The Acidic Ingredient You Need To Give Your Next Pot Of Chili A Zing

When talking about creating an epic chili recipe, much emphasis is put on spices, meats, and beans. But there are other aromatics that can work as a chili game changer. While everything else in a typical spicy stew recipe is about amplifying the heat and savoriness of the dish, there can be a lack of balance without a note of acidity. One such ingredient that can up the ante is probably already hiding in your pantry — vinegar.  

A splash of vinegar can brighten up your chili formula. There are many reasons why the acidic liquid can complement the basics in a spicy stew, working well with a tomato base, hearty beans, and umami-rich beef. As an added bonus, a little bit goes a long way, with only one tablespoon of vinegar transforming the flavor of an entire pot of chili. However, it's important that you make sure you're adding the correct tangy vinegar to your favorite recipe.

Which type of vinegar to use in chili

When pairing a touch of vinegar with the right chili recipe, consider what flavors are predominant in the dish. If the recipe is squash-forward, like a pumpkin chili or butternut squash variety, that earthy sweetness could benefit from a touch of vinegar. The same rule applies to tomato-rich versions, as sweet tomatoes need a bit of acidic vinegar to balance out their natural sugars.

On the other hand, lighter versions like apple cider or champagne vinegar, will work well with lighter chilis that use squash, chicken, or turkey in their base. As for the heavier, tomato, bean, and beef kinds, consider using a robust vinegar, like red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, as it can stand up to the stronger flavors. 

To incorporate it into your spicy stew, start by adding one tablespoon of vinegar per recipe and stir it in at the very end of the cooking process. Don't add it any sooner, as the heat will cook off the vinegar aromas. After a taste, you can add more vinegar if you desire, just be careful not to have it overwhelm all other flavors. No matter what, it'll bring a welcome acidic punch to the party.