Best Herbs And Spices For Chilli Con Carne

Understanding Spices

Smoked paprika

Smoked paprika is an essential spice in any chilli recipe. This is a Spanish speciality made by smoking pimentón (a type of pepper from La Vera in western Spain) over oak for several weeks. There are two kinds of smoked paprika: pimenton dulce and pimenton picante. Pimenton dulce is sweet with tangy notes, whereas pimenton picante is deliciously spicy. Either work in chilli con carne as they both lend a smoky flavour, but if you like it spicy then definitely opt for pimenton picante.

Ground cumin

It’s hard to imagine Mexican chilli con carne without cumin. This spice is commonly used in Mexican cuisine and pairs nicely with hot peppers to round out the flavours of the dish. Cumin’s fragrance and warmth helps to create a balanced palate, with its deep earthiness and lemony hint brightening up any chilli recipe. However, it’s easy to overdo, so make sure you start off slowly to see how you feel about its taste. If you like it, keep adding little amounts until you’re happy with the taste.

Garlic powder

While fresh garlic cloves may feature in your chilli con carne ingredients, that doesn’t mean you should skip the garlic powder. Not only does it enrich the taste by adding complexity and umami to your cooking, but it also adds more aroma to your chilli that you wouldn’t necessarily get from fresh garlic. Use our smoked garlic powder for an extra smoky flavour.

Onion powder

Similarly, adding onion powder to your chilli is a great idea if you want to enhance the flavours. It blends well with garlic powder and other spices, lending a sweet and savoury flavour to dishes that you can’t get from fresh onions. Onion powder also has a stronger aroma which would not go amiss in chilli con carne. Since you’ll be using fresh onions in your recipe, you won’t need too much onion powder.


Oregano is an important herb in chilli con carne. The oregano that you’ll most commonly find is the Mediterranean kind, commonly found in Greek and Italian cooking. This oregano boasts a savoury, tart flavour and notes of pepper and lemon. Meanwhile, Mexican oregano tastes vastly different, with an intense peppery flavour and notes of liquorice and lemon. For chilli con carne, Mexican oregano should be your first choice as it complements the spicy and bold flavours of the dish.


Marjoram is an aromatic herb in the mint family similar to oregano, but with a milder, sweeter and more delicate flavour profile. It has an earthy and woodsy flavour, with notes of balsam-like pine and citrus. The herb is a lovely addition to chilli con carne—its flavour is strongest when it isn’t cooked for long, so add it during the last five minutes of cooking time.

Ground coriander

Ground coriander is a fantastic ingredient in chilli. Its warm, sweet flavour adds an earthy and nutty tone to chilli con carne, as well as a refreshing hint of citrus. It’s a common ingredient in Indian cooking, where it’s added to the base gravy of many Indian dishes including curries, soups and stews. Ground coriander has a highly potent flavour, so use sparingly.

Chilli powder

It wouldn’t be a list of chilli con carne spices without the heat of chilli powder. Chilli powder is quite a general term, meaning the ground form of a single kind of chilli pepper. What type of chilli powder you use is up to you. Perhaps you’d like the chocolatey and raisiny flavour of ancho chillies, the sweet, smoky and spicy flavours of chipotle peppers, or the sharp and explosive flavour of cayenne pepper. Use the chillies that embody the flavour characteristics you like best.

Black pepper

It may be a basic kitchen spice but don’t overlook your grinder of black pepper when cooking chilli con carne. Black peppercorns have a stronger, spicier flavour than white peppercorns, adding an earthy heat to any dish. Although you can use ground black pepper, you’ll find that the taste is much fresher and stronger when freshly ground. This all-purpose spice can be added at any time during cooking. Taste your chilli before it’s finished cooking and add a pinch more pepper if needed.

Bay leaves

While bay leaves may not have an intense aromatic flavour presence in dishes, they do add a subtle flavour layer which gives depth to your cooking, especially in anything tomato based. Add the leaves towards the start of your cooking, as the heat breaks down the leaves’ properties and helps release those hidden flavours. 

Chilli con carne recipe

If you’re looking for the best chilli con carne spice mix, look no further than our spice blend. Loaded with high quality herbs and spices, our spice blend is quick and easy to use, perfect for those midweek dinners. Full of Tex-Mex flavours but with low heat, this one is great for families. For a delicious twist, find our easy chilli recipe below:


  • 1 onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 bell pepper (finely chopped)
  • 500g beef mince
  • 2 garlic cloves (crushed)
  • 1 Chilli con Carne Seasoning
  • 400g tin kidney beans or mixed mexican beans (drained)
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 200ml water

How to make

Step 1

Add a drizzle of oil to a large frying pan on a medium heat and once hot add the onion. Cook for 5-7 mins until softened, stirring occasionally.

Step 2

Stir in the pepper. Add the mince, breaking it up with a spoon. Brown for 7-8 mins. Mix in the garlic and Chilli con Carne Seasoning.

Step 3

Add the beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree and the water. Bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally for 15-18 mins or until the mince is cooked through. Add a splash of more water if required.

Step 4

Serve with rice, tortilla crisps, guacamole, sour cream or cheddar cheese.

Alternatively, our Chilean Alino Chilli Con Carne is packed with sweet and tart flavours of this herbal blend.

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