The Secret Ingredient Your Chili Is Missing

If you've never had good chili before, it might be because you're missing a key ingredient. No, not the beans, the chili powder, or any special herbs and spices, but rather something a little more unexpected — oatmeal. According to PopSugar, oatmeal isn't just for breakfast, and it happens to complement the flavors and textures of chili exceptionally well. 

Think of it like adding breadcrumbs to meatballs. During the cooking process, the breadcrumbs soak up the juices from the meat and make the overall texture much more tender (via BBC Good Food). When oatmeal is added to chili, it produces a similar effect. As PopSugar explains, the oats absorb the liquid as the chili cooks, trapping the flavors in the grain. Because you're using oatmeal, and not flour or cornmeal, the resulting chili is hearty without being too thick or gravy-like, and every spoonful of chili will have a concentrated flavor in every bite.

How much oatmeal should you add to chili?

When you add liquid to oats, not only does the oatmeal soak it up, it also expands. That's great if you want to make your chili stretch, but you also don't want to be eating to much oatmeal. Registered dietitian Adena Neglia tells PopSugar that the amount of oatmeal and time you add it will depend on the type you're using. Quick oats should be added at the same time as the other ingredients, while steel cut oats should be added before. As for the amount, 50 to 100 grams of oats per six servings is a good benchmark. 

If you want to get specific, 24th Street Cafe's chili, which yields six to seven servings, calls for one cup of oatmeal, which is 80 grams (via Food Network). However, if you're not using a recipe that already calls for oatmeal, PopSugar points out you may have to add extra water. Just remember, a little goes a long way when adding oatmeal to chili.