Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
8 Oct

Primal Texas Chili

All too often a bowl full of chili is an uninspired blend of ground meat and canned tomatoes overwhelmed by beans. Ask anyone who follows the Primal Blueprint and they’ll tell you that the beans are unnecessary, but ask any Texan and they’ll tell you that putting beans in chili is an absolute travesty. In Texas, a bowl full of beans has no right calling itself chili, even when ground meat is thrown in.

Texas chili doesn’t let anything get in the way of and distract from the two main ingredients, chunks of beef and chili powder. Hearty, heavily seasoned and ranging from a bit of heat to fiery-hot, this is the type of chili that’s so thick you almost need a fork to eat it. Outsiders say it resembles stew more than chili, but it’s doubtful that this squabble over terminology has ever stopped someone from finishing a bowl. Texas chili is simply too good to pass up.

Using a brand of chili powder you like makes a difference – the better the chili powder, the better the chili. In Texas chili, it’s the main seasoning and gives the dish its nickname, “Bowl of Red.” If you’re feeling ambitious, you can make your own chili powder by toasting dried chiles for a few minutes in a pan on the stove then grinding them into powder (a coffee grinder works well for this.) Buy a variety of chiles like New Mexico, guajillo, pasilla, ancho and arbol and then combine the powder of each until the flavor and heat is to your liking. Most types of chili powder also have a bit of cumin, paprika, dried garlic and dried oregano thrown in, and even more of each is added to Texas chili to give the dish it’s intense flavor.

If you’ve never had Texas chili before, start with the recipe below. You won’t be disappointed, although keep in mind it’s only one version of this great dish. Some, but not all, Texas chili recipes contain a tomato product. Some use water as liquid, others call for beef broth. A splash of vinegar isn’t unheard of and either is masa harina, a type of corn flour that thickens the chili but isn’t necessary at all for flavor.

Like many regional specialties, no two recipes for Texas chili are exactly the same and each one claims to be the “real” version. Whatever your opinion is about the exact blend of spices or addition of tomato, one thing is for sure – Texas chili is likely to convince you never to put ground meat (and definitely not beans) in your chili bowl again.

4 –6 servings


  • 3 pounds chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons tallow, lard or olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • One 6-ounce can of tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Optional: cayenne pepper to taste and Tabasco sauce, to serve on the side


Lightly season beef with salt. Heat animal fat or olive oil in a large pot over high heat. Working in 3 batches, brown beef, about 3 minutes per batch.

Transfer beef to a plate.

Turn heat to medium. Brown onions and garlic, about five minutes. Return the beef to the pot and stir in tomato paste.

Cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently, scraping bottom of pot. Add chili powder, oregano, paprika and cumin (and cayenne, if using).

Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer partially covered, stirring occasionally, until meat is tender, about 2 hours.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. As a Texan, I’d also like to add that we oftentimes mix up our meats in chili. For example, in my house, we usually throw in a couple pounds of chili grind, a pound of ground, some chunked beef, and the best thing ever…venison. The mixed textures of the meat are really yummy. We usually make a big batch and freeze it for later. So good. I can’t wait until it gets cold again. Yum!

    PJ wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Maybe you could send some of that up here to NY?! Lovin’ all the recipes and variations.

      Just Cindy :-D wrote on March 12th, 2012
  2. Yes! Texas Chili is the only way to go, and it’s naturally so Primal. However, I recommend fresh hot chilies in the chili (poblanos, jalapenos, serranos) to give it the extra kick that we Texans require. Also, I like to make a 3 meat chili with chorizo, finely diced sirloin and course ground beef (chili grind). Delicious!

    Grace wrote on October 8th, 2011
  3. That is pretty close to my chili recipe. I live in Texas and was raised on it. Mine is a variant of my dad’s recipe. I do add cayenne pepper, plus I put a cinnamon stick and a jalapeno sliced in half in it. The cinnamon stick and jalapeno are removed after. I also recommend having a butcher give the meat a “chili grind”. The meat is able to absorb the flavors better that way.

