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Texas Red Chili

adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, #108, Jan/Feb 2011, page 15


As noted below, I typically make the chili paste in a large batch and freeze it in individual sizes to use later.  You can do this step any time  and doing this saves me time when it comes to actually making the chili. 

There are also several ingredient substitutions or variances in amounts noted below that will help you tailor this chili to your tastes as far as heat and availability of ingredients go.

If you need information about any of the dried chiles mentioned in this recipe, this link is good and has pictures and descriptions of many dried chiles.


Chili paste:
6 dried ancho chiles; stems and seeds removed, flesh torn into 1 inch pieces
2 dried New Mexico chiles; stems and seeds removed, flesh torn into 1 inch pieces
2-4 dried árbol chiles; stems and seeds removed, pods split*
3 tablespoons cornmeal
2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
½ - ¾ cup low-sodium chicken broth

½ pound dried pinto beans (about 1 cup), rinsed & picked over (optional)**
2 medium onions, cut into ¾ - inch pieces
2-3 small jalapeño chiles, stems and seeds removed & discarded, flesh cut into ½ - inch pieces*
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes***
2 teaspoons molasses
3 ½ pounds blade stead, ¾ inch thick, trimmed of gristle and fat and cut into ¾ - inch pieces****
1 bottle (12 ounce) beer*****

*For árbol and jalapeño chiles, use the lesser amount for less heat and the higher amount for more heat. 2 árbol and 2 jalapeño chiles provided good heat that even my kids could handle. Also, each árbol chile may be substituted with 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper if the chiles are unavailable.

** Now, tradition holds that real “Texas Red” chili does not include beans. However, I like beans, so I do typically add them. But I have made this without the bean step and it was just fine. I have also added 1 can of each black and pinto beans (Ranch Style beans brand only if they are available to you) at the end of the cooking and that has worked as well.

***For a little more heat, 1 can of Ro*Tel tomatoes could be substituted for the regular diced tomatoes.

****Four pounds of chuck or chuck eye roast could be substituted for the blade steak. I used chuck roast and trimmed as much fat & gristle as possible and it turned out wonderful.

*****Of course, my preferred beer is Shiner Bock. But if you must use another beer because maybe you can’t get Shiner in your area of the country, well, I suppose that’s okay, too.


You will also need:

Food processor
12 – inch skillet
Dutch oven or stock pot that can transfer to oven



For the chili paste: I usually make a double or triple batch of the chili paste at one time and then freeze in individual serving containers to use later. This cuts down prep time a lot when you’re going to make the chili.

Place ancho and New Mexico chile pieces in 12 – inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat; toast, stirring frequently until flesh is fragrant (4 – 6 minutes) reducing heat if chiles begin to smoke. Transfer to bowl of food processor and cool. (Do not wash out skillet)

Add árbol chiles, cornmeal, Mexican oregano, cumin cocoa and ½ teaspoon salt to food processor with toasted ancho chiles. Process until finely ground (about 2 minutes). With processor running, very slowly add ½ - ¾ cup chicken broth until smooth paste forms (about 45 seconds), scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer to a bowl or freeze in individual size bowls as desired. (Do not clean out food processor bowl.)

For the chili: If using beans, combine 3 tablespoons table salt, 4 quarts water and beans in large Dutch oven and bring to a boil over high heat. Remove pot from heat, cover and let stand 1 hour. Drain and rinse well.

Place onions in food processor and pulse until thoroughly chopped (about 4 1 – second pulses). Add jalapeños and pulse until the consistency of chunky salsa (about 4 1-second pulses) scraping down bowl as needed.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion/ jalapeño mixture and cook, stirring occasionally until moisture has evaporated and vegetables are softened (7 –9 minutes). Add garlic and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute). Add chili paste, tomatoes and molasses. Stir until chili paste is thoroughly combined. Add 2 cups chicken broth and drained beans (if using); bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

Preheat your oven to 300°F.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Pat beef dry with paper towels and season with salt. Add half of beef and cook until browned on all sides (about 10 minutes). Transfer meat to Dutch oven. Add ½ bottle beer to skillet, scraping bottom of pan to loosen any browned bits and bring to simmer. Transfer beer to Dutch oven. Repeat with remaining steak (oil, pat dry, salt, cook) and beer. Once all the meat and beer have been added, stir to combine and return to a simmer.

Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat and beans are fully tender (1 ½ - 2 hours). Let chili stand, uncovered, 10 minutes. Stir well and season to taste with salt before serving.

Serve with shredded cheese, chopped red onion, chopped cilantro and chopped avocado as topping choices. Flour or corn tortillas also make for good dippers.

This chili can be made up to 3 days in advance.

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