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Calvin's Recipe
for Texas Red Chili


  • 3# beef, trimmed lean, diced petite
  • 2-3 large onions, diced petite
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp. powdered red chili
  • 1 tbsp ground comino
  • 1.5 tsp paprika
  • 1.5 tsp oregano, rubbed & remove stems
  • 2 dried red chili pods, seeded & blended in water
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • salt
  • cayenne
  • instant coffee
  • molasses
  • masa harina
CAUTION! Be advised that putting beans in the chili was a hanging offense in the early days of Texas. Lucky for us, the civil rights people haven't written specific protection for such an offense into the Constitution, yet. The price of a good rope has gone up, but there is almost always a stout live oak tree nearby.


Render some meat trimmings to provide 1-2 tbs fat to coat bottom of pan. Remove what’s left of the trimmings from the pan and start cooking the meat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent. Stir in chili, paprika, comino and oregano. Add tomato sauce and chili-water blend. Add water to desired level for cooking. Add some salt, about half what you’d figure… you’ll add more after some cooking.

The cayenne will add plenty of fire, so use it sparingly, if at all. ¼ tsp or so, if you think you need it.

Let it cook for a while, until the meat is tender. Don't let it stick or burn on the bottom of the pot. Burnt chili does not taste or smell good.

Adjust the salt.

The instant coffee adds a pleasing aroma and darkens the chili a bit. Start with 1-2 tsp or so. It is concentrated and can add a bitter flavor, so don't over do it. Add it at about the same time as the molasses.

Molasses can take the bitter edge off some of the spices, but can interfere with the meat becoming tender, so it should be added after the meat is fully cooked. Maybe 2-3 tbsp ought should do it. I know some of y'all might say that this ain't no BBQ sauce recipe and molasses shouldn't be in it. Everyone should do what they think is right.

The masa harina will thicken the chili. Start with 2 tbsp mixed in water, stir it into the chili after the molasses.

Where amounts are not specified or are indefinite, use your judgement. All amounts can be adjusted to your taste. Note that there are no jalapeno peppers in this recipe. They are not needed, but as I said earlier, everyone should do what they think is right.

Some hints & alternatives

This recipe actually tastes better after a night in the fridge.

We don't generally like food that is blow-it-out-you-bloomer-leg spicy hot. If you do like that sort of stuff, add more cayenne or some habaneros or whatever floats your boat.

I like to use plain, ground, red chili for this recipe, when I can get it. The stuff that passes for chili powder at the grocery has other spices mixed in with it, so as you really don't know what all is in it. The Whole Foods Markets in Houston generally have it available. The grocery store stuff is better than no chili at all.

Use the best meat you can afford. I favor round steak, as it is easy to trim and dice. Ground meat makes for a finer texture and a soupier chili. It cooks faster and generally adds more grease than is good for you. Beef heart is very good in chili, too, as it has a stronger flavor, though it requires longer cooking.

We like to use this chili on hot dogs. With grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Spoon some over a bowl of Fritos with grated sharp cheddar cheese for a Frito Pie.

When was the last time YOU had a good bowl of chili?
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copyright © 2006
by Calvin Smith