Chow Town

Cinnamon rolls with chili: A Kansas thing? Just why? K-State student starts food fight

Are Kansans the only ones who eat cinnamon rolls with chili, as shown here in a tweet from last year?
Are Kansans the only ones who eat cinnamon rolls with chili, as shown here in a tweet from last year? Twitter

Who eats cinnamon rolls with chili?

Raise your hands, you there in Topeka.

If you’re grossed out by the thought of dipping a gooey, frosting-covered pastry into a bowl of beans and meat, you’ll want in on the debate a K-State student started with an innocent little tweet.

Is eating cinnamon rolls with chili a Kansas thing?

“For years I’ve thought that cinnamon rolls and chili were something that just went together; finding out it’s just a KS thing & I’m baffled,” Hannah Gill, a K-State junior from Topeka, tweeted on Sept. 11.

Why, I’ve never heard of such a thing, one offended soul tweeted at Gill.

Others said it’s not just a Kansas thing — we eat that in Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado and Texas, too.

And hey, Runza restaurants serve up that combo with pride, fast-food fans chimed in.

Why yes, they do.

Gill’s tweet, which has scooped up more than 4,000 likes and nearly 800 retweets, probably would have stayed a regional discussion. But then Buzzfeed gave this foodie debate a global stage, and food “critics” are eating it up.

Buzzfeed social media strategist Caleb Chin came across Gill’s tweet and posted a response last week steeped in scalding WTH juices.

Cinnamon rolls served with chili is a thing, he wanted to know?

How is this a thing?

“The more I think about it, the more questions I have,” he wrote. “Like who discovered this combination? And what are the logistics of eating the chili and cinnamon rolls together? Do you dip the cinnamon roll in the chili like chips and salsa?”

So. Many. Questions.

“I decided to embark on some intensive, rigorous investigative journalism by posting a Facebook status asking my Kansas friends if this was actually a thing and not just some elaborate prank,” Chin wrote.

Oh yeah, Chin’s friends in Kansas assured him. We eat that.

Lunch ladies serve it up at schools, friends told him.

Some joined him in his disgust and disbelief.

One woman back East took a poll on the topic.

Here’s what Buzzfeed’s own poll served up. Notice that only 28 percent said they would never put this combination in their mouths.


Of course all this raises the question: What begat this sweet-and-savory pairing?

Karla Brown at Mix 97.3 in Sioux Falls, S.D., wondered the same thing recently when her mom received a cinnamon roll with her chili in her Meals on Wheels lunch.

Brown’s own investigation uncovered the affection for the duo in Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Montana and, yes, Kansas.

She found Pinterest pages devoted to this combo, too.

“I found a comment on a Facebook page that said chili and cinnamon rolls was called a logger’s breakfast,” Brown wrote on the radio station’s website.

“Logging camps would take yesterday’s leftovers and make chili and dump it over a cinnamon roll for high calories the loggers needed to complete their work.”

Like Chin, the very idea left Brown cold.

“Cornbread and chili, yes. Crackers and chili, yes,” she wrote. “The jury is still out on cinnamon rolls and chili.”

This whole tempest-in-a-chili-bowl started when some of Gill’s out-of-state sorority sisters in Manhattan were shocked to see cinnamon rolls and chili on the sorority house menu.

“It was a tweet. I didn’t think anything of it,” Gill told KAKE in Wichita. “I just tweeted it and it blew up. All of a sudden, I have all these new followers and stuff, and I’m like ‘What in the world?’

“People are texting me, like Hannah, did you see your tweet? Dude, you’re going viral and all this stuff, and I’m like, ‘Uh, that was the stupidest tweet. I don’t know why people are freaking out.”

And how’s this for irony? Gill can’t eat cinnamon rolls because she’s allergic to cinnamon.

Runza, meanwhile, read Chin’s Buzzfeed post and clapped back like a lunch lady having a bad hairnet day.

Ooh, it’s getting chili up in here.

Jody Kreush, owner of the Devine Cinnamon Roll Deli, shows the process of making their popular 12-pound "Cinnamonster" Cinnamon Roll.