How To Make Chili (Texas-Style!)

I want to share my dad’s Texas chili recipe with you, and first tell you this story about him.

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My dad was an offshore oil rig worker for the first part of my life.

He worked in the Gulf and would be gone for weeks at a time. We’d drive down to the coast to pick him up: my mom and little brother and me. It’s funny – I don’t remember missing him while he was gone, but I do remember being so excited when he was back.

Every time when we got down there, he would have a bag of M&Ms in the pocket of his green windbreaker with the oil rig patch on the arm. That was before M&Ms started using space age plastic-paper to make their packaging; they were just made of good old paper-paper. My dad would tear the package in half and then Travis and I would each have a little paper cup of candy! Just like magic! I was always amazed that no M&Ms were ever spilt. Well, never spilled during the division; I’m sure we spilled plenty in the back seat of the car.

Once he was home, it was really fun. There was fort building and swing-pushing and there was lots of chili on the table. I think I’ve mentioned before that chili (and its delicious brother: chili-mac) was my dad’s specialty, next to chicken-fried steak. I remember him telling me how to make it when I was pretty little. We would pick chile petins from the yard. Sometimes, he’d use venison. I heard all about how Texans don’t put beans in chili. He measured all the spices in “palmfuls”. I thought that was just incredible. I still do think his chili is incredible.

Texas Style Chili

Texas-Style Chili Recipe

5.0 from 19 reviews
Texas-Style Chili
 
Prep time
Cook time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound ground beef (or 1 pound stew meat chunks)
  • 28 ounce can whole tomatoes or 1½ pounds (4 cups chopped) fresh tomatoes
  • 16 ounce can tomato sauce or 2 more cups fresh diced tomatoes
  • 1 big old onion (softball-sized)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced (2 tablespoons)
  • 2-5 jalapenos, chopped (depending on your taste)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional (for thickening if desired): 1 corn tortilla, torn up
  • Optional: 15 ounce can kidney or pinto beans; for more heat, add a couple of chili petins (similar to bird-eye peppers)
Instructions
  1. Chop the onion into about 1 inch chunks, mince the garlic, and dice the jalapenos.
  2. Break the ground meat up into a large pot and brown over medium-high heat. If using stew meat, sear the chunks on all sides.
  3. Add everything else (except the beans if you decide to use them) and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover and simmer 1 hour if using ground meat, 2 hours if using stew meat.
  4. Add the beans (drained and rinsed) if you want. Taste and add more salt if it needs it. If you’d like it thicker, stir in the corn tortilla pieces.
  5. Simmer another 30 minutes.

And While You’re At It…
Make a batch of cornbread to go with it, even another pot of vegan chili, too, and satisfy the meaters and non-meaters alike!

Comments

  1. I’m slowly learning to love Texas chili. I’m working on getting over the heavy meatiness of it and the loss of beans. I still haven’t made a batch on my own yet, though. Thanks for sharing your Dad’s recipe!

  2. Steve Singler says:

    Very touching story.

  3. So glad to see a chili recipe so happily devoid of beans! The only time I like beans in my chili is when that chili is vegan.

  4. You posted this merely an hour ago but I’ve been thinking all day about what I would make a delightful dinner on such a snowy day. Thanks, Hilah. You always know what’s in my brain.

    Crap, what if you really do always know what’s in my brain?

  5. Hilah, in fact, I was waiting to see what will be your episode about before I post my comments on your “Cooking Class Report”. I hope I’ll have some time tonight (it is somehow lengthy!).

    For this episode, I may say, this is one of many soothing stories has ever accompanied your shows/recipes, if not the best so far. It is novel! What would be better than, especially when cooking, remembering those who are close to our heart?

    Food is all about love, sharing and memories!

    Cheers,
    Thair

    P.S. By the way, did you’ve a chance to make the avocado cupcakes? I’m interested in your feedback.

