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:

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  1. Tastes like pasta sauce…

    Joel bergeron wrote on May 14th, 2012
  2. Absolutely bad! Don’t try it…

    Joel bergeron wrote on May 14th, 2012
  3. Made it as written last night with the addition of some coffee to the cooking liquid and it was wonderful! Didn’t taste like pasta sauce to me, so I don’t know what joel did to his… It was TOTALLY YUMMY!!!! Going to make another batch this weekend and let it go for several hours in my big crockpot.

    Karen B. wrote on October 19th, 2012
  4. Just made this chili and it was very good. I did stray a little bit from the recipe by putting in half a cup or so of red wine. Really good though, a lot of flavor…and it’s really easy to make.

    Jeff wrote on November 11th, 2012
  5. Just made this recipe, it looked way too chunky to me as well. I made it with half ground venison, and half venison steak cut into 1/4-1/2 inch cubes. Had to add salt, a little honey, and a little aujus gravy mix to round out the flavors, but it made a fantastic base. The chili spices were right on.this will now be my go to chili recipe.

    Aaron T wrote on November 29th, 2012
  6. I made this with lamb today and it was SOOOOO good!!!

    Brittney wrote on January 2nd, 2013
  7. This is very good. I substituted whitetail venison instead of beef. The only other change that I made was using two cans of tomato paste instead of one, with one it had a taco meat flavor, adding that second 6oz. can of tomato paste gave it a good chili flavor.

    Snerb wrote on February 6th, 2013
  8. made this with some aubergine as well – served on a bed of curly kale. Delicious!

    Sophie wrote on September 27th, 2013
  9. Your chili recipe is a lot like the one used at diner’s on the road throughout Texas in the late 40s and all of 50s…

    As a kid we stayed overnight near San Antonia and there was a diner across the street that I hit early AM for breakfast and watched the cook make chili however she had chili from days ago that I went back and had for lunch…the new chili was being made as the old chili was almost depleted…I never could understand how 1 can of paste could make all that great sauce in the chili, reading your way of making it now I understand why – she did not use pinto or any other beans – I love TexMex pinto beans made with garlic chili powder and water and a large slice of salt pork and sugar…I can taste the flavor of using pinto beans would add to the stock of a good chili…thank you for sharing your chili ingredients

    Patricia Henley wrote on January 1st, 2014
  10. Made this tonight. It was great. For anyone thinking it was too much chili powder. I actually added more. I did also add cayenne but will add even more next time. Thanks.

    Jen wrote on January 21st, 2014
  11. Greetings from Scotland!
    Used your recipe and would just like to say thanks for sharing, truly an awesome chili recipe!!

    Wee G wrote on August 26th, 2014
  12. I would avoid using canned tomatoes or tomato paste, since the acidity of the tomatoes leaches quite of bit of BPA and other toxic chemicals from the can lining. I just use chopped, whole fresh tomatoes. You don’t need to add additional liquid and once it simmers down it has a beautiful texture and taste. But I appreciate the recipe; I never liked beans in my chili. Sometimes I throw in cubed butternut squash as a bean replacement. Also I would double or even triple the amount of spice.

    Dia wrote on December 14th, 2014
  13. Best chili I’ve ever made! Kinda tweaked the recipe to go for a little more spice- instead of using a whole can of tomato paste I used half of it and then added the sauce from a can of adobo peppers. I also added 3 chopped jalapenos with the onion & garlic. Once they softened I added 4 rough chopped chipotle peppers from the adobo can. SO GOOD! Thanks so much for laying the framework for a truly delicious meal :)

    Taylor wrote on March 4th, 2015
  14. I browned the meat and did what one reviewer suggested and added more than just the stew meat, I added a pound of grass fed burger and about a cup of chopped chorizo. I used 4 cups of beef broth and after browning the meat I threw it all in the crock pot where it currently resides. We will see what happens.

    Chris A wrote on October 30th, 2015

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