This chili seasoning is a mix of different spices that is used to flavor homemade chili, as well as other Tex-Mex style recipes. Homemade spice blends are easy to make and taste so much better than the store bought versions!
When I was in college, I learned how to make chili with a package of ground meat, a can of beans and a packet of prepared seasoning. Those seasoning packets contain quite a bit of sodium, as well as other preservatives and ingredients you might not want in your dinner. My homemade chili seasoning takes just minutes to make, and adds loads of rich and complex flavor.
What spices do you put in chili?
I combine a number of different spices and seasonings to make the perfect chili. In addition to these spices, I use salt, pepper and sugar in my spice mix. The sugar does not make the chili taste sweet at all, it’s just a very small amount to counteract the acidity in all the tomato products that go into chili.
- Chili Powder: It is is a given that you would put chili powder in a chili seasoning! I use a mild chili powder so that I can adjust the heat level later depending on who I am serving. It is important to note that this recipe calls for American chili powder, which is a blend of mild chilies, cumin, garlic and other seasonings. In other countries, chili powder refers to straight hot pepper powder, and you would not want to use that in this recipe.
- Cumin: This is another classic ingredient in chili which adds a smoky, complex flavor.
- Smoked Paprika: In my opinion, smoked paprika is the way to go when it comes to chili. It has a much better flavor than sweet paprika, and can be located in the spice aisle of most grocery stores.
- Onion Powder: I add a bit of onion powder to round out the flavors in this spice blend, as onion is a large flavoring component of chili.
- Cocoa Powder: This is my secret ingredient! It does not make the chili taste sweet or like chocolate, it simply enhances the flavors of the tomatoes and spices, and adds a unique and complex flavor.
- Garlic Powder: You can’t have chili without garlic! I just use a small amount here as I figure many chili recipes also include fresh garlic.
How do you make chili seasoning?
Place all the ingredients in a small bowl and mix until well combined. Use the seasoning right away, or place it in an airtight container or jar and store in a cool dark place for later.
Tips for the perfect spice blend
- This chili seasoning will stay fresh for up to 6 months. I often make a double or triple batch so that I always have some on hand.
- You will want to use 2 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of meat in your chili recipe. This recipe makes approximately 1/2 cup of seasoning, so enough for 4 pounds of meat.
- I recommend using freshly ground black pepper for the best flavor.
- This seasoning mix contains some salt, so you may want to reduce the amount of salt that is called for in your recipe.
The basis of chili seasoning is chili powder, along with other flavors including garlic, onion, cumin, salt and pepper.
In this recipe, the secret spice is the cocoa powder. The cocoa does not make the chili taste like chocolate, it simply enhances the flavors of the meat, tomatoes and other spices in the dish.
These two types of seasonings have similar ingredients, but are not exactly the same. A chili spice blend has more chili powder, and a taco seasoning has more cumin.
Chili seasoning flavor variations
This spice mix is great as-is, but you can change up the ingredients to suit your tastes.
- Spicy: Add up to 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper or ground chipotle powder.
- Mexican Style: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground coriander and 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano.
- Sweet and Savory: Stir in 2 tablespoons of brown sugar.
You can never go wrong with homemade chili, and this seasoning blend will make it extra special!
More homemade spice blends to try
Chili Seasoning Video
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 4 teaspoons ground cumin
- 4 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir to combine.
- Use immediately or store in an airtight container in a cool dark place for up to 6 months. Use 2 tablespoons per pound of meat.
- This chili seasoning will stay fresh for up to 6 months when stored in a cool, dark place.
- I recommend using 2 tablespoons of seasoning per pound of meat in your chili. This recipe makes approximately 1/2 cup of seasoning, so enough for 4 pounds of meat.