What Is Authentic Chili con Carne?

This spicy sensation is sweeping the country! It's one of the most popular dishes in the U.S., but how much do you know about chili con carne?

During the cool fall and winter months, coming home to a satisfying bowl of chili con carne is the perfect warm-up. (The best-case scenario is slow cooker chilis like these.) It’s good super-spicy or with just a touch of heat, can be made with all kinds of meat, and the longer it sits in the refrigerator, the tastier it seems to get.

But wait a minute, how much do you know about the humble chili con carne? Here’s some trivia to share over an authentic Texas-style dinner tonight.

What does chili con carne mean?

Thanks to your high school Spanish, you probably know already! It’s translated directly as “chiles with meat,” which means the dish is exactly as promised. The recipe has had many different looks over the years, but when you make a traditional chili con carne, you know the main ingredients will likely be chili peppers and ground beef.

You can use almost any meat, though, including ground turkey or chicken, or game meats like bison or venison. The best part of chili con carne is the chance to create a recipe that’s all your own. Just make sure the meat is slow-cooked and combined with a rich chili pepper sauce. The kind of chili pepper is up to you.

(Here’s a look at the secrets behind our most popular chili recipe.)

The origin of chili con carne

The U.S. first learned about chili back in Wild West times. The Chili Appreciation Society International—of course that’s a thing!—says there are many somewhat conflicting ideas about the origin of chili. But the most popular story about this stew’s history is that it first appeared at Military Plaza in San Antonio. Throughout the mid-19th and early 20th century, a place called Chili Queens served a dish called chili con carne, which was made with meat and chili pepper. You can thank cowboys for spreading the chili throughout Texas and the rest of the United States. (Don’t miss our other cowboy-approved recipes.)

It quickly became a favorite in the average American household and is still going strong after 150 years. Served with a side of frijoles (aka beans), it’s a hearty meal that’s hard to resist.

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Our Heartiest Chili con Carne Recipes
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Charlotte Grainger
Charlotte Grainger is a creative feature writer, with a flair for food, health and lifestyle pieces. Her work has been seen in a number of national publications including Beyond Words Magazine, Reader's Digest and Psychologies. When she’s not typing away, you can find her trying out new recipes or binging Netflix shows— sometimes simultaneously.