    Todd wrote on October 8th, 2011
  4. Been making this about once a month in Texas, for years. I started with a recipe in Gourmet called Ding Dong Eight Alarm Chili. Supposedly it was based on an episode of the Cosby Show where Bill Cosby’s character makes chili.

    shannon wrote on October 8th, 2011
  5. I am REALLY surprised to find 3 tablespoons chili powder. I’ve never made chili this way.

    Meagan wrote on October 8th, 2011
  6. Nummy. I love my burnin’ hot Texas chili. Of course, I learned o make it with un-primal masa harina so it isn’t so stew like. I also sometimes add other vegetables, but cook them long enough that they dissolve.

    Kate wrote on October 8th, 2011
  7. YUM YUM YUM!!

    Primal Toad wrote on October 8th, 2011
  8. Looks fantastic. Been making the chili out of the PB Cookbook so this will be a nice change-up. I love the cold weather.

    Bodhi K. wrote on October 8th, 2011
  9. Love Texas style chili — we make it all day in a crock pot (after browning) and use different chunked meats, though pronghorn antelope is a favorite, along with elk. We use 3-5 pounds of meat, a little tomato paste (or fresh if it’s tomato season) and a LOT more chili powder and cumin.

    We get a lot of our chili powder at The Chili Shop in Santa Fe — — though they don’t have the selection of hot powders they have at the store. Still, this year they have both Dixon and Hatch Medium Hot and Mild powders, plus some others. You can always call them and find out how hot this season’s chili is — it always varies.

    I also throw in a chunk of Kombu seaweed into most crock pot dishes — it dissolves during cooking and adds good minerals to the dish, whatever it is. (For those who still do beans occasionally, Kombu helps to “de-gas” bean dishes, as well.)

    It freezes great of course, so there is always some chili for that cold, snowy evening dinner.

    Diane wrote on October 8th, 2011
  10. Timely – I just reposted my Texas-style chili recipe made primal Thursday:

    I have to agree with Grace; you really need to use some fresh chilies and peppers in it.

    Jan wrote on October 8th, 2011
  11. Texan born and raised.

    Except for the tomato paste, this recipe closely matches the recipe I’ve used for almost 60 years.

    I’m not a fan of chunks of meat. My preferred texture is meat run through a 1 inch plate, if one’s butcher has it; 3/4″ will suffice. It’s ground meat but still in large enough pieces to have good texture.

    James Howell wrote on October 8th, 2011
  12. Not from Texas, so my perspective on chili is a little different. My chili gets made when I have a bunch of veggies about to go bad. Beets make an amazing addition to whatever animal you have in the freezer, as does broccoli, bok, and kale. Nut butter and a smidge of dark chocolate is a must.. Also, don’t forget the homemade sourkraut on top.

    patrick wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • You’re not from around Texas, are you? 😉

      Karen P. wrote on October 8th, 2011
      • I’m not sure he’s from this planet, dark chocolate and sauerkraut? Sounds more like Gullosh!

        Noah Paul wrote on October 30th, 2011
    • Hey Patrick,
      Your chili sounds interesting, especially with the chocolate in it. How ’bout a basic recipe?

      WJ Purifoy wrote on October 9th, 2011
    • Bing that to Texas and we laugh at you…

      Dusty wrote on October 10th, 2011
      • everyone else laughs at Texans who can’t spell.

        jimmy wrote on November 27th, 2011
  13. I’ll have to try this one. our usual recipe is fairly similar but with ground beef and a bottle of dark beer.

    bbuddha wrote on October 8th, 2011
  14. Great recipe, for a delicious twist, instead of 4 cups of water, add 2 cups of wine and 2 of water for a perfect beef bourguignon.

    CRO-MAGNON wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Red wine

      CRO-MAGNON wrote on October 8th, 2011
      • Or if you don’t have wine handy but plain water is too tasteless, use half vegetable broth half water. I usually make my own veggie broth either from vegetable scraps (strong) or from celery + onions + herbs (milder).

        oxide wrote on October 9th, 2011
    • I prefer wine in my glass, not in my food.

      MichaelA wrote on April 18th, 2012
  15. Looks absolutely delicious – I’ve made similar chillies before now and I definitely prefer the large chunks of meat to the more usual minced beef that we usually see here in the UK. One question though…what do you serve it with if you’re going to stay primal? My norm would be rice, which I suppose isn’t too bad, but I’d like something a bit more appropriate.

