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There are few things better than a warm bowl of Texas chili on a chilly day (pun intended). Made from ground chuck roast and toasted Mexican chiles, this recipe is like a spicy hug in a bowl. It is perfect for those cold days when you just need something that is hearty and will warm you from the inside out.
What is Texas Chili
A quick search of the internet and you will find varying opinions on the origins of Texas Chili or Chili Con Carne. Having lived in San Antonio for decades, we lean toward the belief that it originated in San Antonio and was made famous by the “Chili Queens” who served food in San Antonio’s Military Plaza starting as early as the 1860s. Regardless of its origins, there is one thing that is true about Texas chili: it does not contain beans or tomatoes. It is made of beef and a thick and flavorful chili paste made from dried peppers.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
For our authentic Texas chili recipe, we don’t have a long list of ingredients. Other than the toasting of the chiles and prepping the beef it is pretty simple to execute with little prep.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Ground Beef or Chuck: You will want a ‘chili-grind’ beef which is a bit coarser than regular ground beef so that it stands out in the recipe. We also go for an 80/20 beef so that the meat doesn’t dry out during the cooking process. We used beef chuck roast and chose to grind it ourselves but most supermarkets will carry a chili-grind beef or you can ask your butcher to grind it. An alternative to grinding the chuck roast is to trim off excess fat and cut it into ½ – 1-inch cubes.
- Chiles: We prefer a combo of Ancho chiles and Guajillo chiles in our recipe. Ancho chiles, which are sun-dried poblanos, are more widely available and they can easily be the only chiles in this recipe. You can add other dried chiles to match your preference for spicy heat.
- Spices: Other than salt and pepper this recipe also calls for Mexican oregano, garlic powder, and cumin seeds. The cumin seeds should be toasted along with the chiles, but if you have to substitute with ground cumin, skip the step that has you toast them.
Which Dried Chiles to Use
We prefer to use ancho and guajillo chiles in our chile paste but you can substitute other chiles. Toasting the chile helps to bring out the deepness of the flavor and improves the taste, but toast them carefully because they can become bitter if they get scorched.
- Guajillo Chiles are part of the Holy Trinity of Chiles which includes Ancho, Arbol, and Guajillo. They are dried peppers with a tangy, bright, fruity flavor and range from 2,500 – 5,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the Scoville Scale. They are perfect for salsa, moles, marinades, and stews.
- Ancho Chiles have a smoky flavor when dried and vary in spiciness and are about 1,000 – 2,000 SHU. They have mild to medium heat with a lightly smoky, fruity flavor.
- Arbol Chiles or Chile de árbol is a common choice when adding some heat to salsas and adobos. They are the hottest of the three chiles coming in at 15,000 – 30,000 SHU.
- Chipotle Peppers are smoked, dried jalapeno peppers with medium heat and smoky-sweet flavor. These chiles measure 5,000 – 10,000 SHU.
- Pasilla Chiles are a dried form of the chilaca pepper and are sometimes referred to as “little raisins” due to their smoky, fruity, earthy flavor. They are similar in flavor and heat to Ancho chiles but are less sweet. They measure 1,000 – 2,000 SHU.
Which Beef to Use
Texas chili is typically made with chuck roast either ground or cut into ½ to 1-inch cubes. Chuck roast is nicely marbled which will add the right about of fat to the beef as it cooks but cut off any excess fat on the outside of the roast. Jim likes to grind the meat to control the quality of the beef-to-fat ratios and get the correct texture. We use a meat grinder attachment to our KitchenAid mixer. If you choose to grind your own here are a few tips:
- The plate with the larger holes will make for a coarser grind, which is great for chili.
- Cut the meat into ½ to 1-inch cubes and then freeze them in a single layer on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes. Freezing the cubed beef helps prevent the fat from “smearing” as it goes through the grinder.
- Remove the meat from the freezer and feed it a couple of pieces at a time into the grinder. Use the stamper to push the meat down, keeping a consistent pressure moving through the blades.
- Keep a bowl underneath the grinder to catch the beef as it extrudes. If the meat starts to warm up, place it back in the freezer for a few minutes.
