Pedernales River Chili

Pedernales River Chili

From the personal cookbook of Lady Bird Johnson comes the most definitive take on Texas beef chili as one could ever hope to encounter.

A full scan of this recipe typed on the First Lady’s personal stationery is available online from the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, as are many of her other favorite recipes. She hosted visitors to the White House with grace and charm, and along with her husband popularized Texas culture to the rest of the nation throughout his presidency. Although countless other chili recipes exist, this one is fairly authoritative for the Texas bowl of red to those outside the state. Quantities have only been slightly adjusted from the original for scale.

Chili is best made with diced beef chuck or what is popular as “chili grind,” a coarser and thicker grind than conventional ground beef. This provides a heavier, chunkier texture than finely ground beef that many prefer, although it can include slightly more fat and connective fibers than expected. Grinding one’s own is always a good option but any quality, tender beef is acceptable.

Spices and herbs are kept to a minimum, as are added components such as onion and tomatoes, to best showcase the flavor of the beef. The result here is a mildly but naturally seasoned bowl of beef chili that can customized for personal taste. (Note that no beans are included in this recipe; a bowl of pinto beans is traditionally made available for post-serving additions, if desired.)

Garnish this chili heavily with cooked beans, sliced jalapeño, diced red onion and grated Cheddar cheese. Serve with cornbread and more of your favorite hot sauce.

Pedernales River Chili

2 lb ground beef
14.5-oz can tomatoes (diced)
½ white onion
1 clove of garlic
1 T chili powder
½ t oregano
½ t cumin
hot sauce
black pepper
olive oil

1 Sauté the beef in a little oil over medium heat until browned.

2 Chop the onion and mince the garlic, add both to the beef and cook down until soft.

3 Add the tomatoes, spices, 1 c water and 3-4 dashes of hot sauce to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 hr.


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