Who Invented Chili?
There is no easy answer to the origin of chili. Indigenous Americans farmed chilies, the spicy peppers the dish is named for, as far back as 10,000 years ago, and when dealing with a recipe with such deep roots, it’s hard to pinpoint the exact origins.
There are plenty of theories, though. Spaniards reported that the Aztecs made hefty stews seasoned with chili peppers, but they might have resembled more of a mole sauce than today’s chili. Other legends trace chili to the Jumano people of West Texas, who made a chili with venison and similar spices to what we use today. Other American explorers in the 1800s noted that Mexicans taught them how to take beef on long journeys by mixing it with lard and peppers that helped preserve the meat. On a journey, this mixture could be heated with boiling water and flour or cornmeal to make a delicious stew that satisfied as many as six people at once. Some say that these meat, lard, and chili pepper mixtures were invented by Mexican washerwomen who traveled with the Mexican army, feeding soldiers and tending to their clothes.
Any of these theories could be true! Chili is known for being a regional dish with many different variations. It’s possible that several groups spread chili through the Americas with their own style of recipe. Regardless, chili seems to have deep roots in Mexico and parts of Texas.