5 Unusual Ingredients for Chili

I had grand plans to share a next-level chili recipe today.  I’ve been plotting, scheming and experimenting and was sure I’d have an awesome chili recipe to share.  I even spent 2 days cooking it.

But it’s not good enough.  It’s good but it’s not what I was aiming for.  Instead of giving you a recipe for something I’m not head-over-heals in love with, I thought I’d share a few ingredient ideas that I stumbled upon when researching chili.  And I might-as-well share a photo of our attempt on the weekend while we’re at it!

unusual ingredients for chili

These ideas aren’t bizarre; just lesser-used.  You can add any (but not all) of the following to most chili recipes for good results.

5 Unusual Ingredients for Chili

  1. Stock.  Lots of Stock
    Stock, in and of itself, isn’t that unusual an ingredient for chili.  But most people use it sparingly.  Similar to a bolognese you can mix equal parts tomato sauce and stock and slowly reduce to make a thick, extra-flavored base for your chili.
  2. Honey or Maple Syrup
    Adding a bit of sweetness to balance the acidity of all those tomatoes often makes them more enjoyable.  Replace white sugar with a touch of either of these ingredients for a pleasant change.
  3. Booze
    Bourbon or whiskey are my favorite boozes to add to chili.  Add them right at the end for best results.
  4. Chocolate
    Finely grate chocolate a few minutes before serving.  It adds a richness/ depth to your chili!
  5. Cheese Rinds
    We grate Parmesan with our dinner regularly.  When the cheese is gone we freeze the rind.  The rind can be added to a chili as it cooks.  It won’t melt down but it will add lots of flavor.

What’s your favorite addition to chili?


  1. I just made another batch of chili yesterday & the first complaint I had was that it was too sweet (my heavy maple syrup hand maybe). Diluted it with stock & added more red pepper flakes but it still didn’t match my expectations, though it’s getting consumed very fast! From a texture basis I found that the ground meat that I used broke down too easily (I like to have chunky meat). Sometimes also, especially with a recipe that uses chili or curry powder, it’s the spice mix that can seriously affect the final taste.

  2. I love a little bit of molasses in my chili.

    If I add chocolate, it’s always unsweetened cocoa powder – that plus a spoonful of instant coffee is a nice combination.

    My most unusual chili addition is a can of pumpkin puree – it doesn’t affect the flavor much but adds such a lot of richness / creaminess to the finished product.

  3. I always use blackstrap molasses in my chili too!

    We also do a very fine dice of sweet potatoes, carrots or butternut squash, which helps with the sweetness.