Chile Peppers: To “E”, or not to “E”, that is the question.

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There’s a heated debate in the chile pepper world…what you think? Take our Poll.

When writing our post on how to roast chiles, someone pointed out that some dictionaries spell chile as chili, ending in an “I” — though, we’ve often seen chile references that end in an “E”.  Occasionally, we’ve noticed that the spelling sometimes even flip flops within the same sentence (as we’ve done on purpose, to satisfy different preferences).  We realized that we’d inadvertently stumbled upon a heated debate – to “E”, or not to “E”, that is the question.

What’s behind the spelling variants?

Chile with an “E”

Chile with an “e” is the “raw”, non-translated version of the same word of 17th Century Mexican Spanish origin.   Later, in 1965, the state of New Mexico, whose cuisine revolves around its famous Hatch chile peppers, adopted the chile as a state vegetable.   We also noticed that the New Mexico State University Chile Pepper Institute defines the chile as anything consisting of the Capsicum plant or the fruit from the plant.

Chili with an “I”

Widely used in the U.S, the dictionaries we referenced (Merriam Webster’s and Oxford) indicate that chili is appropriate and chile is a variant. Additionally, chili with an “i” has evolved as a contemporary urban reference to the dish chili con carne (chili with meat, as in a bowl of chili).

To note a distinction between the fruit and the dish, chile pepper aficionados tend to spell it with an “e” when referring to the fruit, and use chili (“i”) when referring to the dish.

Either way, we love chile peppers because they are low in sodium, flavorful, and a highly diverse ingredient.   Hatch it up!!

What do you think — Chile or chili pepper?  Take our poll and let us know your thoughts!


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About Jeff

Jeff thrives on cooking, travel, and outdoor recreation. While he’s always considered himself to be a healthy eater, he was quickly “enlightened” after his out-of-the-blue encounter with a blocked artery. Now he’s living a low-sodium lifestyle, and enjoying every bite.