This Texas chili recipe is authentic, meaty, just the right amount of spicy, and not a chili bean in sight. Learn how to make your own Texas chili.
The first time I had Texas chili was, shockingly, down in Texas. I was in the middle of my military training and they let me off base. I'd never tried it, so grabbed a bowl at a local restaurant and...
BOOM! Eyes opened! Talk about flavor.
I've been making a version of that exact bowl ever since. Please note that I am NOT a Texas chili purist. There are different ways to make true Texas chili, but this is how I like to make mine.
You’ll find argument after argument about what exactly makes up Texas style chili, and as with any recipe, the ingredients and preparation varies from cook to cook. See my Recipe Variations notes below on this.
The main thing that practically everyone agrees on, however, is that Texas chili has no beans! This is very important. You don’t put beans in Texas chili. See my further notes on that below as well.
Let’s talk about how to make Texas chili, shall we?
How to Make Texas Chili – the Recipe Method
Start your chili paste first by lightly toasting the dried peppers in a dry pan about a minute or 2 per side. This will help to release the oils.
Remove from heat and cool enough to handle. Remove the stems and pour out the seeds.
Soak the peppers in hot water for 20 minutes, or until they are nice and soft.
Add them to a food processor with 1/2 to 1 cup of the soaking water and a bit of salt to taste. Process until nice and smooth. Set aside for now.
Add the cubed beef to a large bowl and toss with the cumin and a bit of salt and pepper. Make sure everything is nice and coated.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat in a large pot and add the beef. Cook 6-7 minutes, searing the beef all over.
Remove the beef and set aside.
Add the remaining olive oil along with the jalapenos, serranos and onion. Cook them down about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and stir. Cook another minute.
Pour in the reserved chili paste and stir. Cook it for 2-3 minutes to let the flavor develop a bit.
Stir in the beef broth (or beer), 2 cups of water, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and masa and bring to a quick boil. If you are using the optional additions (see my NOTES below), add them in now.
Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the meat is tender. It could take longer if you are using tougher cuts of beef (see NOTES above). Give it a stir once every 30 minutes or so.
NOTE: You could also transfer everything to a slow cooker or Instant Pot and let it cook low and slow. I usually use my Dutch oven.
The chili will thicken up nicely as it simmers.
If it becomes too thick, add in a ¼ cup of water and stir. If it is too thin, thicken with more masa.
Serve with your favorite fixins! Get ready for an awesome "bowl o red"!
Now, I'm sure you have questions. Or comments. Let's move onto the overall Texas Chili discussion, shall we?
Does Texas Chili Have Beans?
NO! Texas chili does NOT have beans.
However, as with any cook, you are the one making the recipe, so if you'd like to include BEANS in your Texas chili, go for it. Use just about any bean - kidney beans, black beans, several white bean varieties work nicely.
If you choose to include beans, though, be prepared for your Texas friends to tell you, vehemently, that it is NOT officially Texas chili. I'm sure you'll be okay with that.
What Makes Texas Chili Different from Other Chilis?
Texas chili is unique from other chilis in that it does not contain beans or tomato sauce, or any tomato product. It is made primarily of meat and a thick and flavor chili paste made from dried peppers. It is more akin to a thick and hearty beef stew that most chilis with a focus on chili pepper flavor. Because of the reddish color from the chili, it is also known as Texas Red Chili or Cowboy Chili.
About the Dried Peppers
The ancho pepper is the dried form of the poblano chili pepper. It has a mild paprika flavor, with sweet to moderate heat.
Pasilla peppers offer a rich smoky flavor. They're often used as a powder in Mexican salsas as well as in mole and adobo sauces, though they make a wonderful addition to not only Texas chili, but any style of chili.
The New Mexican peppers are earthy and a little sweet. Together, they build the delectable chili paste that makes this Texas chili recipe truly authentic.
You can easily use other dried pods to form your flavor base, or try it with only a single pepper. I've made some chili recipes with only pasilla peppers and with only ancho peppers, and was not disappointed.
About the Fresh Peppers
Either work with them from fresh, or roast them for a more robust flavor. Feel free to experiment.
Choices of Beef
Chuck roast is always a popular option for Texas chili because it is a tougher meat that benefits greatly from the low and slow cooking process. I prefer beef chuck. All of that tough connective tissue breaks down and it becomes wonderfully tender and flavorful.
You can use any stew meat for this particular recipe.
I've enjoyed some Texas chilis with ground beef, and found them delicious, but it just isn't the same in terms of taste and consistency. But if you're in a bind, I say go for it. Better to have chili than NO chili.
It is still quite delicious.
