Texas Red, chili con carne, Totally Texas Chili … whatever you call this Texan classic, it’s sure to be a crowd pleaser! In the video above, H-E-B Chef Scott shows the Totally Texas way to use H-E-B ground chuck for chili (ground fresh in-store each day) with his signature spice blend, fresh ingredients, and H-E-B chili-style diced tomatoes for a traditional bowl o’ red (with no beans, fillers, or pre-marinated meats). As a thoroughly Texan company, H-E-B chefs have created a Totally Texas Chili recipe so traditional, it could fool even Terlingua’s most discerning judges.
There are few things that ring totally true to Texas: Bluebonnets in the spring, pecans littered across lawns come fall, and a bowl of Texas Red year-round.
Thousands gather to battle for chili (short for chile con carne) bragging rights in Terlingua, a ghost town near Big Bend that since the late 1960s has welcomed chili connoisseurs from across the state and beyond the first Wednesday in November. But Texas has been fawning over the nuanced blend of chiles, ground chuck, and a cadre of spices long before then.
San Antonio’s Mexican chili stands, makeshift kitchens set up on the city’s plazas, are often credited with the advent of chili con carne. Operated by entrepreneurial women known as the Chili Queens, the shops were erected in the early morning and taken down in the evening after feeding young and old, rich and poor.
Though the Chili Queens’ popularity grew enough to see them travel as far as Chicago’s World’s Fair in 1893, their tenure in the city’s plazas was tenuous. City leaders officially removed the stands in 1937 citing sanitary concerns. The women would go on to open small restaurants and continue serving their chile con carne over tamales, and eventually as toppings for enchiladas and then some.
In the early 1900s, chili parlors were erected across the United States to allow fans of the dish to get their fix. In 1896, German immigrant William Gebhardt took his love of chili and Mexican flavors and launched the Gebhardt Mexican Food Company. Gebhardt made it easy for others to prepare dishes rich in smoky flavors by drying chiles and grinding them to a fine powder.
Chili’s honor was defended by Wick Fowler (Texan and creator of the 2 Alarm chili kit) in 1967, when Yankee humorist Allen Smith declared himself an authority on chili. This duel-turned-chili-cookoff in Terlingua ended in a draw, but that hasn’t stopped chili lovers from making the yearly trek to the area every fall.
Fast-forward to 1977, when the Texas State Legislature named chili the state dish of the Lone Star State. No beans. It’s the law.
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These days, chili parlors have given way to festival stands where a chile con carne serves as the key ingredient of Frito pie, and even now it’s hard to pass on chile con carne-topped enchiladas.
Click here for the complete recipe for Totally Texas Chili – one that you’ll want to keep in your recipe box for generations to come.