Add A Touch Of Sweetness To Chili With Fresh Orange Juice

When it comes to subzero game day tailgates or long days of snowball fights and skiing, nothing is better than a bowl of chili to warm you up. This hearty dish's origin, while a little murky, is filled with cowboy lore and eating a bowl cooked on a open fire out on the range. But today, who invented this recipe is less contested than what goes into it. Meats, beans, vegetables, and spices are among the ingredients chili lovers use when making a pot of this favorite food. However, there are plenty of chili purists out there who would argue beans do not belong in a traditional bowl, including the International Chili Society (ICS). 

The ICS defines traditional chili as being free of "fillers." This means no rice, pasta or non-vegetables. Instead, to be a classic red chili, the society says you can only use meats, red chili, spices and "other ingredients." Those other ingredients can include flavor enhancers like beer, chocolate, peanut butter, vegemite, molasses, and the list goes. These additions can help bring out the spicy elements of your chili or temper that heat with something a little sweet. One such ingredient is the much beloved breakfast juice: orange juice.  

It flavors and tenderizes

Orange juice, whether it is freshly squeezed or from concentrate, can not only improve the taste of a cheap cup of coffee, but also add a tangy and sweet flavor to your next bowl of red. Orange juice, by its very nature of being a citrus fruit, contains acidic tastes that can help balance flavors. OJ's complexity can both complement and cut the spicy kick of chili while adding a subtle orange sweetness that doesn't overpower the other elements of your recipe. But that's not the only virtue of OJ that is worth mentioning when it comes to chili.

Of course OJ is sweet and delicious but it is also a great meat tenderizer. When you are making chili, you generally use tougher pieces of meat that can benefit from the signature low and slow cook a great pot of chili requires. A cup of orange juice can definitely assist with this process. Of course, you want to be careful not to add too much of this juice to your chili because the very properties that make it a great tenderizer can also tough meat.