Root Beer Can Majorly Upgrade Your Chili

Whenever fall season hits full swing, menus in restaurants and home kitchens across the nation start transforming. With the transition from summer to autumn comes a shift in culinary mindsets; refreshing summer meals like ceviche and cookout classics like burgers and bratwursts take a back seat in exchange for hearty soups and holiday spreads. Among the many ways to warm up on a cold winter night, brewing a heaping pot of chili is one of the best methods.

Named the official dish of the state of Texas (via Where Texas Became Texas), chili is a bonafide southern classic. Whether you take your chili spicy or mild, there are endless ways to enjoy the robust stew. For those who honor the dish's Texas traditions, a beanless beef chili is the way to go (per Southern Living). Vegetarians, on the other hand, might prepare their chili with heaps of legumes and vegetables. However it's prepared, chili is a surefire way to enjoy the comforts of southern cooking.

And while it might sound bizarre, adding root beer to a pot of chili can give it a delightful, bittersweet tang that both meat-eaters and plant-based chefs can enjoy equally.

Root beer adds a unique flavor to chili

Although root beer is typically reserved as a key ingredient for soda fountain staples like ice cream floats, the soft drink can come in handy while preparing chili. Unlike cola, root beer gets its unique flavor from the roots of sassafras and sarsaparilla plants and often employs notes of vanilla, licorice, juniper, cherry, and even wintergreen (per Difford's Guide). But how do these flavors complement the meaty machismo of a pot of chili?

According to Southern Living, the liquid used in a chili recipe is designed to tenderize the meat and promote robust flavors. By replacing a fraction of tomato juice, broth, or any of the other liquids used in your chili recipe with root beer, your dish will transform with hints of sweetness complemented by a bitter kick. As root beer simmers in chili, its flavors concentrate. For a more potent root beer flavor, you can even cook down the soft drink to create a highly-concentrated, bittersweet syrup that you can add to chili and other hearty stews (per All Recipes).

Now the real question is, A&W or Barq's?