    Chris wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • I cook chilli a couple of times a month and either eat it all week or freeze it in portions.

      Usually I eat it with roast veggies, on sweet potato (cooked like a jacket spud),riced cauli, or sometimes rice :)

      Misabi wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Cheese. Beyond that, I’ve never served chili with anything, really. It’s a one dish wonder.

      Jane wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Small serving of “allowed” carbs like quinoa and amaranth. Or just go straight to dessert: frozen berries with a little cream (or coconut milk) and vanilla extract.

      oxide wrote on October 9th, 2011
    • Eat with grits, corn chips, tortillas and top with raw onion (minced) cilantro and cheese

      scottindallas wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • I’ve started eating this chilli with big chunks of cucumber doused in lime juice. The acid of the lime goes well with the spicy chilli I think.

      James Pharaoh wrote on November 23rd, 2011
  16. Ironically, I’ve always hated chili because the only variety available was an incomprehensible mixture of stuff, which included beans, which I have always hated. Blech. I was always, even in my carb fest days, wary of weird mixtures, and hateful of beans. But this is so primal! I’m sure it will make me love chili again! Can’t wait to make it…

    Milla wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • I agree!

      Never been a fan of beans.

      Probably going to give this a shot tonight as I have a couple of nice thick steaks in the fridge waiting

      Chris wrote on October 11th, 2011
  17. One thing you might try is splitting the seasonings in half and adding the second half a little before serving. This helps the flavors in the finished chili.

    I’m from Oklahoma so we are pretty good at chili also.

    Jeff wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Agreed. Cooking blends the ingredients but it also reduces flavors. Holding some spices until the last half hour or so of cooking brightens up those flavors, while the long cooked spices integrate deep into the other ingredients. Excellent suggestion.
      Living in Texas, but grew up in Ky.–my mom made a great bowl of chili in an iron pot, using tomatoes and dark red kidney beans. I like Texas chili fine, but I love kidney beans–heresy or not down here, I’m the guy who has to eat the damned stuff, and I say bring on the beans! I like it with peanut butter some time; cook it a long time and all it does is thicken the texture but you can’t taste it. 1/4 tsp of cloves (no more) is a great mystery ingredient, especially for some Christmas chili–if you do it right people will be saying, “What is that?”

      wm ridenour wrote on October 14th, 2011
      • @wm, I’m from Texas but I have a Yankee mother from Indiana who made a similar chili with dark kidney beans. I agree it’s quite good. Since growing up with that I still enjoy beans in my chili, although the bean-less recipe Mark shares sounds delicious, too.

        The clove suggestion is interesting. Cinnamon is a good one, and it’s used in Cincinatti chili.

        I would love to try some combination of cinnamon, spices and chocolate (as Patrick suggested) in chili, similar to the flavors in Mexican mole.

        Chili is one of those dishes for which there are guidelines, but no rules unless you want to be parochial. It’s a great way to try different combinations of flavors and textures.

        Nate wrote on October 14th, 2011
  18. If y’all put beans in your chili, y’all don’t know beans about chili!

    Connie wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Now, you see, this is the kind of Texas brainwashing I have to put up with all the time here in Dallas. Reminds me of the big debate between classical music fans and jazz fans years ago; in their minds you couldn’t appreciate both. In the 19th century in Germany you couldn’t like both Brahms and Wagner–If you liked one you had to hate the other. In North Carolina bbq has to be pork with vinegar, in Memphis it’s pork but the sauce HAS TO BE sweet. in Texas even mentioning pork can get you in trouble. Gawd! Where’s it going to end–the folly in the world that is.
      Well, don’t tell any of that to the modern music lover and food lover–he’ll laugh straight at you…which is what I do when I hear this nonsense. Good is good, and all bias does is keep you from a good experience. I know, because I discovered to my shock in Cincinnati that even Yankees can make good chili and pulled pork–but they got it from us.

      wm ridenour wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • I keep reading that strange saying, if you put beans in your chili, you don’t know beans about chili. That had to have come from someone who did not grow up with chili. As a Texan, I’m sure I’ve tried at least a dozen different chilis in my life. If you go to a restaurant and order chili, you’re going to get chili with beans. If it doesn’t have beans, it’s just a meat sauce for hot dogs and frito pies. Outside of the Terlingua chili cookoff, real Texans use beans and that’s what matters.

