The Dried Ingredient That'll Give Your Chili A Subtle Sweetness

Pot of chili with cilantro and ladle
Pot of chili with cilantro and ladle - Veselovaelena/Getty Images

Chili is a fantastic way to warm the body (and the soul) once the air begins to take on that familiar chill that comes with the autumn and winter seasons. Even better, there are so many different ways to make chili that it's almost impossible to run out of new things to try. And the flavor possibilities run the entire gamut of savory and sweet -- not to mention the different levels of heat that you can aspire to with each evolution of fortifying goodness. When it comes to sweet versions of chili there's one ingredient that you just have to try for a surprising yet classic burst of flavor, and it's dried dates!

Dried fruit is a great way to add sweetness to many dishes after all, but dates offer a subtleness that makes them perfect for savory recipes where you don't want the fruit to outshine the other ingredients. Additionally, dates contain pectin, which is a soluble fiber that acts as a binder -- making them a fantastic thickener for your chili as well.

Read more: 15 Tips For Making The Best Meatloaf

Different Ways To Add Dates

Variety of dates in bowls
Variety of dates in bowls - azerbaijan_ stockers/Shutterstock

There are a few different ways that you can add dates to your chili. The easiest and most understated method is to toss them in whole and allow them to stew in the chili as it simmers, removing them at the end. Similar to how bay leaves are used, this will enable the chili to take on some of the flavor profile of the dates, as well as some of their sweetness, without leaving any of the actual fruit behind.

But why not enjoy a little bit of fruit in your chili? The difference in texture offers variety while tiny pieces of dates will definitely add a blast of flavor to every bite. Take advantage of this by dicing up dried dates and adding them with the rest of your ingredients. The cooking process will rehydrate the fruit's flesh and break it down so that it is soft and blends well with the beans, meat, and veggies.

Another option is to make a paste out of your dried dates. This is a simple process that involves rehydrating them with plain water and then putting them in the food processor or blender to form a paste. Or you can just use premade date paste if you prefer. Add it directly to your chili as it cooks for a natural sweetener and thickener.

What Kinds Of Dates Should You Use?

Different types of dates in wooden bowls
Different types of dates in wooden bowls - Sokor Space/Shutterstock

Dates come in different sizes, colors, and sweetness levels. Some are best for desserts, such as Barhi dates, while others are excellent stuffed with tangy cheese (Dayri dates). Medjool dates are popular in a lot of recipes, but that's not to say that other types are not also suitable as an ingredient in chili. The Piarom variety has hints of caramel and toffee that will add an abundance of flavor, while Deglet Noors are more delicate in their taste while still offering plenty of sweetness. Thoory dates, meanwhile, have a bit of nuttiness to them -- a welcome complement to chili.

Whichever type of date you choose, you'll want to make sure that they are pitted before tossing them in the chili pot or rehydrating them to make a paste. While there is a good chance that they will come this way, don't despair if not -- it's a quick and easy process to remove them. Just slice the dates open and pop the pits right out.

Dates are more than just a nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth, they're also one of the easiest ways to add a subtly sweet kick to your chili. So grab that pack off dried fruits your pantry shelf and give them a try. And don't be afraid to make that sweet chili extra spicy -- sugar mellows spice, and dates also pair well with a number of spicy ingredients beyond chiles, like horseradish.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.