If you decide to make Texas chili with chunks of chuck roast instead of ground chuck here are some helpful directions:
- Remove any excess fat and cut the meat into ½ to 1-inch cubes.
- Seer beef in a neutral oil in a Dutch oven or large pot.
- Cook the meat in batches so that you don’t overcrowd the pan and end up steaming the meat.
- Don’t clean the pot. Cook the onions and tomato paste in the same pan to take advantage of the fond, getting all the flavor left after searing the beef.
Chili Topping and Serving Suggestions
There are so many toppings that you can put on your chili. These are a few of our favorites.
- Shredded Cheddar Cheese
- Sour Cream
- Avocado or Guacamole
- Green Onions
- Slices of radish
- Diced White Onions
- Tortilla or Pita Chips
- Saltine Crackers
Chili freezes well and will keep in the refrigerator for several days which makes it great for leftovers. There are so many ways to serve chili you could have it in a different dish every night for a week. These are a couple of our go-to ways for serving chili.
- Traditional Bowl of Chili – Grab a bowl, spoon, and your favorite toppings for a hearty bowl of chili.
- Frito Pie – Serve chili on top of your favorite corn chips and cheese for a game-day get-together.
- Baked Potato – Stuff a traditional russet or sweet potato with chili for a great gluten-free dinner.
- Corn Bread Casserole – Top your chili with your favorite cornbread batter and then bake in the oven.
- Chili Queso or Cheese Dip – Combine your favorite queso or cheese dip with equal parts chili and serve with tortilla chips for a great appetizer.
- Chili Cheese Burgers – Skip the mayo, lettuce, and tomato and instead top your burger with some chili and a slice of cheddar cheese.
- Chili Cheese Nachos – Load up your favorite chips with chili, cheese, and sour cream for a quick appetizer.
How to Make Texas Chili
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: As the chili simmers the chile paste and spices develop a rich delicious flavor so allow it to simmer for a couple of hours to get the most flavor.
1. Chile Paste: Cut open dried chiles and remove the seeds. Preheat a cast-iron skillet and roast the dried chiles for approximately 20-30 seconds per side. They will begin to have a fruity smell and darken, resembling leather. Be careful not to over-toast. Tear the roasted chiles into pieces and place them in a medium saucepan with the broth, and apple cider vinegar then simmer for 10 minutes.
While the chile mixture is simmering toast the cumin seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat. Toast the seeds for about 3 minutes stirring a few times until they smell fragrant and are visibly darker. Be careful not to let them burn or they will taste bitter. As soon as the seeds are toasted, transfer them to a bowl or mortar and pestle to allow them to cool. Crush them slightly in the mortar and pestle or place cooled cumin seeds in a plastic bag and crush them with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy pan.
Once the chile mixture has simmered for 10 minutes pour the contents of the saucepan along with the Mexican oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, and toasted crushed cumin seeds into a blender and blend until smooth. Using a spatula work the chile paste through a wire strainer to remove residual chile stems or seeds.
2. Cook the Ground Chuck and Onions: Cook the ground beef chuck over medium heat in a large Dutch oven until the meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Remove the beef from the pot and set aside if you want, but make sure to leave a tablespoon or two of beef fat in the pot. Sauté the onions and tomato paste until the onions are soft. Stir the cooked ground chuck back in, distributing everything evenly.
3. Cook the Chili: Add the chile paste, broth, and beer to the pot with the onions and ground chuck, and bring everything to a boil. Reduce the heat, then add the masa harina, and simmer for 3 hours or until the chili has thickened. Serve it hot and topped with your favorite garnishes or side.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: You can make chili up to 3 days in advance. Prepare the chili according to the instructions, then once it has cooled store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. When you’re ready to eat, follow the reheat instructions below.
