Classic Cowboy Chili

Staci Strauss

Staci Strauss › Staci Strauss wants you and everyone else to know about and have access to good, real ...


Once a year, I make my Classic Cowboy Chili in honor of my Texas roots.

Superbowl Sunday is Chili day in our house- that’s just the way it’s always been.

I’m not a big football fan, but Craig is, so I use the game as an excuse to indulge in this traditional dish.

When I was a college student in Austin, one of my favorite spots was the Texas Chili Parlor. It was there that I discovered the ongoing debate on what constitutes “chili”.

For one thing, in Texas-style chili, there are no beans.

I repeat: NO BEANS!

Because this dish was originally made by folks who generally cooked in the great outdoors, it is really simple. In fact, my addition of roasted tomatoes (to break down the protein) would most likely be frowned upon.

The cowboys probably used just meat and water over fire, if they were lucky they had some spice. We’re lucky here, we have spice!

Last year, I adapted this recipe to a slow-cooker method because I got one for Christmas and I wanted to experiment with cooking in it for a long time–overnight!

Up until last year, I always made it in a heavy pot, cooking it on the stovetop all day Saturday, refrigerating it overnight, then cooking again all day Sunday until kick off.

And believe me, this tried and true method works perfectly, but as I was swept up by last year’s Crock-Pot fever I just had to try it. This slow-cooker thing is so easy–you just have to remember to add water every now and then.

Be prepared for the meatiest chili ever, enjoy!

Here are a few production notes:

– If your slow cooker doesn’t have a BROWN function, be sure to brown your stew meat in a skillet first–it’s key to the flavor development.

– With grass-fed meat, there should be no reason to drain after browning, as grass-fed is much leaner. If you are using grain-fed beef, you may want to drain excess fat before adding the water and spices.

– You can substitute 2 teaspoons each dried garlic powder and dried onion powder for the minced fresh garlic and white onion, but in this case, fresh is best!

– If you can find smoked paprika, it is a delicious alternative to regular paprika. We use Chimayo Chili powder because it is delicious and it has a great story.

– Serve with small bowls of sour cream, chopped onions, grated cheddar, and pickled jalepenos.

– Have plenty of saltines (old school, what my Grandfather required) or corn tortilla chips on hand for dipping.

serves 6
Classic Cowboy Chili

2 pounds grass-fed or highest quality stew meat in large (1 inch) pieces

1 large can (Muir Glen Organic is good) whole peeled tomatoes, including liquid

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium white onion, minced
1/2 cup chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

water–enough to cover, and then add as needed


Mix all powdered ingredients well and set aside.

Dry meat pieces with paper towels. If the meat isn’t as dry as possible, it will steam rather than brown

Either on the brown function of your slow-cooker, or on the stovetop in a heavy skillet, brown meat pieces well, turning as needed.

Drain fat if necessary, and replace the meat, the tomatoes(with liquid),and the spices, onion and garlic into the slow cooker.

Cover with water and stir.

Set slow-cooker on SLOW or LOW, and leave it as long as you can–adding a little water periodically to keep the meat covered.

After about 8 hours, the meat will break down, you can encourage this by using a wooden spoon to smash the pieces apart.

I left mine going from around noon on Saturday, through the night and right up until the 6:30 kick off. You can certainly get it done in one day, but something about the overnight slow-cooker method makes it delicious. The stove top method mentioned above creates the same effect.

Photo credit: Staci Strauss

Tell us how it turned out: