What Is the Difference Between Chili Powder & Chili Seasoning?

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Chili seasoning makes quick work of dinner.
Chili seasoning makes quick work of dinner. (Image: Teka77/iStock/Getty Images)

The primary difference between chili seasoning and chili powder is the use of a thickening agent. A successful dish such as Texas chili and fine-tuning the level of heat in a tasty rub depends on choosing the right spice. Chili seasoning is a convenient mix that helps save time in the kitchen, and chili powder is a versatile spice blend.

Thickening Agent

Use of a thickener distinguishes chili seasoning from chili powder. Whether the seasoning is purchased at the grocery store or made from scratch, chili seasoning includes thickening agents such as cornstarch or wheat flour. When the chili is prepared, the thickener gives the dish a distinctive mouth-feel. Chili powder does not contain any thickening agents, so if you add it to a liquid such as broth or water in a chili recipe, the consistency doesn't change.

Chili Powder Contents

Chili powder is a spice blend made from dried, ground chili peppers and assorted other spices. Although there is no specific recipe, chili powder often contains cumin, garlic powder and salt in addition to the peppers. The type of pepper used in chili powder is rarely specified, but the powder might include cayenne, sweet red peppers or ancho peppers.

Chili Seasoning Contents

Chili seasoning contains a thickening agent and a blend of spices to create a convenient seasoning mix. Depending on the brand, chili seasoning consists of chili pepper, paprika, garlic, salt and other ingredients. Store-bought seasoning packets offer options that include low-sodium, spicy and mild blends. Some home cooks make batches of their own chili seasoning so they can control the quality of ingredients.

Using Chili Powder

Mexican recipes often call for chili powder, but it can flavor any dish that needs a kick such as chicken wings, burgers or rice. Chili powder is also an ingredient in chili made without a packet of chili seasoning. Depending on the recipe, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of chili powder at the start of cooking to add a bit of heat and impart a peppery taste to a dish. Because chili powder doesn't affect the recipe's consistency, tailor the amount of chili powder in a recipe to suit your palate. Like chili seasoning, you can also mix a batch of chili powder at home.

Using Chili Seasoning

Home cooks most often use chili seasoning to flavor batches of traditional chili. One packet of store-bought chili seasoning typically flavors a batch of chili made with 1 pound of ground meat. Add the seasoning packet along with water to cooked beef, kidney beans, tomatoes for a no-fail main dish. Sprinkle a small amount chili seasoning on roasted vegetables or macaroni and cheese for a zesty change, keeping in mind the thickening agent may affect the dish's consistency.

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