Bowl Sunday. It brings together buffalo sauce for spice and ranch dressing to cut the heat in a chicken broth with sweet corn and white beans. Did I mention the suggested blue cheese topping? Clearly, adding blue cheese is never really a suggestion. So, let’s just refer to that as mandatory. Get the recipe.

Pork Chili Verde

Favorite Family Recipes

The addition of white beans dares to blur the lines between chilis, but a single look at the spicy green stew and you know this is a toasty green chili.Tender pork is cooked with cumin, chicken stock, cilantro, and oregano to a dish that begs for some sour cream and/or tart cheese. My vote is with Manchego or Parmesan as the cheese. Get the recipe.

Chili Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Belly Full

Together, two distinct foods can be terrible, but here they are downright indulgent. Winter is a dark time, so you need your comfort food. Just think, ground beef, garlic, macaroni, and cheddar cheese. Taking the first bite will require a moment of silence or a moment for moaning. To heighten flavor, replace the store marinara with a homemade marinara and, for the love of good cheese, buy some fresh English or Irish cheddar instead of something grated and processed. Trust me. Get the recipe.

Beer and Steam Chili

Sugar Spun Run

Steak is a denser, juicier cut of meat than most people have experienced in chili. This jalapeño and Anaheim peppered chili is coupled with dark notes of cocoa, molasses, and—of course—a nice thick beer. Opt for a milk stout or nut brown ale, but feel free to trust your taste buds. Get the recipe.

Slow Cooker Kielbasa and Barbecue Beans

Mom on TImeout

Tired of traditional chili flavors? Break out! After a thorough review, the recipe is still a stew of meat, fat, chili, and salt, so I welcome it to the fold.  The addition of bacon and kielbasa is genius because…bacon and kielbasa. Then, the stewed molasses, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard will make your mouth recall that last great summer BBQ. This chili is basically “winter therapy,” so sign me up. Get the recipe.

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Mijon is a writer, actor, and singer doing it all in the greatest city on earth. If not at Chowhound, he is busy copy writing for The Food Residency—a branding and content creation consultancy. Outside of the food space, Mijon loves to practice yoga, perform improv comedy, belt musical theatre songs, watch trashy television, and pound volleyballs for hours at a time. Basically, he tries to live his best life.
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