The best real Texas chili recipes (no beans allowed)

There’s perhaps no other single food group that is more Texan than chili, and over the years we’ve tested many recipes and talked to many Tex-perts on what constitutes a real big bowl of red. Here are our favorite chili recipes from The Dallas Morning News archives, from Molly Ivins and Lady Bird Johnson to chili championship winners.


T.J. Cannon won the world-famous Terlingua International Chili Championship in 2012, beating out 304 other competitors. Contest chili is required to have a smooth gravy, which is why you’ll not see any fresh onions, tomatoes, etc., included here. Cannon uses garlic powders and chili powders for consistency, so her chili can taste the same every time. 

2 pounds ground chuck 

1 (14.5-ounce) can beef broth 

1 (14.5-ounce) can chicken broth 

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce 

2 serrano peppers 

First Dump (recipe follows) 

Second Dump (recipe follows) 

In a 4-quart pot, brown your meat; then drain it and set it aside. Remove all grease from the pot and add all of the liquid. 

Poke holes in the serranos with a sharp knife and add them to the pot. Bring the liquid and peppers to a boil; add your first set of spices (First Dump) and the meat. Boil on medium high for 25 minutes or until meat is tender and then turn off. Squeeze the juice from the peppers into the pot and discard the peppers. 

Allow chili to rest for 30 minutes and then bring back to a boil, adding more broth if needed. Add the Second Dump of spices and boil over medium heat for 20 minutes. Check for salt, heat and chili powder flavor; adjust if necessary. 

Makes about 6 servings. 

First Dump: 2 teaspoons dried onion powder, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, 2 teaspoons each dried beef and chicken bouillon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons dried garlic powder, 2 tablespoons light chili powder (such as McCormick) and 2 teaspoons dark chili powder (such as Mexene). 

Second Dump: 1 tablespoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon dried garlic powder, 1/8 teaspoon Hot Stuff seasoning (available online, or use a mix of black pepper and cayenne), 1/8 teaspoon cayenne, 2 tablespoons light chili powder, 1 tablespoon dark chili powder, 1/8 teaspoon brown sugar and 1 package Sazon Goya seasoning (optional). 

Per serving: 327 calories (49 percent fat) 17 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 92 mg cholesterol, 1,675 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 10 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein 

Source: The Dallas Morning News, Feb. 13, 2013 



1 tablespoon bacon drippings 

3 yellow onions, chopped 

1 large green bell pepper, chopped 

2 celery stalks, chopped 

4 garlic cloves, minced 

3 pounds coarsely ground chuck 

1 (12-ounce) can beer 

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce 

4 tablespoons chile powder 

1 tablespoon ground cumin 

1 tablespoon dried oregano 

1 large bay leaf 

1 teaspoon dry mustard 

2 cups beef stock 

Salt and pepper to taste 

Heat bacon drippings in a heavy-bottomed stockpot and sauté onions, peppers, celery and garlic until vegetables soften. Add chuck and stir until it browns. Add beer, tomato sauce, chile powder, cumin, oregano, bay leaf, mustard and beef stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, about 2 hours. Check periodically to see if more liquid is needed. If so, add water. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasoning. Just before serving, remove bay leaf. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

Per serving: 440 calories (31 percent fat), 15 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 146 mg cholesterol, 765 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 17 g carbohydrates, 57 g protein 

Source: “Stirring It Up With Molly Ivins” (University of Texas Press, $29.95). Recipe first published in The Dallas Morning News in September 2011. 


Blogger Kelly Yandell says that she always used chili powder in her chili, until she was inspired by a recipe in Wild About Chili (out of print) by former Dallas Morning News food editor Dotty Griffith. The recipe used whole dried chiles. 

3 dried ancho chiles 

3 dried de árbol chiles 

1 dried Japonés chile 

3 jalapeños, stems and seeds removed (wear rubber gloves) 

2 heaping teaspoons ground cumin 

4 cloves garlic, peeled 

1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, with juice 

1 onion, quartered 

1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican 

2 teaspoons salt 

3 to 3 1/2 pounds sirloin tips, coarsely ground for chili 

1/4 cup masa 

Shredded cheddar cheese and chopped onions for garnish (optional) 

To prepare the dried chiles: Wearing rubber gloves, cut each of them open and discard the seeds and any membranes that are easily removed. Place the chiles in a small pan with just enough water to cover them. Over medium heat, simmer the chiles and water for 15 minutes. Remove the chiles from the water, reserving the water, and transfer to a food processor. 

