The Unexpected Ingredient Ina Garten Adds To Her Chili

Maybe chili is a cold-month staple for you or maybe you like it all year-round, but Ina Garten's take on chili is perfect no matter what time of year it is. Though Garten's chili might not fit the definition of the food for some since it lacks beans and opts for chicken instead, it's hearty yet fresh enough to make in the summer (via The Kitchn). It's similar to a chicken tortilla soup, but knowing Garten, her recipe makes changes to really amp up the flavor in her chili. 

Garten uses skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts to pack more flavor into her tomato-based chili recipe. And instead of beans, she uses other vegetables like bell peppers and onion. However, her seasonings are pretty true to form, using garlic, chili powder, cumin, red pepper flake, and cayenne pepper (via Barefoot Contessa). But, it's the fresh herb that she adds to her version of chili that is really surprising.

Basil is Garten's secret weapon

Garten adds half a cup of finely minced fresh basil leaves to her chicken chili. You might be thinking, "of course she adds basil to a tomato-based chili," and on second thought, the combo does go together perfectly. But using fresh herbs in a chili recipe is pretty uncommon. To really infuse the herbaceous aroma and flavor into the chili, Garten sprinkles some of it into the chili as it cooks to let it simmer with the tomatoes. However, she also uses a touch of basil to garnish with at the end, too. In true Ina fashion, the garnish lets you know it's in the chili while brightening each bite you take. 

One taste-tester for The Kitchen shared some thoughts on the addition. "[The basil] was a serious game-changer. It added a bright, aromatic note that elevated the entire chili. I ended up garnishing my bowl with additional chopped basil when serving and loved the flavor it added." By adding the basil, it gives the chili more depth of flavor without weighing the dish down. Garten really knows her flavors, so don't overthink it and give it a try the next time you make chili.