I cooked chili using the following ingedients:

  • Oil for sauteing
  • 1.5 pounds beef, minced
  • 1 large white onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red bell peper, diced
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 14 oz can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 12 oz bottle of beer
  • 2 tsp sugar

  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne peper
  • 1 tsp red peper flakes
  • 2 tsp Tabasco
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp Worchestershire sauce

  • 1 can of cooked red kidney beans (drained and rinsed)

The method was, basically:

  • Saute onions and pepers for approx 5 minutes
  • Brown beef
  • Add tomato paste, and mix
  • Add can of tomatoes and mix
  • Add beer
  • Add sugar, salt and pepper
  • Boil for approx 20 min
  • Add remaining spices
  • Cover and simmer for 2.5 hours
  • 20 minutes before it's done, add the beens

Two problems:

  • A slight bitter aftertaste
  • Not enough kick

I think that the bitter aftertaste is from the cayenne pepper. I have read that cayenne pepper is quite neutral in taste (not bitter) and carries a lot of heat. Is this correct?

Then I tried this: Put a couple of spoonfuls of chili on a plate. Add 1/4 tsp (approx) of cayenne pepper and mix. Taste. Well, the heat increased, but not TERIBLY so (it was perfectly eatable). Also the bitter aftertaste became worse.

I also tried tasting a tip of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper, directly. Ok it was hot, but not unbearably so. Most of the heat was in my throat, not in my mouth (mostly as an aftertaste), and I did have that bitter aftertaste

Can something be wrong with my batch of cayenne peper? Or is this how cayenne peper realy tastes?

I could reduce the amount of cayenne in my recipe, but then I would need something to increase the heat.I could go with more tabasco (I tried this on a spoonful of chili) but this would, also, increase the acidity (tastes a bit sour) which is not terible, but not ideal either

Any sugestions?

  • 1
    By your own description, you have narrowed it down to the cayenne pepper. I personally have never had this experience with cayenne; for me it just seems to add a certain hotness to the foods it is in, without much other flavor of any sort. I can only infer you have a bad batch.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 7:23
  • Add red pepper. Lots of heat, little taste change, no bitterness. Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 10:08
  • 2
    The 'not enough kick' would definitely be from the cayenne -- 1/4 tsp on a 'couple of spoonfuls' should've had plenty of heat. How old was it, and how was it stored? It will loose heat over time, and I don't know if it's possible for it to pick up other flavors (or for other flavors that are normally masked to come through).
    – Joe
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 14:04

8 Answers 8


I've never known cayenne pepper to have any flavor, so if it is bitter you may have a bad batch, or the brand you are using may have put in additives that give it a bitter flavor. You may have other sources of bitterness:

  • beer: brewers add hops to beer to give it bitterness, and some beer is more bitter than others, it depends on which type you chose
  • Tomato paste: this can have a bitter taste if it is not fried off. If you add it directly to liquid it often adds bitterness to a dish
  • Kidney beans: I've always found that canned kidney beans have a bitter taste, even if rinsed

So there's other ways you could get bitter chili. I'd balance it out by adding some sugar or honey plus maybe a bit of lemon juice or tamarind paste.

  • Those other possible causes--plus local burning--are true, but the experiment with adding cayenne to a smaller sample was pretty telling.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 9:55
  • 3
    It does sound like the cayenne powder is the source, but it could be in addition to bitterness from other ingredients.
    – GdD
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 10:20
  • It isn't great, is it @nicoleeats? You've got to fry it to get rid of that aftertaste.
    – GdD
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 15:09
  • Thank you for your answers! I did fry the tomato paste (a bit) by adding it to the browned meat mixture and stirring vigorously for a minute or so over hot flame, before adding the braising liquids. I always do this when I cook with tomato paste. Also, I checked for taste before seasoning with the spice mixture, and there was definately no bitter taste there. Now that you mentioned it, I think the problem may be the beans: I did put a lot of beans in the pot, and if I remember correcty, when tasting for spices before putting the beans the was no bitterness (or at least a lot less)
    – spouky
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 16:23
  • Bitter Hops from the beer seems the most likely culprit here. Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 17:24

Different brands of cayenne pepper taste quite different. Some not so good.

I bought some Frontier Cayenne Pepper from Amazon. I was curious how hot that actually was, so I put some on a spoon and tasted it. Definitely hot (as in, I do not recommend repeating this experiment). Also had a nice pepper flavor.

Tried the same with my store brand that I had before. Was not hot (at least, not compared to the Frontier stuff!), and also tasted pretty bad. More like dirt. Spit that out, and deposited the rest in the trash.

  • That's what they have here in the bulk aisle at Carrs (Safeway). I concur, it has spoiled me for the other stuff.
    – Jolenealaska
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 2:41

Your bell peppers may be the answer to bitterness. They contribute bitterness when picked too early (often in store-bought items), when cooked at too high a temperature and for too long, and when the white rind inside between the compartments (it's called the placenta of all things), is not removed. The latter is quite bitter. Yellow are slightly more bitter than red, and green is most bitter of the three.


The cumin! Cumin can leave a horrible aftertaste. I avoid it in my chili for this very reason. It's like a skunky, lingering unpleasantness. I don't think it's the pepper or the tomato, you would have smelled the tomato if it had been sour.

  • This is a person-to-person thing. Some people abhor cumin for its musk and others will have no idea what you are talking about. I used to date a girl who got only "body odor" notes from cumin some days. Other days she liked it and it was fine. Funny how noses work.
    – Preston
    Commented Feb 12, 2015 at 13:19

If you used a beer with a high IBU (International Bittering Units), such as an IPA, the bitterness will concentrate as liquid in the beer evaporates. Using such beers in a reduction sauce is also frowned upon for the same reason.

I recommend using a dunkel or bock beer with chili...lower IBUs, and higher malt...leave out the added sugar.

  • To be fair, there's a lot of other liquid - the bitterness of one bottle of beer is spread across the entire volume of chili (probably a lot more than 12 oz) so it takes a fairly bitter beer to taste through all the chili flavor.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 4:19
  • My experience is making beer bread, but I found that using a pretty bitter beer was the only way to actually get any beer flavor into my finished product. Beers that were less hoppy and more malty just made the end result taste "better", but not identifiable as beer.
    – SourDoh
    Commented Nov 1, 2013 at 15:32

I've heard that the acidity in tomatoes can make a chili sour and that a common trick to make soups and stews less sour is to put in a little baking soda. Just make sure you cook it a little while longer to get rid of any reaction (if it bubbles) and clear out the flavor.


I had this problem in a pretty big way after riffing on Cook's Illustrated's Taxs chili recipe. There was a very pronounced bitterness, which I am certain came from the roasted dried chiles.

I found a wonderful video by Barb Stuckey, author of "Taste: What You're Missing," where she explains how the bitterness can be balanced out with other flavors (especially sweet, sour, or salt.)

The ingredients you can use are only limited to your imagination once you understand the principles, but some of the better additives I found that will mask/complement the bitterness are:

  • Fresh or no-salt canned tomatoes
  • Lime juice
  • Chocolate
  • Corn
  • Brown or regular sugar
  • More salt
  • Maple Syrup

Try adding a ltitle more cumin. Not much. A dash at a time will take away the aftertaste. Be very careful not to over do it!!!

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