We have a 3 year old toddler who is not a fan of spicy foods. She doesn't like heat of any type, and doesn't like strong flavors. How can we season a turkey chili to keep her happy, and still make it tasty for adults?

2 Answers 2


You have four immediate options as I see it:

  1. Lightly season the chili, remove a portion for your child, then season the rest to your liking
  2. Lightly season the chili, then serve it with additional accompaniments to adjust it to your liking (eg, hot sauces)
  3. Season the chili to your liking, but serve it with something to help cut the flavor for the child (cheese, sour cream, mix in crumbled cornbread, rice, extra beans, honey or sugar)
  4. A blend of 2 & 3.

I generally go with either #2 or #4 if I'm cooking for a large crowd.

... the long term solution is to try to slowly adjust the flavoring of the chili until the child's more accepting of the flavor. But remember, everyone has different tastes, and our taste buds change over time ... the child might be more sensitive to bitter or spicy foods right now, but could learn to enjoy them in the future. (I personally now love spicy foods, when I didn't as a kid ... but I still hate bitter)

You might try making a few varients, and see if there might be a specific taste that your child objects to, so that you can adjust. I assume you have the 'you must try at least one bite' rule, and don't accept the 'I don't like (whatever)' temper-trantrums.

  • 1
    My mum did 1. when we were kids. She added the spices that are for flavor rather than heat then divided 1/3 off for the children and made the rest spicy. We then as we got older mixed the two to make a medium one until we all wanted the hot.
    – vwiggins
    Jan 25, 2013 at 14:32

Chili flavor doesn't necessarily mean heat, there are varieties that are mild but won't add heat. What is sold as chili powder in most places is medium heat variety, but you can use any ground chili. Paprika is a chili powder, as are ground chillis of any variety such as ancho, chipotle, tabasco, hungarian wax pepper, etc. So you can make chili with whatever one you like. You can also add chilis whole and then pull them out without breaking the skin, which gives you the flavor without the heat

I have a 3 1/2 year old as well, same problem. But he loves chili! I use a small amount of paprika or another mild chili and add other flavor layers like lots of cumin and my secret ingredient which is a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder. These make for a flavorful chili without the heat.

  • 1
    +1 For cocoa powder in chili. A little cinnamon is also very interesting. I use 4-5 different varieties of whole dried peppers in my chili. It is very complexly flavored but isn't spicy at all and I have to throw in some canned chipotles to bump up the spice a little for myself. Jan 25, 2013 at 16:54
  • Chocolate Chips as a topping help a bit too. How I miss Chili My Soul... Jan 25, 2013 at 18:59

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