So I am making some chili for a work contest, and I decided to use a new recipe/approach for some reason. It was largely based on the food lab's chili.


Here is what I did... edit: To be clear, I did not follow the serious eats recipe. I just used elements of it and then used the steps that I have listed below.

  • reconstitute some dried chilis in chicken broth (and a fresh jalapeno). Blend this later to make part of the liquid base
  • brown some beef chuck in a dutch oven
  • Add some chopped yellow onion and some garlic that I grated on a microplane
  • add tomato paste, continue to brown for a bit
  • add chili broth, more chicken broth, oregano, salt, pepper, some cumin, and a single square of bitter chocolate
  • stew for several hours before adding some beans

The results are really just now coming together, and it honestly tastes a lot like a beef curry. That's not a bad taste by any means, but I'm wondering if it is the best thing to submit to a chili cookoff. Do you guys think there is anything that I can do to bring it slightly back to a more typical chili taste?

5 Answers 5


Cumin is a spice used in both southwestern and indian cooking, that would be the tie-in for me. It's quite possible that the cumin is coming out stronger than the other flavorings. My advice is not to worry about it - leave it alone and let it simmer, the other spices will come through later. Refrigerate it overnight and it will likely be much better.

What I wouldn't do it start throwing loads of extra stuff into it, if it tastes good leave it alone - it's your take on chili, there's no right or wrong answer.


Normally I'd post this as a comment, rather than an answer, but it's getting a bit long. The problem is, this is conjecture.

I'm guessing it's the cloves, coriander, and/or anise that might be throwing off the flavors towards Indian. You have a few options : (1) make it so so spicy that no one wants to actually eat large amounts of it, (2) smother the flavor with something else. Unfortunately, chili is so strongly flavored, this can be difficult, or (3) try to meld the flavors more.

Letting the chili sit overnight will help with #3, but you can also add more alcohol and let it cook down. Instead of going with a neutral alcohol like the recipe calls for, I'd add beer or hard cider. For more of #2, I'd also be inclined to add more tomato paste ... it might help to smother some of the stronger flavors.

You might also have to serve it with cheese & sour cream.

Unfotunately from experience, the one time I really screwed up a batch of chili, I tried all sorts of things, and the only way to save it was to eat it lukewarm (which kept you from noticing all of the flavors), but with lots of hot sauce (which kept you from noticing it was lukewarm, and covered up the flavor).

  • 1
    Thanks for the response! I actually just used that food lab recipe as a starting point. The approximate recipe that I used is actually laid out in my post, and it did not include cloves, anise, or alcohol. I do plan on letting it sit overnight, though. I'll check it out tomorrow and consider adding some kind of tomato product.
    – neelshiv
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 0:37

I'm years late with this answer… but to point it squarely at "Mexico" rather than "India" add chipotle [or at a push smoked paprika], masa harina and make sure you use real Mexican not European oregano. The two plants are not even closely related. You can add Mexican on top of European late in a dish & it will subtly change the profile.

There is absolutely no element of smokey chilli & masa harina that could vaguely be mis-interpreted as "Indian".


When you use a recipe that describes Rajma Masala with added pieces of beef and fish more than a conventional chili... from an author that tends to defy conventional wisodm with recipes that are innovative and great at the price of the recipe being idiosyncratic, fragile, and unforgiving of errors, you might end up with Rajma Masala with added pieces of beef and fish. The whole spices in his picture are half a garam masala - toasted like you would in Indian cooking, to boot.

And then:

"Add chile puree and cook, stirring frequently and scraping bottom of pot until chile mixture begins to fry and leaves a coating on bottom of pan"

The "chile puree" is a recipe step that has spices and tomato paste in it. And is added on top of thoroughly cooked onions and ... fried. Frying tomato paste off is not unheard of, but in that context ... a masala waiting to happen.

  • Postscript: forgot to mark my opinion on KLA's recipes as subjective and personal - it is. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 11:20
  • Is the phrasing you've chosen really necessary? Why use "dead cow" twice instead of simply saying "beef"...
    – Catija
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 19:52
  • 3
    A whole live cow won't fit most cookware, and putting it in there would luckily be against animal cruelty laws. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 20:55

Add a cup of cold espresso or strong coffee. Honestly. It will give you that seared (minced) meat taste that this recipe chose to forego for the fluffy dutch oven preparation. It will not change the other spice tones, but the general impression and taste. I understand you might be worried. Try it with a bit first. You will like it!

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