Chili con carne is a spicy stew not without controversy. The basic ingredients are ground or chopped beef, garlic, onions, cumin and chili peppers. Sometimes tomatoes and beans are added. Here ‘s the first controversy: many people say “there ain’t no beans in chili”. Personally, I like my chili with kidney beans.

My first pot of home-made chili

The second controversy is about the origins of this dish. Was it the Spanish who introduced it -or at least the ingredients? Or was it the cattle drivers who spread it around the American Southwest? Was Texas its real place of birth? All we know for certain is that chili con carne was designated the official dish of Texas in 1977, where it is immensely popular.

Some people take their chili very seriously. So much so that that take part in chili cook-offs all around the state and see how many trophies they win. The Chili appreciation Society International do their best to promote chili and raise money for charity. Whereas the International Chili Society  provides rules and regulations for cook-offs as well as judging and raising money for charity.

Chili con carne is served in bowls along with chopped red onion, grated cheese and sour cream. It’s perfect for cold weather – however, I try to avoid it during the sizzling summer months in Texas.

There are as many recipes as there are cooks. And each one will claim they make the best chili north of the border. Here’s just one recipe;


1/2 pound red kidney beans, cooked

1 pound lean ground beef

1 large onion

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 to 3 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon salt

3 cans diced tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1) Combine ground beef, onions, garlic, chili powder, cumin and salt in a large pot. Cook over medium-high heat until browned.

2) Add remaining ingredients. Simmer, covered, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in vinegar. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with shredded cheese, chopped red onion, or chopped cilantro.

* To make white chili, substitute ground chicken or turkey.

Bon appetit!


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About the author

Ana Astri-O’Reilly is from Argentina, where she lived until five years ago. She currently lives in Dallas, USA with her British husband, but they move a lot. Previously a translator and English and Spanish teacher, Ana first started writing to share her experiences and adventures with friends and family. She speaks Spanish, English and a smattering of Portuguese.