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Is it Spelled Chile, Chili or Chilli?

You may have wondered at some point in time why there are so many variations on the word "chile" or uh "chili" or is it "chilli"? Well, the answer isn't going to help too much. All three may be correct depending on the usage and locale.


The word chile with an 'e' on the end of it is the correct spelling in Spanish. Most chile-heads (people that love the heat) use this spelling. This is probably because most of the chile peppers come from Mexico and further in South America. Internationally this is considered the most correct way to spell it.


Chili with an 'i' at the end is the Americanized version of "chile". This probably started by the dish named "Chili con Carne" or sometimes "Carne con Chili" meaning "Meat with Chile (and sometimes beans)". As it was popularized the name got shortened down to just "Chili". It is generally accepted that chili with an 'i' refers to this dish. However, throughout the United States you will see a mixed use of Chile and Chili. Don't feel the need to get in a heated debate (no pun intended) - it's just the same way with Barbecue, Barbeque, Bar-b-que and BBQ.

To add to the confusion, in a well-meaning attempt to clear it up, I should also cover the differences between chili powder and chile powder. This has also helped to add fuel behind the chili with an 'i' in the Americanization of the word. Chili powder is what you will normally see in your local grocer's spice isle. Generally speaking chili powder with an 'i' can contain other ingredients besides ground-up chile peppers. Chile powder with an 'e' should always be just peppers without any additional spices.

Chilly, Chilie, Chillie, Chilli

The other forms of spelling the word "chile" run the full gamut of imagination. The spelling "chilli" with a double 'L' is popular in other regions of the world - namely Australia and New Zealand. This spelling originates from the Nahuatl dialect in Central Mexico.

Chile Pepper?

Okay, okay, what about the term chile pepper? You can thank Christopher Columbus for that misnomer. They were called "peppers" because they, like black and white pepper spice known to Europe at the time, have a similar spicy hot taste. While not completely accurate, as the black/white pepper originate from the Piper genus, the term has stuck to this day.

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