Food: Texas chili leaves out this one popular ingredient

Cincinnati chili is really just Greek bolognese

Cincinnati chili is really just Greek bolognese Sitting at a booth last month at Santorini’s, a Greek restaurant on the west side of Cincinnati, I was about to order a dish I’d read about in our local city magazine—the sweet, doughy gyro pizza topped with lamb, red onions, feta and tzatziki sauce—when my eyes wandered across the menu to find something even more intriguing: “Greek-style chili.” © Graphic: Libby McGuireAt first, it threw me for a loop. After all, I’ve never noticed a large Greek contingent at any chili cook-offs I can think of. But it only took a second for it to all makes sense.

For most Americans, chili means a big bowl of ground beef in a rich, tomato-based sauce with beans, chunks of tomato and a variety of optional toppings, including sour cream, shredded cheese, pickled jalapeños and diced onions. But should you find yourself in Texas with a hankering for some chili, be prepared to be served something that’s quite different than what you’re expecting.

a pizza sitting on top of a wooden table: Texas Chili © istockphoto.com Texas Chili

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Texas is a big place, and there are plenty of different types of chili to be found there. (It’s actually the state dish.) But no matter where you go, there’s one constant when it comes to chili: no beans. In Texas, the chili (just like a lot of the best Texan recipes) is all about the beef, and beans are considered lowly filler.

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In fact, the most traditional variation on Texas chili more closely resembles beef stew than your usual chili. The word “chili” is shorthand for “chili con carne,” which basically translates to “chiles with meat,” and that’s exactly what this is. According to the Houston Press, it can trace its origins to Canary Islanders who moved to San Antonio in the 1700s and made a simple stew of beef, local chile peppers, onions and a cumin, cinnamon and paprika-heavy spice blend that resembled Moroccan Berber seasoning.

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The traditional Texas “bowl of red” hasn’t changed much since then. Chunks of stew beef are slow-cooked in a rich and spicy sauce made from a variety of whole dried chiles, beef broth and some aromatics like onion and garlic. Add to that spices including cumin, cayenne and allspice and some masa harina, which acts as a thickener. There’s no tomatoes or beans in sight. It’s a Southern dish that the rest of the country really needs to try, and it’s just one of many regional American chili styles that you really should know about.

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Newsweek has cooked up recipes from some of the most well-known chefs and foodie influencers today. © iStock Stock image: Chili, while considered a Mexican dish, is thought to have originated in Texas. Where Did Chili Originate?The consensus is that chili was created in southern Texas rather than Mexico. According to What's Cooking America, a translation of Diccionario de Mejicanismos, published in 1959, describes Chili as "detestable food" that passes itself off as Mexican.

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