Additional Ingredients and Recipe Variations
As mentioned, there are other ways to make Texas chili, and the recipe will vary from cook to cook. The largest variations I see involve the use of seasonings.
I rely mostly on the peppers, the meat, and a few simple seasonings to make my outstanding Texas chili (if I do say so myself!), but other ingredients I've encountered with other Texas chili recipes include:
- Mexican oregano
- Hot chili powder or flakes (Yes!)
- Vinegar (1-2 tablespoons usually)
- Chocolate or cocoa powder
- Beer (used instead of broth, or both - I've done this and love it)
- Worcestershire sauce
- Brown sugar/sugar
- Tomato paste/sauce/diced tomatoes/crushed tomatoes (usually a typical can or so)
- Masa Harina (as a thickener)
Note that I did not list BEANS among those ingredients.
How Long Does it Take to Make Texas Chili
Once you've got your pot of Texas chili simmering, it will take a least a good two hours of simmering time for the meats to break down, depending on the type of meat you are using. The key is to let the flavor develop, and for the tough connective tissues (collagen) to break down and become tender.
I've had some of my chilis take nearly 4 hours for it to get to where I wanted it, flavor-wise. Just keep tasting and testing.
If your chili becomes too thick from the simmering process and it still needs developing time, just add a bit of water here and there, about a quarter cup or so at a time, as needed.
Speaking of flavor and simmering time...
Try it the Next Day
Texas chili is GREAT right off the bat, but you can develop even MORE flavor by cooling it and setting it into the refrigerator, covered. Leave it overnight, then reheat it the next day.
It is even better this way.
Serving Up Your Texas Chili
I don't see any real RULES here when serving up Texas chili. Serve it up with whatever fixings you prefer. Fritos are fun and crunchy (Frito pie, anyone?), as are crispy tortillas, but go for the regulars like diced onion, spicy chopped peppers, chili flakes, fresh chopped herbs, limes, crema or sour cream, shredded cheese and more.
How Long Does Texas Chili Last in the Fridge?
Properly sealed in a container with a tight lid, chili should last a week in the refrigerator. If you'd like to keep your chili longer, it is best to freeze it in proper freezer containers. That way your chili will last a good 6 months.
That's it, my friends! I hope you enjoy your Texas chili! Let me know how it turns out for you!
Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help. If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you’ll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don’t forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I’ll be sure to share! Thanks! — Mike H.
Texas Chili Recipe
- 3 ancho peppers
- 3 pasilla peppers
- 3 New Mexican dried peppers See my NOTES above on the dried pepper choices – I prefer a variety
- 2.5 pounds beef chuck cut into bite-sized cubes
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium white onion chopped
- 3 jalapeno peppers chopped
- 2 serrano peppers chopped (optional for extra heat – use extra jalapenos for milder)
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 2 cups beef stock or use a dark beer
- 2.5 cups water + more as needed (or use chicken or beef stock, or beer)
- 2 tablespoons masa harina corn flour, for thickening, if desired
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire
- FOR SERVING: Chopped onion, spicy chili flakes, freshly chopped cilantro, lime wedges, crema or sour cream, Fritos or tortilla chips, whatever else you desire
- Start your chili paste first by lightly toasting the dried peppers in a dry pan about a minute or 2 per side. This will help to release the oils.
- Remove from heat and cool enough to handle. Remove the stems and pour out the seeds.
- Soak the peppers in hot water for 20 minutes, or until they are nice and soft.
- Add them to a food processor with 1/2 to 1 cup of the soaking water and a bit of salt to taste. Process until nice and smooth. Set aside for now.
- Add the cubed beef to a large bowl and toss with the cumin and a bit of salt and pepper. Make sure everything is nice and coated.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot and add the seasoned beef. Cook 6-7 minutes, searing the beef all over. Remove the beef and set aside.
- Add the remaining olive oil along with the jalapenos, serranos and onion. Cook them down about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and stir. Cook another minute.
- Return the beef to the pot and stir in the reserved chili paste. Cook it for 2-3 minutes to let the flavor develop a bit.
- Stir in the beef broth (or beer), 2 cups of water, brown sugar, Worcestershire, and masa and bring to a quick boil. If you are using the optional additions (see my NOTES above), add them in now.
- Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for about 2 hours, or until the beef is very tender. It could take longer if you are using tougher cuts of beef (see NOTES above). Give it a stir once every 30 minutes or so. If it becomes too thick, add in a ¼ cup of water and stir. Thicken with more masa.
- Serve with your favorite fixins!
NOTE: This recipe was updated on 2/5/21 to include new information, photos and video. It was originally published on 2/18/19.