  6. My 6th generation Texan dad’s specialty was chili, too. Growing up in California, I never thought anything of his always putting beans in his (I suspect he did it because beans are cheaper than meat). So I was surprised when I arrived at UT and quickly found out that beans are a no-no in Texas chili. So I’ll be making two batches of your dad’s recipe tonight (one with , one without). Here’s hoping my local HEB has Negra Modelo, because you know what a stickler I am for following not only the Hilah recipe, but the Hilah method, as well.

    BTW (and ironically) I came across this article in my RSS feeds just before I got to yours. A vegan diet has more health issues than previously known: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/being-vegan-could-put-heart-health-at-risk-study/article1895285/

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      That’s weird, Randy — maybe we are related! My dad is also 6th generation Texan who moved to California for a while. Coincidence? Eh, probably. But what if it’s not! ;)
      That’s an interesting article, but like it said, the blood levels aren’t necessarily a sign of an impending heart failure. I think human nutrition is such a complex matter that we will never know what the “perfect” diet is. That’s why it’s so annoying to me when people talk about how meat’s going to kill us or carbs are going to kill us or liquor’s going to kill us. Wouldn’t it be ironic if it turned out everything’s going to kill us?! Oh, wait.
      Thanks for the link, though. I do love articles and studies on nutrition. :)

  7. I’m looking forward to making your Dad’s chili recipe. It seems pretty easy and straight-forward and looks delicious. Hurray for not putting beans in yours! I know Texas lays claim to inventing chili, but everybody seems to have their own take on it. Even though I’m from New Hampshire and have only passed through Kentucky, I have often made Eastern Kentucky Chili Buns from a recipe I found in an old issue of Esquire. You’ve inspired me to share the recipe on my blog.

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Dude, Stoney, them chili buns sounds goo-ood. I love the name, especially. Chili Buns.
      Thanks for sharing!
      P.S. Does your secret identity have to do with the Easter Island heads… or something else?

      • Yeah, i like the chili bun recipe, because it’s versatile. We eat it in the bun; or by the bowl with or without add-ones. I’ve taken it in the crockpot to parties. We also use it to top hot dogs or hamburgers, usually at tailgates. If I have kosher friends coming, I leave out the ground pork and add more beef.

        On your printed recipe, you mention stew beef as an alternative to ground beef. There’s a middle ground (unintentional pun), too. Ground beef is twice ground. See if you can get the butcher to single-grind the beef. For standard (not chili bun) chili, I like that texture best. In a recipe I saw once, they recommend a grind down to the size of .22 bullets.

        P.S. “Great Stone Face” refers to my birthplace of New Hampshire.

        • Hilah Cooking says:

          Oh, yes, I should have mentioned that. We call it “chili grind” and it’s much coarser than regular ground meat.
          I was thinking the chili bun recipe seemed like a good hot dog chili!

  8. Looks good, a bit to much tomato for my taste, but that’s why I posted. I wanted to say this: chili is how you like to make it … there is no right or wrong to it as long as you like it.
    Now, even though I said a bit too much tomato for my taste, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t scrape the porcelain off the bowl if Hilah handed me a big thick steaming portion. Looks great!!!

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Well, Fensk, that is true for anything one makes I think! Errybody just eat what you like and don’t fuss and errybody be happy.
      Unless, of course, that means putting beans in the chili. Kidding, errybody. :)

  9. I tried your vegan chili and LOVED it…so I may venture out and try this. Could I substitute the beef with ground turkey? Not a fan of birds. Therefore I eat them. Although growing up in the Midwest I realize speaking against beef is heresy. So apologies in advance.

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      You can totally do that, Josh. I’d try to get it from the butcher counter and ask if you can get coarse grind, though. Sometimes ground turkey is, like, way pulverized.

  10. nom. nom. What happened to the party video? too drunken for public consumption? :-)

  11. It’s cooking on my stove right now in a dutch oven. Smells great!

  12. I clearly need to make this because my husband is an offshore paramedic and is currently stationed on an oil rig in the Gulf. And because it looks delicious.

  13. Hilah,

    Talk about awesomeness! I also made a honey cornbread to partake with the chili (not to mention some cold beers during preparation, cooking, and eating).