      Amanda wrote on May 26th, 2012
      • I’m from Texas and so is my mama. She always cooked a pot to pinto beans for the children and non-Texans to mix in with the chili to tone done the HOT. The only other thing on the table was a pan of cornbread and plenty of sweet tea.

        Velda wrote on August 24th, 2012
  19. I just made half a batch, adding some stewed tomatoes and a parmesan rind. Turned out FANTASTIC. Great recipe.

    Nick wrote on October 8th, 2011
  20. That’s pretty much how i make it. I put curry pwder in it sometimes though. (i know i know, but i’m not American so STFU lol)

    Nion wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • You need to keep that to yourself…Oh no you cant, we can smell that nasty stuff…

      Dusty wrote on October 10th, 2011
  21. Outstanding! I know it’s almost certainly a sacrilege, but I’ve got to try this recipe with a bunch of veggies added to the mix! (Or maybe it’s okay of I keep them on the side?)

    Mark Ellis wrote on October 8th, 2011
  22. Oh how I miss chilli… and curry… I had to go nightshade free a few years back. I don’t think a chilliless chilli is possible. Or indeed desirable?!

    Super Gaily Girl wrote on October 8th, 2011
  23. I have heard the term “chuck” before but what type of cut of beef is it? I have heard chuck roast but no idea what it is. I’m in Canada and I’ve never seen that cut in a store or at the butcher shop. Even a google search doesn’t help me out. Next weekend I’m asking the butcher at the market if she knows what it is. Although any help here would be appreciated.

    RobF wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • It is “chuck roast” or “chuck pot roast”. I think that “shoulder pot roast” works well, too. Pick one of these charts and take it to your butcher:

      Oscar wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Hey Rob,

      To me what’s in the pics above looks like what’s I’ve seen sold as brisket and is what I use for my stews and chilli.

      I cook it in big chunks like that, sometimes I’ll leave it as is and others I’ll take the meat chunks out of the stew once their cooked the melt in your mouth texture, shred them with a couple of forks then put it all back into the sauce/gravy again and stir it all through.

      Your post got me wondering though, so I had a quick look and found this:

      Chuck =

      Brisket =

      Misabi wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Chuck is a subprimal cut near the shoulders.
      So you can have chuck steak, chuck roast etc

      Also known as braising steak in the UK

      Chris McClymont wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • I thought this may help you but it says Canada and US use the same names. It will help Brits figure out what Chuck is:

      greg grok wrote on October 9th, 2011
    • If it comes from the shoulder, you’re in business.

      Ken wrote on October 9th, 2011
    • Thanks everyone. Looks like I’m bringing a picture to the butcher shop and asking for “meat from here please” (picture me pointing at picture of a delicious cow).

      RobF wrote on October 10th, 2011
    • Chuck is a great cut of meat. It has more fat running through it and is a bit tough, so you can’t grill it unless you tenderize the crap out of it. However, the fat gives it flavor when you brown it in a pan, And it looses its toughness once you cook it for 2 hours but it won’t fall apart on you. I’m not from Texas, but you’all are making me hungry, pardon me while I run to the grocery store…

      Noah Paul wrote on October 30th, 2011
  24. I think it is possible to make your chilly out of beef tong with beef heart for people who are confused what to do with organ meats.

    Galina L. wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • My local Mexican market has a dish called “Guisada” in their hot-case most days. The word simply means “stew” and is pretty similar to chili but with tomatillos instead of tomatoes. The meat in it varies pretty dramatically from day to day and will often have tongue, or pork belly, or some other mysterious meat. I think it’s awesome no matter what’s in it.

      Michael C wrote on October 9th, 2011
      • The recipe pictured is NOT chili, but carne guisada. Mexicans don’t eat ground beef like gueros. They use pork cubes for puerco guisado, or cubed beef for carne guisado.

        scottindallas wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • I have a batch with beef heart simmering at the moment.

