Texas Style Chili

At the end of Goodfellas when Ray Liota’s character enters the Federal witness protection program and is relocated far from his home (one presumes NYC), he laments that he asked for spaghetti with marinara sauce at a restaurant and received egg noodles with ketchup.

I can relate, for the first time I ordered chili in Ohio, I received tomato soup with ground beef and beans in it.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been too terribly surprised; I honestly thought I’d gone beyond surprised when connecting through the airport at Cincinnati and saw that these nutty Ohioans eat their version of chili on a bed of spaghetti.

To each their own.

Texans take our chili – like our barbecue – very, very seriously.   So much so that we not only invented the chili cookoff, we have a different set of rules for “eatin'” chili as opposed to “competition” chili.  And since chili originated in San Antonio, it is also the official dish of the state of Texas.

I think I can safely say that while you may call that stuff that sits on top of a plate of spaghetti “chili,” in all likelihood?  It ain’t.

I’ve been cooking chili for over 30 years and nothing (well, very little) excites me more than that first truly cool, crisp day of fall, for it heralds chili cookin’ weather.  My recipe has evolved a great deal over the years and I never make it quite the same way twice, but what follows is the basis of my chili.  Made to the letter, it will produce a fine pot of the stuff but it lends itself well to experimentation and variation.  It is also not very spicy hot (at least by a Texan’s standards) but very flavorful and satisfying.

A few comments before we move on to the actual recipe:

  • Those of you who subscribe to the old adage “people who eat chili with beans don’t know beans about chili” can bite me.  I grew up eating chili with beans, probably because it made it go farther and in a blue collar household with four kids that was important.  I like my chili with beans – preferably kidney beans but pinto beans are fine, too.  Just no “white” beans such as navy or Great Northern.  Of course, if you are adamant about the whole thing, don’t put them in; I sure don’t give a hoot.
  • Regular ground beef does not make chili – it makes chili-flavored sauce.  If you must use a ground beef, make sure it is coarsely ground (in the south, you can find “chili grind” beef in most grocery stores).  I, however, prefer chuck or round steak, trimmed of all visible fat and cut into 1″ pieces.
  • While venison and leaner cuts of pork are fine for chili, poultry in any form is not.  Sorry, you can call it chili-flavored chicken stew or something, but it will not be chili.
  • While my preferred accompaniment to chili is cornbread, corn tortillas are quite good with it.  Note I said corn, not flour, tortillas.  Crackers are also acceptable, but PLEASE – saltines, not Ritz or Town House or Wheat Thins.
  • However, if you want you can go all-out Texan and throw a good handful or two of plain Fritos in there with some cheese and chopped raw onion; chances are I’ll join you in that one.  Frito Pie is a wonderful, wonderful thing.


Texas Style Chili

Texas Style Chili

serves 6 to 8, or me and Beloved

2 pounds chuck or round steak, cut into 1″ cubes

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 – 3 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 large pablano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and chopped

2 – 3 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped

1 large onion, roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon ground cumin

3 tablespoons chili powder

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican oregano

2 – 4 cups beef stock or broth (canned is fine, but use low sodium)

1 large can kidney beans, drained (optional)

Heat the oil in a large, preferably cast iron, Dutch oven or stock pot.  Season the beef with salt and pepper, and brown in the oil.  Add the onion, cooking until the onion begins to soften.  Add the peppers and garlic,  and cook for another minute.  Add the tomatoes, cumin, chili powder, paprika and oregano, cooking until fragrant, another 1 – 2 minutes.

Add enough of the stock or broth to cover the mixture well; bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, cover, and cook for 2 to 3 hours, until meat is tender, stirring occasionally and adding more stock if the liquid is boiling away too quickly.  Once the meat is fork tender, add the beans, if desired, and continue to cook, uncovered, until mixture thickens, 15 to 20 minutes.

19 thoughts on “Texas Style Chili”

  1. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I give you now: A True Believer.

    I think I love you. (grin)

    Your bullet points are spot on. I especially like the “no white beans” and the “ground beef makes chili flavored sauce”. Testimony out there! And Frito Pie! (faints) Isn’r Daisy Doolin a saint or something?

    I do sense the beginnings of a good “argument” going on here, chili and gumbo having that effect on people. Have you read John Thorne’s “A Bowl Of Red”? It’s in his book ‘Serious Pig’ and is probably one of the best things I have ever read on the subject. Well worth checking out.

    Speaking of chili, I’ve got some anchos and some guajillos in the pantry, time to get started…Yum!