    Next up, your fritter recipe. Never made it before, but I figure I would use my cast iron Dutch Oven for frying with peanut oil, and add some smoked ham (or smoked bacon) to the fritter, since I am a pork, and pork fat fan. Kinda like a sweet and salty dealio.

  14. Katherine says:

    I’m going to make chili this weekend, I plan on using this recipe…might add a can of rotel.

  15. Great dress by the way

  16. Hahahaha “I also got some beer”
    I can dig it like a shovel:]

  17. Hi Hilah!

    I’m Emily, I’m fourteen years old and I live in London, UK. I just wanted to say that im TOTALLY OBSESSED with your cooking videos! They are just awesome. I’m going to make you’re Dad’s Chili later on today and I can’t wait! I LOVE your personality and how free-spirited you are! Btw, I also love how you took your childhood memories and made them into a delicious bowl of Chili!

    P.s Thank you a million times for sharing your memories about you and your Dad, they made my heart melt. :’)

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hi Emily!
      It’s so great to hear from you! I’m happy that you enjoy the videos and are actually trying the recipes. It’s AWESOME that you are cooking at such a young age — you are a total bad-ass!
      And thank you for reading my words. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to share stories with people. Ah, Internet.
      Please keep in touch, my dear Emily.
      XO,h

  18. Paul Donahue says:

    Hi Hilah,

    How does one print your recipes without printing the whole page?

    thanks

    • Hilah Cooking says:

      Hi Paul!
      As of now there’s not an automatic way to do it. I bet you could copy and paste the part you wanted into a Word doc, though, and print from that. Hmm. I’ll look into a way to offer that as an option. Thanks for the idea!

  19. How To Make Chili (Texas-Style!)
    There is no sound

  20. Fantastic! I followed Hilahs recipe exactly using fresh tomatos, 4 jalapenos, 1 lb 85/15 ground round keeping it chunky & draining the fat it came super tender. I suggest using Spice Island brand chili powder; its more flavorful & was rated best by Cooks Illustrated. I didn’t ad the tortilla because it thickened enough on its own after 1.5 hrs cooking. Only change I would make next time would be to reduce salt to 1/2 tsp because the chili powder itself & the tomato sauce contains adequate salt.

    • Wow, thanks, Cabo! I’m glad you enjoyed it! Good note on the salt. I should have specified that I usually buy chili powder and tomato sauce without salt, so it’s measured for that. Thanks so much for your feedback and tips, dude!

  21. WOW! I had this bookmarked for a while and finally got around to making it tonight now that the weather’s cooling off (er, although I think it’s mainly due to the copious amount of rain we’re currently experiencing). Anyway, I’ve been looking for a chili recipe for awhile now. My mom makes an awesome chili, but she is one of those a-little-of-this-a-little-of-that-who-cares-about-measurements? cooks. I got so tired of trying to recreate it, with horrible results, that I started searching for a chili recipe to stick with. The search had been futile until now! YUM! This one’s going in the recipe box! Thanks for sharing your dad’s recipe.

    • Hi Alyse! Thank you for writing!
      I am elated to hear that my dad’s recipe fit the bill for you! I think it’s the best, myself. Let me know if you try any more of my recipes. Hint: cornbread goes great with this! As do Fritos.
      Yours,
      hilah
      P.S. I am totally jealous of your rain and cooler weather.

      • Earlier this week, I actually woke up colder than hell at 4AM and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I started going through a stack of old Cook’s Illustrateds. Since I thought that cool weather had arrived, at least temporarily, the issue where they did one of their iconoclastic trashing with their New England arrogance of yet another regional specialty, Texas chili, caught my eye. Surprisingly, they weren’t as arrogant as usual, so while I was reading the article, I actually contemplated trying out their recipe. But by the time I finished, I was wide awake and came to my senses. There’s no need for any other Texas chile recipe than Hilah’s dad’s. BTW, I think I’ve emailed the link to the recipe to at least a dozen people who raved about it when I’ve served it to them. I’ve doubled the recipe several times thinking I’d have some leftover. It never works.

  22. I’m English, what do I know? But my chilli is very good and has been sold commercially but I use Old English Beer (Old Peculiar) and dark chocolate and thicken with flour. the result is dark and “peculiarly” bitter with the high notes of chilli.