      KiwiRed wrote on October 12th, 2011
  25. It may be sad the first thing I thought when I saw that first photo was “holy cross-contamination, Batman!” The restaurant days linger…

    Anyway, nice to see a beanless chili – Can’t wait to try it.

    Kyle wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • “Holy cross-contamination” indeed… except its all going into a Dutch oven for two hours…

      (Hey, I cooked my way through college; the only way to eat frugally!)

      FYI for the foreigners – – worth a visit, for myriad reasons.

      Ivan wrote on October 8th, 2011
  26. this sounds PHENOMENAL!

    Burn wrote on October 8th, 2011
  27. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As an expatriate Texan who loves chili, I’m delighted to see one of my favorite blogs discussing the real thing.

    I don’t generally care for tomato in my chili — when I want acid I’ll squeeze a lime. Traditionally we used beer instead, and now that I’m pretty much gluten-free I might try something like Redbridge.

    Other useful additions: bacon, coffee and chocolate. Think I’m joking? check out Seven-Chile Chili, which I’ve made and found awesome: .

    For a milder but still tasty standard Texas chili, try Old Buffalo Breath: .

    Ellen wrote on October 8th, 2011
  28. Oh man. Just made chili a week ago. Might have to do it again this week! I don’t think I’m tired of it yet and this has me craving it!

    Jellerose wrote on October 8th, 2011
  29. Too chunky.

    Alice, 57 years of experience as a Texan.

    Alice wrote on October 8th, 2011
    • Way too chunky.
      Wanda, 61 years in Texas.

      WJ Purifoy wrote on October 9th, 2011
      • Agreed, 52 years in Texas (4th-generation Texan).

        Grace wrote on October 9th, 2011
      • The recipe isn’t chile, but carne guisada. Chile (w/ ground beef) is disgusting to me, all fat, gristle and little texture; but that is Texas chili. Carne guisada or Guiso for short is killer, but it ain’t classic Tx red.

        scottindallas wrote on October 14th, 2011
    • how can a big hunk of meat ever be too chunky?

      T Hut wrote on October 9th, 2011
  30. Now that is REAL chili. Beans and veggies have no business in chili.

    pdjsw wrote on October 9th, 2011
  31. I usually skip the chilli powder and add 2-3 Habaneros, 1-4 Spanish peppers or what ever other chili peppers you get your hands on. If you put in the Habaneros at the start they wont make the chili to HOT, if you want it HOT HOT add them the last 30mins.

    Christoffer(Paleo 2.0) wrote on October 9th, 2011
  32. Try a tsp of smoked paprika – wow!

    Lauri wrote on October 9th, 2011
  33. My recipe is pretty similar though I usually start out with 1/2-1 lb of bacon. Once that’s browned reserve most of the bacon fat and add it back a tablespoon at a time as you brown your batches of beef. Then throw the bacon in with the beef while it stews.

    Michael C wrote on October 9th, 2011
  34. Yum – just made a batch of this to freeze up. I also used some cut up pork loin, chili from Cool Chili Company and some smoked paprika. I alos chucked in some dark chocolate which isn’t amazingly primal!

    IanG wrote on October 9th, 2011
  35. I like to add about 3 shots of 100% Agave tequila for an added taste infusion. Make sure you use a nice dark tequila to bring out the flavor once the alcohol is cooked out.

    BenF wrote on October 9th, 2011
  36. Check out the chile powders at
    I like to use a mix of 1/3 Guajillo to 2/3 Hatch Red Mild for a savory but not too hot chili.

    Nancy wrote on October 10th, 2011
  37. “Like many regional specialties, no two recipes for Texas chili are exactly the same and each one claims to be the “real” version.” Which is why, in Texas, we have Chili Cookoffs – three day events involving lots of partying around the chili pot – to determine which recipe is the “best.” It’s what’s for breakfast. Yeah, baby.

    Gwen wrote on October 10th, 2011
  38. Made this recipe yesterday and will make it again. I think next time I will add some jalapenos. Time now to reheat some leftovers.

    Anne wrote on October 10th, 2011

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