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Four legends about the origin of chilli con carne

For such a staple American dish, the history of chilli con carne is surprisingly shrouded in mystery. Food historians agree that it did not evolve in Mexico, although it appears to be at least inspired by Mexican cuisine. While the true origin story of chilli con carne is not known, theories abound - here are a few of the more popular ones.

The staple of the Poor

Poor families in 16th Century San Antonio are thought to have made a kind of hash which could be the first incarnation of what would become today’s chilli con carne. Not being able to afford much meat, poor families would apparently make up for this by stewing it with chilli peppers - in approximately equal quantities! Try that next time you have friends over, you know, for educational purposes.

The ghost of chilli peppers past

No history of chilli con carne would be complete without mention of Sister Maria of Agreda, who lived her whole life in a convent in Castile, Spain. She apparently would go into deep trances, and after one such episode wrote down the ingredients for chilli con carne. The native Americans - presumably in trance-like states of their own - reportedly saw an apparition they called “The Lady in Blue.” According to legend, this was Sister Maria’s spirit, crossing the Atlantic, presumably because her corporeal form had had enough with convent cuisine.

The prisoner’s plight

One legend of chilli con carne’s origin invites you to take a tour through Texan penal history. Prisons aren’t known for the quality of their grub, as you know, but in a land where chilli peppers were cheap and plentiful, they could be combined with tough meat and old vegetables to make something vaguely edible. They got so good at this that inmates would allegedly compare and rate prisons on the quality of their chilli.

The cowboy’s travel food

Some say the first chilli recipes - or at least seasonings - were invented by cowboys. Riding off into sunsets was a tiresome profession, and cowboys would make a hand blended stock made of dried and ground meat fat, chilli peppers, and other spices to take on the road. Although surely not as healthy as the no sugar, low fat recipes available today, this would do the job until they reached the next saloon.

At JD Seasonings we only use 100% natural ingredients in our products. Try our Chilli con carne seasonings with our low-fat home-made Chilli con carne recipe for a delicious, healthy meal for six. Cowboys optional.