    • Ha! Well, yours sounds a bit more like a Mexican-style chili than Texas-style, but either way it sounds good! Curious about that beer now. I wonder if I could find it here…

      • Theakston Brewery’s Old Peculier (yes, that’s how it’s spelled!) ale used to be available here in Austin, but I haven’t seen it in years. One of the downsides of the craft brewing movement in the US is that a number of great British ales are no longer imported.

  23. yummy! i’m going to make it tonight…sound delish. thank you for sharing the stories related to your recipes! they are sweet.

  24. Hard Times Cafe in our area is giving away a free bowl of chili today with any purchase (even iced tea). Good thing it’s 66 degrees F in Northern Virginia.

  25. looks yummy, so does the modelo! mmm..

  26. That sounds lovely, why not try my chilli sauce

  27. Hilah, great recipes and videos ! Tried your chili recipe and was so delicious I accidentally on purpose poured some of my beer into it while it was cooking. Well, let me tell you (are you currently letting me? good.) It was just the bomb! That eve and the next morning! Keep up your laboriously, exhausting , nose to the grindstone work up! I love all you guys do! MM
    disclaimer:
    no doeass was spotted while watching your vid.

  28. I had all the items in my pantry and fridge and was thinking about making chili its in the pot simmering away quick lunch meal for my honey to take to work tonight he works graveyard and im always looking for new easy yummy meals to pack him thanks for your recipe wondeful story it smells delicious I will let you know what he thinks thank you :)

    • Hi Patty!
      That is great! I love it when a meal comes together like that. I hope your honey likes it. Seems like it would be a welcome meal in the middle of a long night shift.

  29. Will you marry me? :)

  30. WOAH…I now know how to make CHILI! When it was all slopped into the pot, I was like wait how is that going to form into chili and then she took the top off the pan and it was CHILI!! Im gonna run to the supermarket tomorrow and make it!!!! And if it comes out the way it should, good by Hormel in a can, hello custom made chili!

    Then I can slop it on hotdogs and Chili Cheese Fries!

    • I think you’ll be very happy with it, Jason! It’s quite different than canned chili with a much more complex flavor and meatier texture, plus you know exactly what’s in it!

  31. bob jones says:

    Been catching up on your episodes since discovering you a la Chick-fil-A. This one looks like an impressively simple, unpretentious winner. I’ve got a few like this from my parents. Can’t say so about the Frito-pie utilization, and I’ve been served it by the best. Chili has gone worldwide, Frito pie not so much. When I get through all the old episodes I’ll stop yapping at you so much.

    • Thanks, Bob! I hope you try this one. I have had lots of chili in my life and I really think my dad had it right about keeping it simple. But that’s how I think about most all foods so maybe that’s just me. ;) This recipe is a winner, though. You said it!

      • bob jones says:

        So I did try it with some ground sirloin yesterday and it is as outstanding as it is simple. I’m not a hot freak but went high end on the jalapenos and was liberal with the chili powder and it produced a very nice delayed buzz that did not interfere with the other flavors. The just-chunk-up-the-meat than add all the other s**t turns out killdozer!

        • Sweet! Thanks, Bob! So glad you enjoyed it. Simple seems to be the best way to do a lot of things, especially with food.

  32. Nicoleincos says:

    O_M_G. The best chili I’ve ever made. The tip about keeping the meat in bigger pieces makes a huge difference, too. My husband and I discovered you on Roku about a month ago and I’m going to have to go through and count how many recipes I’ve already made (at least 2-3 a week,) and everything is amazing! My husband just said, “Hilah never steers you wrong.” Thank you, Hilah! You definitely need to be the next Food Network Star or something!

    • Yay! I’m so happy you liked this recipe, Nicoleincos! Thank you for the wonderful feedback. I can’t tell you how big I am smiling right now. :D

  33. larry kimball says:

    Looks like this comment box for the chili video is working now. I will definately try your version next time. My version has beans and a lot of other complicated ingredients like cocoa and peanut butter. Turns out like a chili/mole dish, which is plenty good.

