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The Best Spices for Chili

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If you love a delicious, warming bowl of chili, you need to know how to add lots of flavor to it. It's easy to do with some spices and spice blends.

You can make your own spice blends or purchase them pre-made. Here are some of the best spices for chili, including unusual flavors you may not have considered before.

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A closeup shot of a bowl of turkey chili, topped with jalapeno and avocado.

The Best Single Spices for Chili

These spices can be layered on top of each other or used on their own. Many of these are basic pantry spices you may already have in your spice cabinet, but a few are more unusual. All are excellent additions to a big pot of chili!

  • Kosher Salt - salt makes food taste more like itself. It doesn't impart a separate flavor, but rather enhances food and brings out the best flavor. It's an essential component of any great recipe. You can use sea salt or regular table salt as well (check out our post on types of salt for more ideas).
  • Red Pepper Flakes - Add a little heat to your chili with some crushed red chile flakes - they'll only add a moderate amount of heat, so if you want something spicier add cayenne or chili powder.
  • Hot Chili Powder - This spice is made from a blend of dried chile peppers - it adds both heat and flavor. If you want a sweeter, medium spice powder, use something like ancho chile powder.
  • Smoked Paprika - Paprika is made from ground sweet pepper pods, and while it has a deeper flavor, it's not spicy. It's great in hearty chilis. You can use sweet paprika as well, but I always think smoked paprika makes the best chili!
  • Black Pepper - ground black pepper adds a sharp, lightly biting flavor that's not spicy but has a little kick. Perfect for chili.
  • Garlic Powder - granulated or powdered garlic is a classic addition to any type of chili. Feel free to add fresh garlic as well!
  • Onion Powder - granulated or powdered onion adds a rich allium flavor to chili that's essential.
  • Cumin - Cumin has a deep, warm flavor with a hint of heat. It's a wonderful addition to a flavorful chili.
  • Cayenne Pepper - Cayenne pepper is a spicier chili powder that adds some heat to chili. Cayenne is perfect for you if like like a spicier heat level to your chili.
  • Mexican Oregano - unlike the more common Mediterranean oregano, Mexican oregano has a bolder flavor and stands up better in spicy dishes.
  • Cocoa Powder - This is an excellent secret ingredient to add to chili! It may seem unusual, but chili peppers and chocolate have long been a standard flavor combo in Mexico and South America. It adds an excellent richness to chili.
  • Fenugreek - This one is slightly more unusual, but it adds a fun nutty and sweet flavor. It's common in Middle Eastern cuisine.
  • Turmeric Powder - Another not absolutely essential spice, but turmeric is a popular ingredient in soups and curries across Asia and it adds a delicious mustard, ginger flavor to chili.
  • Sichuan Peppercorns - This unusual pepper adds a little spice that feels like buzzing on your tongue. Sichuan (or Szechuan) peppercorns are an aromatic spice from the Sichuan region of China. They have a lemony flavor.

Homemade Spice Blends for Chili

You can make your own delicious spice blends to use in chili. These are some of our favorite homemade spice mixes.

  • Homemade Chili Seasoning Mix - a rich and flavorful blend of spices, perfect for homemade chili. This homemade chili seasoning recipe is equivalent to one store-bought chili seasoning packet.
  • Homemade Taco Seasoning - an easy to make blend that is very similar to chili seasoning packets.
  • Ras el Hanout Spice - a deeply flavorful Middle Eastern seasoning that's the perfect blend of cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, and more.
  • Fajita Seasoning - a zesty, Mexican-style blend that includes chili, cumin, paprika, and more.
  • Baharat - a peppery Middle Eastern spice blend with pepper, nutmeg, paprika, and more.
  • Italian Seasoning Blend - a delightful mix of herbs that's a great accompaniment to a chili seasoning mix or store-bought packet of chili seasoning.

All of these blends can be stored for up to three months in an airtight container. I recommend storing them in a cool, dry place.

A bowl of black bean chili with lime and chopped parsley.

Where to Purchase Spice Blends for Chili

These spice blends are ready to go and will add great flavor to your chili recipes.

  • Chili Con Carne Blend - this earthy chili blend includes both chili powder and vegetable powders.
  • Classic Cajun Seasoning - this delightful blend includes salt, paprika, celery, garlic, and onion for delicious flavor.
  • Maharajah Curry - this blend combines saffron, cardamom, ginger, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, coriander, and more for an aromatic and flavorful punch.

Our Favorite Chili Recipes

Whip up a great batch of chili with one of our delicious recipes.

Tell us your favorite spices for chili in the comments below.