Root Beer Is The Secret Weapon For Better Chili

The real reason root beer was invented wasn't to make root beer floats, although, those frosty ice cream drinks are a nice side benefit from a drink that burgeoned out of colonial settlers' ingenuity to try and make beer sans the hops. While it didn't quite work out as a true beer, over the years, this drink's place in the bevy of beverages consumers can choose from has evolved. Root beer has earned a rightful spot in ice coolers full of soda for backyard celebrations, but surprisingly, it also has a place in your favorite pot of chili. This seemingly unconventional addition may be the secret weapon for making this tailgating staple good for kids and adults. 

Root beer adds both a mild sweetness and a snap of spicy, herbal notes to chili that the culinary curious will find titillating to the taste buds. This carbonated drink contains flavors derived from sassafras root, licorice, wintergreen, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, molasses, and sugar — all flavors that can easily complement a bowl of red. The sweetness of this soda is not overpowering and helps tame some of the heat that comes with a good chili recipe. Simply, swap out some of your tomato juices for root beer or use it in place of whatever beer you would normally add.

Keep the balance

An important thing to remember when pouring your root beer into your chili is you want to add it slowly. This is because of all those bubbles. They will fizzle and sizzle when they hit a hot pot. As the root beer cooks with all of your ingredients, its flavor is going to become more concentrated, and it will also help tenderize the meat you are using for this hearty creation. 

Be careful about being heavy-handed when you pour. Root beer, by its nature, is sweet, so it may take some trial and error to discover just how much of it you want to add. Some recipes call for a single can while others suggest using more. Just remember, chili is about balance. You want to make certain the sweet, the savory, and the heat are all aligned. If one is out of sync, it throws the whole pot off. So, if you find your chili is teetering towards too sweet, reach for a little squeeze of lemon or a splash of vinegar to smooth it out. Try this root beer trick the next time you make Texas red chili or live on the wild side and give your classic Cincinnati chili a new take.