  34. Texascowman says:

    Hilah, if you want to make real Texas chili like they did back in the 1800′s don’t use hamburger. Use meat cut in 1/4 to 1/2 inch chunks or if you don’t like that use a chili ground meat and you will have a much better chili–in my opinion.

    • Thanks, TCM! I’ve never tried it with a fine-dice meat like that. I’ve done with stew meat chunks and that’s nice because it gets kind of shredded up by the end. I like the small chunk idea, though, bet it cooks fast, too!

      • Wow, 80+ comments. I think chili might be the most discussed item on HilahCooking.com. Am I right? I live in Virginia, so I am not certified to talk of such things, but my experience is that you are correct that hamburger grind is not appropriate for Texas-style chili. The quarter-inch chunk is a good measurement, but the way I’ve seen it described is cut the meat into chunks the size of bullets. (Now, that’s a Texas description.)

        If you must have ground meat, use a single-grind meat. Hamburger is twice-ground, which makes it a finer grind. It’s OK for Cincinnati chili, but not Texas chili.

  35. Just finished my first batch. Forgot the beans, so authentic. Two deseeded jalapenos as some in the house didn’t want as much heat. Served on a bed of Fritos. Everybody finished. Damn good chili! Thanks Hilah!

  36. I’m not a chili fan but my husband is – so I’m going to try to impress him by making this tonight. Fingers crossed… Thanks for the recipe!

  37. kathleen reynolds says:

    I made a double batch for dinner last night. Best chili ever, I can’t stop eating it. Had some for breakfast!

  38. Icoildnt imagine chili without beans.

  39. My friend Janet in Irving makes some of the best chili ever, but I think yours gives it a run for it’s money. I’ve made it twice now and even my wife say’s it’s good.
    The argument for and against beans will go on forever, but a pot of beans is still just a pot of beans. Thanks for some great tips and recipes.

  40. I think I’ll try this one asap. Hope it’s as awesome as your video.

  41. Diana Juarez says:

    Dude, I’m always terrified of trying to cook something because I’ve never really been that much into cooking because my mother would annoy me by saying I HAD to cook because I’m a girl.
    Anyway, my boyfriend likes to eat a lot and I’ve been looking hard to find am easy way to learn how to cook since all I can make are Enchiladas, Quesadillas and eggs.
    This recipe seemed very simple to understand so thank you.
    I can’t wait to try this out, dude.

    Also, this chili can also be used for chili cheese fries right? Or would I need a specific kind of chili?

    • Ha! Well, I don’t know if it’s because you’re a girl, but I agree with your mom that it’s important to know how to cook! (at least a few things) This recipe is really easy and you can use it for chili cheese fries as long as you use ground beef and break it up into fairly small bits while it’s cooking so you’ll end up with a smoother texture chili opposed to a chunky chili. Hope you and your boyfriend like it!

  42. First time making chili and you are the only instructions I have looked at but you are so friggin cool I am going with just on this. Tomorrow is work’s first annual chili contest so wish me luck. Again, you are awesome all around!

  43. Thank u so much for this recipe being from the uk never tried texan chilli found ur
    Recipe tried it absolutely loved it ur dads a legend thank u again

  44. Your recipe sounds excellent, especially using whole tomatoes instead of canned tomato garbage. Nothing like the freshness of good tomatoes. I also like how you include fresh jalapenos.

    I like my chili extra spicy so I add in some Tabasco and cayenne pepper. And of course some pinto beans cooked in the crockpot to complete the chili.

    • Thanks, Clint! I love that chili is so simple and easy to adjust for personal tastes. Hope you try your version of my version! ;)

  45. Raymond Schofield says:

    Love the story about you and your dad… Looking forward to making the chili for friends tonight, I am sure it will turn out great

  46. Natalie says:

    Made this tonight! It is so amazing how much liquid the tomatoes release! I made mine using only fresh tomatoes and used a little masa mixed with water to thicken it. Made some corn muffins to go with it! Chili fritos mmmm :)

  47. A big pot is cooking on the stove as I write. Can’t wait to try it.

  48. Made this today, it was excellent!! :-)

  49. Hey! I know your dad won’t approve of this haha but, is it okay if I do turkey meat instead? Or would that completely ruin the taste/texture?

