Chili, that comforting dish that we turn to each fall and winter, is a classic for busy weeknights and lazy weekends. Each family has their way of making it, with little tips and tricks for perfecting the recipe that have been passed down from cook to cook. Here, we collected treasured chili-making secrets, gathered from our team of food editors. Each guarantees you'll scratch the most flavor out of your chili whether you make it weekly or once in a blue moon.
Credit: Photo: Jessica Colyer

A recipe for homemade chili says a lot about your palate's preferences. Do you like creamy white chili with a hint of jalapeño kick? Or are you looking for deep, dark flavors of cocoa powder, adobo, and smoked paprika? No matter the type or style of chili you're whipping together, these four tips from our food editors can help you guarantee a bowl of chili so good you'll want to savor every bite.

1. Cook Your Spices

Most chilis begin with sautéeing onions and garlic in a bit of oil. To get the most flavor out of your spices, like cumin or chili powder, add it to the oil while you're cooking the onions. This will toast the spices, bring the most out of their natural flavors and oils. 

2. Cinnamon Is Your Friend

While it may not be the first spice you lean towards when gathering chili ingredients, a dash of cinnamon can make a big difference. Adding a robust flavor and hint of earthiness, only a pinch is needed to make a difference in your final product.

3. Customize Your Chile Powder

Jarred chile powder is the spice equivalent of mystery meat. Who knows what's in that red powder? Instead of buying another jar, take your chili's flavor profile into your hands by hand-picking the chiles before blending. Hispanic markets typically have a large section dedicated solely to dried chiles. Mix-and-match which ones you use based on how spicy, smoky, or earthy you want your chile powder to be. The key to choosing a good dried chile is to make sure it's still pliable. In other words, it shouldn't crack when you fold them. If they do crack, then they're too dried out, which will result in flavorless powder. For chile powder that's fresher and cheaper than store-bought, use our guide to making your own homemade chile powder.

4. Make a Creamy Base

If you're a fan of white chili, then this simple trick will result in hearty, creamy chili every time. Start by cooking peppers, onions, and garlic in oil. Blend the vegetables with a drained can of white beans (such as cannellini beans) and a splash of vegetable broth to create a thick, rich base. This will prevent the chili from turning out soupy, and add flavor throughout the entire dish.

You can use each of these tricks whether you're making one of our best chili recipes or just looking to add some oomph to your own favorite style.