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Texas Chili Con Carne Recipe

A bowl of chili garnished with sour cream
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4.61 from 137 votes
Beginning in the late 1960s, numerous chili cookoffs all over Texas, New Mexico, and many points beyond, have brought scores of tasty recipes to the fore. Here is one that contains all the classic traditional ingredients of the old timey range cook along with some clever recent additions. Like chocolate. Unsweetened chocolate was a common additive in the cooking of Mexican Indians, who first discovered the brown stuff, and a little bit adds a subtle background depth and richness that is often found in the top award winning recipes. Many cooks insist on unsweetened chocolate, but then they add sugar to the pot. And it can add bitterness as we learned while testing the recipe. But good old milk chocolate is the perfect addition.
A lot of recipes also add beer, but we thought that contributed to bitterness, so we left it out.
Another interesting addition is tortilla chips. A Mexican cook will use corn masa, the dough used to make tortillas. By adding chips we get pretty much the same result without the labor, and a little salt.
Most chili recipes start by rendering fat in the bottom of a kettle and frying the ingredients a few at a time building flavor by browning the meat, caramelizing the onions, and blooming the spices. But we know there's more flavor to be gained on the grill and smoker, so we started there for a BBQ element.
And finally, we list some optional toppings. I really like the sour cream option.

Serve with: A stout or porter.

Main Course
Tex Mex


Servings: 4 bowls of 8 ounces each


Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours



  • 1.5 pounds beef chuck (after trimming off as much fat and gristle as possible, see notes below)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 strips bacon
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 teaspoons American chili powder
  • ½ tablespoon ground cumin seed
  • 7 ounces diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • ½ ounce milk chocolate
  • 2 cups low sodium beef stock or water
  • 5 corn tortilla chips
  • ½ teaspoon Morton coarse kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Optional Toppings

  • 1 jalapeño
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar
  • cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 fresh tomatoes
  • 2 8-inch fresh tortillas
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice
About the meat. You need to use all beef if you want to win a competition in Texas, but for more interesting flavors you can use a mix of beef, pork, chicken, and lamb if you wish. In Texas the choice is usually cheaper cuts of beef like chuck, shoulder, sirloin roast, brisket, or stew meat, never tenderloin, ribeye, or strip. I use chuck, but short ribs and brisket point are wonderful choices. If you have leftover smoked Texas style beef brisket or pulled pork, that will work just fine. If you've got buffalo, rabbit, or rattlesnake, throw it in, too.
About the chili powder. Chili powders are blends and no two are alike. Some are quite hot, others mild. I use my own recipe (follow the link). Mine is heavy on the ancho chiles, and that is important. Most chili con carne is heavily flavored by ancho. It has a deep raisiny character and is not very hot. You can add ancho powder if you wish.
About the chocolate. Traditionalists use only unsweetened dark chocolate, but semi-sweet or sweet will do. The small amount of sweetness will not hurt the stew. If you are using unsweetened chocolate, be careful chopping it or you'll have a finger in the stew.
About the tortilla chips. You can use any of the popular store-bought brands that are corn based and not heavily flavored. Because they are usually heavily salted we do not salt the stew until after it has cooked a while and we have tasted it.
About the carrots. Another controversial ingredient. I think they bring a sweetness, a crunch if you don't over or undercook them, and nice color. So there.
Optional add-ins if you are not in Texas. 2 (16 ounces) cans of kidney and/or pinto beans, drained. If you add beans, it won't be Texas chili, but it will still be good. I won't tell anyone. Add canned beans for 30 minutes before serving.
About the toppings. Garnish the individual bowls as you wish. I like to take fresh tortillas, toast them on the grill, cut them into strips, sprinkle them on top, sprinkle on some chopped onion, and add a dollop of sour cream. Or you could just put the toppings in bowls and let people garnish to their own taste. Go crazy.
Optional serving methods. Chili is great when served on rice, cooked pasta, a baked potato, hot dogs, nachos, and more.
About the salt. Remember, Morton coarse kosher salt is half the concentration of table salt so if you use table salt, use half as much. Click here to read more about salt and how it works.
Metric conversion:

These recipes were created in US Customary measurements and the conversion to metric is being done by calculations. They should be accurate, but it is possible there could be an error. If you find one, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page


  • Prep. Prepare your mise en place. To begin, slice the onions in half, peel, and cut off the root end and the tops from the halved onions. Peel the carrots and cut into cubes about 1/4-inch each. Remove the stem, core, and seeds from the bell pepper and roughly chop. Press the garlic with a garlic press or mince it. Cut the chocolate into pea-size chunks. Crumble the corn chips. Remove the stem from the jalapeños and finely minced. Chop the cilantro. Chop the tomatoes.
  • Fire up. Prepare your grill for 2-zone indirect cooking or fire up your smoker at 225°F, and get some smoke rolling.
  • Cook. Add the unseasoned meat and the onion to the cool side of the grill or into the smoker, cover the grill or smoker, and cook just long enough to pick up the smoke flavor. They will finish cooking in the stew. When they are done, coarsely chop the onion, and cut the meat into cubes about 1/2-inch on each side.
  • Place the fresh tortillas on the hot side of the grill and, monitoring closely, cook until lightly browned on both sides, less than 1 minute per side. Remove, cut into strips, and set aside until you are ready to serve alongside the chili.
  • Turn the heat under the pot to medium-low and add the bacon. When the bacon is mostly done, remove it from the pot and set aside until ready to serve with the chili.
  • Add the meat to the pot and cook til it is brown on all sides. Don't crowd the pot or the meat will steam. You may have to work in batches.
  • Add the onion, garlic, chili powder, and cumin to the pot and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir well and make sure to get the brown bits off the bottom. Add the tomatoes, lime juice, meat, chocolate, tortilla chips, and the stock or water. Stir well.
  • Cover the pot and allow the chili to simmer over low for about 2 to 3 hours. Stir frequently to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom and burning.
  • When the chili is about the thickness you like, add salt, pepper, and brown sugar to taste. If it is too thick, add more water. If you want it hotter, add your favorite hot sauce, chipotle powder, or chipotle in adobo sauce. Be sure to add this a little bit at a time. Remember, as my barber used to say, "I can cut it off, but I can't put it back on."
  • Add the carrots and sweet bell peppers about 15 minutes before taking it off the heat to serve. You want them to have a little crunch. You can omit them, but I recommend you don't.
  • Serve. Add any toppings you choose and serve. If you are serving the chili at a party, you can put it in a slow cooker on low alongside the toppings and bowls so they can prepare their chili to their liking. Traditionalists serve chili straight with a good crusty bread suitable for dunking.


Calories: 565kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 37g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 141mg | Sodium: 965mg | Potassium: 1150mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 1182IU | Vitamin C: 29mg | Calcium: 104mg | Iron: 6mg