  50. Cabo Wabo says:

    AAA+++ Simple, quick, and healthy. This stuff is the molten lava of the chili gods!! I look forward to winter storms, just so I can run to the store and hoard fresh tomatoes, jalapeños, garlic, and onion. Seriously, who are all these other idiot shoppers gorging on milk and bread during a winter storm?? BTW, the only changes I make are I use 85/15 ground round, 3Tbsp “Spice Islands” brand chili Power, 4 large jalapeños, and I reduce salt to 1/2tsp because the chili power and Fritos topping has adequate salt.

    • Wahoo! I wish I had a big pot of this right now, too! Lucky duck. :)

      • Update: I survived the snow storm, I’m warm, my beldy is happy full, and my sinuses are clear! I don’t know how long it took your father to perfect this recipe, but it is absolutely amazing chili that is spot on. And believe me, I’ve eaten and cooked dozens of different chili recipes over the years that all claim to be #1 or “award winning”. This is by far the best of them all. Thank you again Hilah and Papa Hilah!
        I’ll admit I used to use spice packets, canned tomatoes, chili beans, and Rotel peppers, etc, for 8 hours in a crockpot to make my secret chili….never again! Hilah’s recipe is quicker, easier, and healthier. I can whip it up in under 2hrs and using fresh cut tomatoes, jalepenos, onion, and garlic makes such a huge difference compared to canned garbage. Also, keeping the meat chunky is a key secret to the success of this recipe.
        Now I just wish they would forecast another “Snowmageddon” here…I need to make more of this chili!

  51. Delicious! The only change I made was a big dollop of sour cream in the middle of the bowl. Thanks for the recipe and story. ♡

  52. Are you Married? If not, Marry Me!!!!

    Not only are you a GREAT cook…your BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

    and I love your personality :-)

  53. Oh. My. God. Hilah. Oh. My. God.

    I made this chili tonight because it’s cold and snowing here tonight. I doubled it and added half a bottle of Highland Brewing Thunderstruck Coffee Porter and two bay leaves, but otherwise kept your recipe intact.

    This is seriously the best thing that I’ve ever put in my mouth. I’m including all of my boyfriends past and present in that statement. And I’ve had some hot boyfriends.

    I don’t even have words. I’ve polished off three bowls. I am stuffed, and all I want to do is eat some more. I’m on a diet, and this has completely blown my calorie count out of the water… but so, so worth it. So very worth it.

    • Yes! So glad to hear that, Kevyn! Though my dad would shake his head at the idea of bay leaves, I say whatever floats yer boat. :)

      • Haha! The only reason that the bay leaves found their way in there was because I bought them for one specific thing that I only needed leaf for. So I have this jar filled with them now and I don’t really know what to do with them. So I’m throwing them in whatever I can right now.

        I think your dad would really shake his head at the fact that I threw some kidney beans in there. I couldn’t help it, though! I didn’t grow up on chili without beans, so in my mind they’re kind of a necessity.

        Apparently there is a huge bean/no bean debate among chili aficionados. To the point where, on an online forum I frequent, bringing it up is seen as a ban worthy offense. There have been massive flame wars about it, like you don’t even know.

        I’m with you, though! Whatever you like is what you like. To hell with anyone who would judge you for it, lol!

  54. Hi, Hilah. Technically speaking, can you make authentic Texas chili with ground beef, or does it have to be beef chunks? Personally, I almost always use chunks, but I see most chili here in Florida made with ground beef.

    • That’s a good question, Larry. I asked Cookie (the Chuckwagon cook we made chili with) and he said either way. He also said he’d heard of the .22 bullet-size idea but he used a combination of coarse ground chuck and diced chuck.
      I think it can be either way, as long as there’s no beans! Myself, I kind of prefer ground beef chili.

  55. I once heard that true chili is made with beef cut into pieces the size of .22 bullets. I try to use once-ground beef. Hamburger, by contrast, is made with twice-ground beef.

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