Recipes by Vivi: Texas-style Chili

Vivi Mazarakis is the author of Forking DC. You can read her previous columns here.

Born and raised in Texas, it wasn’t until I left the Lone Star State that I realized that some people make their chili with beans. Texas chili doesn’t bother with beans. Beans are for the weak. Texas chili is all beef. (Sorry, vegetarians.) When I was a kid, I remember looking forward to Go Texan Day (yes, that’s a real thing), and not because my mom insisted that I try to “fit in” by wearing a cowgirl outfit. I looked forward to the chili cook-off that was often a part of the Go Texan Day festivities. I didn’t compete in the cook-off. . . unless by competing one meant trying more cook-off entries than anyone else at school. I’ve always loved me some chili.

People take their chili recipes seriously in Texas. Dare I say that chili cook-off competitors don’t consider it real chili unless the recipe calls for two or more complex spice “dumps” during the several hour-long cooking process. Having just concluded some serious family/holiday time in my home state, I find it all too proper to offer you my own chili recipe. My recipe is simple, but still rich in flavor. Whether it’s because you’ve never had Texas-style chili or because you want to take a break from your go-to chili recipe, I hope you try this recipe out for yourself. I made it for my family on Christmas Eve as a fitting prelude to the Greek-themed Christmas dinner we were to have the next day. Everyone loved it.

Continues after the jump.

(Yields 6-8 servings)

2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp coriander
2 tbsp ancho chile powder
1 tbsp chile powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp oregano
2 medium onions, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 jalapeño, chopped (remove the seeds for less heat)
3 lbs beef chuck, cut into one-inch cubes
2 (28 oz) cans whole tomatoes, crushed
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 canned chipotle, chopped (use more if you want to dial-up the heat)
2 tsp sugar
1 cinnamon stick
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine the paprika, oregano, garlic powder, chile powders, coriander and cumin in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Pat the beef dry and season it generously with salt and pepper. Add it to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, until it has browned on all sides. To avoid crowding the pot, brown the meat in batches, if necessary. Remove meat from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. To the pot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and the onions. Cook the onions until they begin to caramelize (about 10 minutes). Add the browned meat back to the pot along with half of the spice mixture and all of the tomato paste. Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring to coat the meat evenly with spices and tomato paste. Add chipotle pepper, jalapeño, tomatoes, cinnamon stick, and sugar. Season with salt and stir well. Add hot water until the meat is just covered with liquid. Return to boil, reduce to a simmer, and cover. After 45 minutes, add the remaining spice mixture. Stir and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Remove the meat and shred it with a fork. Return it to the pot. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Cook for an additional 30 minutes.

Allow the chili to rest for at least an hour before serving. In fact, I recommend making the chili a day ahead and then reheating over low heat before serving. The resting time allows the flavors to fully develop.

I like to serve this chili with cornbread and an assortment of toppings, such as cotija and asadero cheeses, sour cream, and lime wedges. Other options include cheddar or Monterray Jack cheeses, guacamole, tortilla chips, and chopped cilantro.

14 Comment

  • I’ve tried dozens of recipes and finally settled on Paul Prudhomme’s for Texas Red. A pain to assemble and prepare but well worth the effort.

  • Looks fabulous, but not being a Texan, I might have to add beans.

  • as a fellow texan, i think letting the chili rest for a little bit is key. mine tends to end up watery/stew-like before resting, but a little thickener and a little time transforms it into a beautiful chili consistency. also, NO BEANS. just meat. yee-haw!

  • Way too involved. As I learned from a very well regarded chef, chili only needs three ingredients: meat, dried peppers and fat. He was from Oklahoma though.

    • Indeed, this is the old school, original method for making texas chili (well, water and some salt probably didnt hurt). The fat used was suet, though, which (1) isn’t exactly easy to come by these days, especially out here, and (2) was (is still?) seen as scary by the saturated fat is EVIL crowd. I also imagine that for those who couldn’t afford or find suet or beef, they used other fillers like tomatoes and the like.

  • cinnamon in a texas chili???? wouldnt that be Cincinnati chili??

    • A little cinnamon is great in chili, but a lot of these “Cincinnati-style” chilis have way too much of it.

  • “…Texas chili doesn’t bother with beans. Beans are for the weak. Texas chili is all beef. ”

    Oh nonsense! 😉 I was raised in El Paso, and not only do we put beans in our chili, we top it with a fried egg–just like we do with our enchiladas.

    Of course most so-called “Texans” don’t believe that El Paso is really part of the Lone Star State.

  • ” two or more complex spice “dumps”” sounds painful.

  • if you’re gonna get this involved, is there any reason to use powdered garlic over fresh?

  • Emmaleigh504

    This looks pretty good. I may have to try it. I made the mistake of making a Cincinnati chili once, most god-awful stuff I ever put in my mouth. Being from Louisiana, I like my chili to be more Texas than Yankee.

  • What exactly happens -chemically – alchemy – wise – to make spices turn good in two hours that isn’t accomplished in one hour?

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