Add the jalapeños, cumin, garlic, tomatoes (with their juice), onion, oregano and salt to the food processor. Process until smooth. 

In a large stockpot, combine the meat and the tomato-chile purée. Add just enough water (not the reserved chile water) to cover the meat, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover the pot and cook for 1 1/2 hours. If necessary, add more water, just enough to keep the meat covered. 

After 1 1/2 hours, skim off any excess fat with a large, flat spoon and discard. Mix the masa with enough water to make a smooth paste. Slowly add the mixture to the chili while stirring. Simmer the chili over very low heat for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Taste the chili and season as necessary with salt and the reserved chile water. Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and onions if desired. 

Makes about 6 servings. 

Notes : If you are unable to monitor the chili closely, this recipe can be cooked on a slow braise in the oven. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahreinheit and cook for 2 hours before adding the masa paste. After adding the masa, return the chili to the oven for another 30 minutes. 

Per serving: 469 calories (30 percent fat), 15 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 106 mg cholesterol, 1,107 mg sodium, 5 g fiber, 23 g carbohydrates, 57 g protein 

Source: “Edible Dallas & Fort Worth: The Cookbook” (Sterling Epicure, $19.95). First published in The Dallas Morning News on Feb. 13, 2013. 


This recipe, first published in The Dallas Morning News in 1990, is credited to Lady Bird Johnson, who on occasion had real Texas chili flown to the White House. 

4 pounds chili meat 

1 large onion, chopped 

2 cloves garlic, chopped 

1 teaspoon ground oregano 

1 teaspoon cumin seeds 

6 teaspoons chili powder (more, if desired) 

1 1/2 cups canned whole tomatoes 

2 to 3 generous dashes liquid hot pepper sauce 

Salt to taste 

2 cups hot water 

Place meat, onions and garlic in large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Cook until light colored. Add oregano, cumin seed, chili powder, tomatoes, hot pepper sauce, salt and water. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer about 1 hour. Skim off fat during cooking. Makes 8 servings. 

There are acceptable substitutes (or additions if some like it hot) for the hot pepper sauce, including fresh jalapenos or cayenne pepper. And the Johnson definition of acceptable chili meat is coarsely ground round steak or well-trimmed chuck. 


In a departure from the conventional, the slow-talking garden designer and retired mathematician decided to retool the Texas classic. His chili contains no masa (ground corn), no exotic chile blends, no beer, no secret spices. In truth, it bears more kinship to a Mexican beef soup than a Terlingua prizewinner. 

Yet, when Schaar proclaims that, “After you taste this, you’ll never make it your way again,” he’s not just doing a Texas swagger. His chili — a simple stew of tender beef bites in a chile-infused, beefy broth redolent with cumin, garlic and oregano — is that good. 

1/2 cup lard or bacon fat (divided use) 

3 tablespoons dried piquin chiles (see note) 

3 pounds grass-fed beef stew meat 

1/2 white or sweet onion, chopped 

1/2 cup minced garlic 

1/4 cup dried, stemmed and chopped Mexican or Greek oregano (divided use, see ingredients notes) 

1 (32-ounce) carton beef broth 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1 (4-ounce) jar Whitson’s Moist Chile Seasoning (ancho paste) 

1 heaping tablespoon ground cumin 

Limes, for serving 

Heat 1/4 cup lard or fat in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the piquins briefly to the hot fat. After a few moments, remove and discard the skins; some of the seeds will remain in the fat. 

In batches, sear the meat in the hot fat. Do not let the pieces of meat touch or the meat will stew in its own juices instead of searing. Remove the pieces as they sear to drain on a brown paper sack or paper towels. 

Remove the hot pot from the fire for 3 to 4 minutes to partially cool. Place it back over the medium-high flame and add remaining lard or fat. Add the onion and sauté 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté. Add half the oregano, the drained meat and broth. Add the salt and stir in the ancho paste. Sprinkle the cumin over the chili stew, add remaining oregano and stir to blend. 

Bring the stew to a boil and let it boil for several minutes. Reduce heat and simmer for 2 to 3 hours, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat. Let the chili cool. Then, refrigerate overnight. 

When ready to serve, remove chili from the refrigerator. Skim and discard the fat, which will have risen to the top. Heat chili and serve with 2 lime quarters to squeeze over each serving. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings. 

Note: You can substitute habanero or serrano chiles for the piquins. 

Source: Peter Schaar. First published in The Dallas Morning News on Jan. 4, 2009.

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