The Downside Of Using Fresh Tomatoes In Homemade Chili

What's more delicious than a deep, steaming bowl of chili? A classic American dish that's a favorite at family dinners, potlucks, tailgates, and, of course, cookoffs, chili is said to have been made popular in 19th-century Texas, per What's Cooking America.

Though chili today comes in all sorts of varieties, from vegan three-bean to smoky chicken to hearty turkey, this early Texan chili was most likely a more streamlined type of chili con carne: A simple stew of beef in a glossy sauce made from puréed dried chilis. Free of beans and other extraneous ingredients, chili con carne typically includes little more than cubes of beef chuck, flavorful dried spices, some broth, and, of course, chilis (via Food Schmooze) — a far cry from today's loaded, ingredient-packed versions.

If your tastes, however, run to the more modern side of things, you might enjoy packing your homemade chilis with all manner of fresh ingredients, from butternut squash (via Cookie and Kate) to escarole (via Bon Appétit). But if you're thinking of reaching for some ripe, fresh tomatoes to add to your favorite chili, you may want to think again.

Fresh tomatoes can add too much liquid to chili

Chilis have evolved a long way past their simple Mexican roots of chunks of meat stewed with chilis and spices (via National Chili Day), these days including all manner of fresh produce, too. But even though the great majority of chili recipes call for tomatoes, you're going to want to stick to written recipes' instructions for canned tomatoes, and not be tempted to sub in fresh ones — no matter how ripe and sweet.

According to MasterClass, fresh tomatoes can bring flavor and color to chili — but also a lot of moisture. As they cook, they'll release that moisture into your chili, causing it to become too thin and diluting its flavor. When it comes to chili-making, it's best to stick with canned tomatoes, which contain less water than their fresh counterparts (via Kitsune Restaurant): They'll bring their color, sweetness, and acidity to your chili without water-logging it.