For many kids, chili seems to be an acquired taste. Especially if they’re picky eaters – and whose kids aren’t? And extra-especially if they are the type who don’t like things that are too spicy, or that have too many ingredients mixed together.
If you love chili, and have tried, and so far failed, to get your children to eat it, here are some tricks to try this chili season:
Cut back on the chili powder and hot stuff: Kids’ taste buds are way more sensitive, so they react more vociferously to strong flavors like chili powder and cayenne. Try using only half, or even less, of the chili powder listed in your favorite recipe. If you personally can only stomach spicy stuff, divide the chili into two pots during cooking, before you’ve added the spice. Add just a hint of chili powder to the kids’ portion, and the full-on amount to yours, and then cook as usual. However, don’t try to add chili powder at the table to your portion. It will taste “raw” and won’t properly meld with the other ingredients.
Un-chunk it: For other children, it might be a textural issue. They might not object to onion or tomato flavors, but they don’t like the chunks of veggies, especially in a dish with many textures. For those kids, try this: Saute garlic and onions till soft, then puree. Use the puree to add flavor, but not texture to your usual chili recipe. And use tomato sauce, not diced or stewed tomatoes.
Cook it longer: Chili is one of those foods where the flavor deepens and gets better the longer it cooks; ever notice how it tastes even better the second day? But extra cooking time also tenderizes the meat, which will help its kid appeal.
Try all-bean or all-meat chili: Again, it’s simpler, and kids often prefer simple.
Dress it up: Serve it as a chili pie – with a bed of Fritos or corn chips. Offer a topping bar, with several kinds of shredded cheese, several flavors of corn chips, and other condiments your children like. Or serve it over rice, either white or brown, or as a chili-mac, with plain macaroni.
Make it a family project: This is true about almost any food. Kids, especially younger ones, are more likely to at least try something they helped make. Let them taste ingredients as they go in, and let them taste from the pot at different stages of cooking. They may find they actually like the flavor of sautéed onions, or that they prefer the mixture before any spices have been added.