How to Store: Once the chili has cooled store it in a freezer-safe container or gallons-size freezer bag. Freezer bags are our preference since they can be placed flat in the freezer and stacked. The chili can be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost the chili overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. Leftovers can also be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
How to Reheat: The chili will thicken as it sits in the refrigerator so a few splashes of broth or water may need to be added to loosen it up a bit when you reheat it. To reheat on the stove transfer it to a saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. To reheat in the microwave transfer to a microwave-safe dish, cover with a microwave-safe lid or paper towel, and heat for about 2 minutes stirring every 30 seconds.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- If your chili is too thick, just thin it out with a little beef or vegetable broth and then cover it to trap some of the liquid.
- If your chili is too thin, just thicken it by adding masa harina a teaspoon at a time.
- Stir the chili occasionally as it simmers to prevent the bottom from scorching.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, make the chile paste, brown the beef and cook the onions then add all the ingredients to a slow cooker. Stir to combine and then cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-8 hours. Cooking it in a slow cooker or crockpot will add liquid to the chili as the condensation falls back into the pot which will produce thinner chili so reduce the amount of broth to 2 cups. Additional broth can be added to thin it out to the desired consistency.
Let’s Connect! If you make this recipe or any other recipe on Casual Epicure, please don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It helps others who are considering making our recipes and we love hearing about your cooking experiences. And if you snapped some shots, share them on Instagram, and be sure to tag @casual.epicure so we can feature them in our stories.
Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, we recommend checking out some of these:
- Game Day Chili (with beans)
- Pork Pozole Verde
- Chili Cheese Nachos
- 3 dried guajillo chiles
- 3 dried ancho chiles
- 1 ½ cups broth, beef or vegetable
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons Mexican oregano
- ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- ½ tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- ½ tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 ½ – 3 pounds chuck roast freshly ground
- 1 white onion, large
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups broth, beef or vegetable
- 2 tablespoons masa harina
- 1 cup dark beer
- Cut open dried chiles and remove seeds.
- Roast dried chiles on a pre-heated cast-iron skillet for approximately 20-30 seconds per side. Chiles will begin to have a fruity smell and darken, resembling leather. Be careful not to over toast. Tear or cut the toasted chiles into pieces.
- In a medium saucepan simmer the broth, apple cider vinegar, and roasted dried chiles for 10 minutes.
- Pour the chiles, broth, and apple cider vinegar along with the Mexican oregano, garlic powder, kosher salt, and toasted ground cumin seeds into a blender and blend until smooth.
- Using a spatula work the chile paste through a wire strainer to remove residual chile stems or seeds.
- Cook ground chuck and onions over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Stir until the meat crumbles and is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat.
- Add the chile paste, broth, and beer to the cooked beef and onion mixture and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat, add masa harina, and simmer for 3 hours or until chili has thickened.
- Serve hot and topped with your favorite garnishes or side.
5 thoughts on “Texas Chili”
it can also be thickened with rolled oats. Gives it a sauce like texture.
There are a whole lot of really bad chili recipes on the internet. This is NOT one of them! I am a retired professional chefs. My father was born in Spur Texas. He loved to make chili and taught me how to make it. This recipe show respect for the history and tradition of TRUE Texas Chili.
Two things that I would like add. One do not trim the fat from the chuck. Fat adds flavor. If you want, skim some of the fat from the finished chili. The second thing is that masa is more than just a thickening agent. It also add a touch of sweetness and dimension to the wonderful fish. Bless you for spreading the Gospel of true Texas Chili!
Thanks, Franco! We’ve definitely done our research, both on the internet and in our kitchen. We’re proud of the heritage of the Tejana Chili Queens who are credited with serving the first true Texas Red to vaqueros and gringos alike in the Market Square during the 1880s right here in San Antonio. While I agree with the comment about the fat equaling flavor, we’re getting a bit older, so we try to keep it lean. But that’s the beauty of chili as everyone gets to tweak the recipe here and there until they’ve created their own family tradition.
what side dish would be best with this
Some of our favorite ways to serve this chili is with cornbread (jalapeño if you like spicy), with your favorite tortilla chips, or you can always crack open a bag of Fritos and sprinkle on some shredded cheddar for a classic Frito pie (we call it a ‘walking taco’ here in South Texas.)