    Irish Gumbos last blog post..Last Page of The Book

  2. and now?..i’m starving and in need of a bowl of chili…good thing Tim Horton’s makes such a thing, cos that’s where my lunch is coming from today…thanks again for another great and authentic recipe…altho…i see there’s no chocolate in it…what’s your opinion on that?…i guess that would make it more of a Mexican version..

    thistles last blog post..Almost-Didn’t-Make-It Manic Monday #149

  3. I think I share all your — dare I call them prejudices? I would no more use ground beef in chilli than I would in spaghetti sauce (which means not at all).

    But I came to chilli late(ish) in life. I was in my twenties and living in California for the first time. I claimed I hated Mexican food, on account of the beans… Someone told me chilli didn’t have to have beans, I braved it, and I became hooked. Later, bit by bit, like some drug addict who starts out easy and moves on to the hard stuff, I did the beans.

    I love beans! (but heavens yes, none of that white nonsense) I want beans in my chilli. Lots of beans.

    Hello, my name is Duchess.

    Duchesss last blog post..12th Night

  4. Hoooo weee! I love me some chili! So absolutely cool to get an authentic Texan recipe! My only attempts at chili have resulted in comments like, ‘This stuff’s made in New York City!’

    goodfathers last blog post..A pirate’s story

  5. Trust me in this – Jan KNOWS chili!

    It could be spicier for my Texan tastes but it is a nice rick flavor that won’t scare young children and sissies away from the table. It will creep up on you. I say add a habanero and it will be perfect!

    Dear – the chili here is just like EVERYTHING up here- add Marinara sauce and it’s Italian (of course), Mexican, Chinese, Guatemalan, Texan, etc ad naseum! An since Cincinnati chili is really marinara on spaghetti it works, but it still isn’t chili – it’s spaghetti!

    GF – You need to avoid the Hormel aisle at Wal*Mart, but YES you can get all this at Mal-Wart!

    Duchess – Love the “Hello, my name is Duchess” comment. Be a proud CA (Chili Addict) member!

    Finally, GO HORNS!

  6. I can’t wait to try this. My grandma on my dad’s side was from Texas and I think I have the cooking n my soul. Love chili, cornmbread, BBQ. I love spicy.

    Did you notice when you were here in Hawaii the local chili? It is eaten on white rice (but so is everything else).

    phhhsts last blog post..Let’s Go to the Movies

  7. woah, didnt know there were so many chili rules! sounds tasty as do all your recipes. I always read these at work and get hungry. Glad to be catching up on your posts, hope you had a good holiday! and hope 2009 is a great year for you and your family!

    SSGs last blog post..And a Happy New Year….

  8. We lived in Arizona for decades and were accustomed to authentic Mexican food when we went to a Mexican restaurant. Soo…. when we moved to Maryland and went to a Mexican restaurant expected the same great food… NOT…. The girl who waited on us did not charge us for the food when I told her just how bad it was.

    Moral. When in Rome do as the Romans… (don’t eat Mexican food in Maryland)


    Dis last blog post..Up The Parkway

  9. Wondering why you seed your jalapenos…. I always throw mine in with everything else since that’s where the heat and zing come from… just curious.


    Dis last blog post..Up The Parkway

  10. I lived in Ohio for a while and I was appalled when I ordered some chili and was served spaghetti with some reddish/brown slop on top. I couldn’t wait to get back to Texas to have some real chili. I agree with you on the beans. Of course, by admitting this we are both in jeopardy of having our Texas chili licenses revoked.

    Mocha Dads last blog post..The Beagle Has Landed – Part I

  11. Jan, Chili is one of my favorite things to cook. Your recipe looks good. Probably similar to mine- Not sure because I never measure- It just sort of happens. But the ingrediant list looks good- specially the Poblanos. I grow Poblanos every year and make Chile Rellenos with them in the fall. Love the taste of a good Poblano.

    Now I know I have lived in Ohio most of my life, but my online nickname is Chilegirl in most places and I was born in California. I have also been to Texas (Once- to Austin) and I subscribe to Chilepepper magazine.

    Hello, My name is Chilegirl. LOL

  12. perhaps i’m different but i like to make chili with ground beef and round steak, i use tomato juice, romano beans, onions, cumin, and chili powder, maybe some chili flakes too.
    it may not be authentic but it tastes great with hot buttered toast

  13. woo-eeee! Simmering on the stove right now and it is DEELISH. Tomorrow I will make the beef & cheese enchiladas for lunch and use this. Only thing different I did was add hot salt instead of regular salt when I browned the meat. Gave it a lil more kick.

    Found you through SMB’s blog. 🙂

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