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If you’ve ever attended a neighborhood chili cook-off, then you know there are as many chili recipes as there are cooks. But there’s also an essential starting point—an earthy, complex, well-balanced flavor to set the stage for your own special additions. You might be surprised to know that chili powder is actually a blend of herbs and spices. Ours begins with whole, ripe chili peppers, toasted and mixed with ingredients including cumin, oregano, garlic and salt. Chili is just one of its many uses. Add it to rubs for pork ribs and chicken wings. Stir it into ground beef with onions and garlic as a base for nachos, tacos or a fantastic burger. Then get creative. Shake in extra oregano, a touch of cumin or additional garlic powder. Use it to make whatever dish you love even better!
Q: If I don’t have chili powder on hand, what makes a good substitute?
A: With a few spice-cupboard staples, you can make your own chili powder.
Just mix equal parts oregano leaves, paprika, garlic powder and ground cumin. Throw in a dash of ground chipotle pepper, if you have it, to lend a smoky edge. Or add ground red pepper, also called cayenne, if you’d like a little heat. You can substitute this blend for chili powder in equal measure and tailor the flavor to suit your own taste.
Texans lay claim to the invention of chili powder, although there’s always someone willing to dispute the fact. But everyone agrees that using chili powder is a lot easier than choosing the right chili peppers to dry, toast and grind. Of course chili powder is more than chilies. Most often, it also includes cumin, oregano, garlic and salt.
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