Tolbert's Chili Recipe

Discover culinary perfection with Tolbert's Chili recipe! Unveil the authentic Texan flavors in this iconic bowl of red. Your taste buds deserve this masterpiece!

Tolbert's Chili

    Tolbert's Chili

  • Cuisine: Texan
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Prep Time:
  • Cook Time:
  • Servings: 4
  • Calories: 300 calories

Tolbert's Chili, an iconic dish in the Texan culinary landscape, traces its roots to the legendary Frank X. Tolbert. Renowned as a passionate chili enthusiast, Tolbert crafted his original bowl of red chili for the famed Terlingua Chili Cook-Off in the 1960s, an event he played a pivotal role in establishing. This chili recipe embodies simplicity, yet its robust flavors have made it a timeless classic.

The heart of Tolbert's Chili lies in the coarsely ground beef, simmered to perfection with a medley of spices. The combination of chili powder, cumin, oregano, and a touch of cayenne pepper creates a symphony of flavors that melds seamlessly with crushed tomatoes and beef broth. The result is a hearty, aromatic concoction that captures the essence of Texan comfort food.

What sets Tolbert's recipe apart is its adaptability. Whether served at home or at chili cook-offs, enthusiasts can customize the spice levels to suit their taste preferences. The chili's versatility extends to toppings, with shredded cheese, chopped onions, and sour cream offering a personalized touch to each serving.

Tolbert's Chili transcends being just a recipe; it's a cultural emblem, embodying the spirit of Texan hospitality and the love for hearty, soul-warming meals. This dish has stood the test of time, continuing to bring people together over shared bowls of red, fostering a sense of community and culinary appreciation.


Dive into the soul-warming world of Tolbert's Original Chili – a Texan masterpiece! Uncover the secrets of this iconic recipe that promises flavor-packed bliss. Spice up your culinary journey now!


  • 2 pounds of coarsely ground beef (chili grind)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • 1 can (28 ounces) of crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (adjust to spice preference)
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheese, chopped onions, sour cream

Method Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, sautéing until softened.
  2. Add the ground beef to the pot, breaking it up with a spoon as it browns. Cook until the meat is no longer pink.
  3. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt, and cayenne pepper, ensuring the spices coat the meat evenly.
  4. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and beef broth, bringing the mixture to a simmer. Reduce the heat and let it cook for at least an hour, allowing the flavors to meld.
  5. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. If you prefer a thicker consistency, let it simmer longer.
  6. Serve the chili hot, garnished with your choice of toppings.

Tolbert's Original Bowl of Red Chili is a hearty and satisfying dish that captures the essence of traditional Texan chili. Feel free to tweak the recipe to match your spice tolerance and personal preferences. Enjoy!

Recipe Video

Tolbert's Chili

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Recipe Tags: Tolbert's Chili, Tolbert's Chili Recipe, Recipe


Serving Tolbert's Chili is a delightful experience, and you have the flexibility to make it your own. Here's a step-by-step guide:

  • Choose the Right Dish: Opt for a deep bowl or a classic chili bowl to showcase the rich flavors and allow room for toppings.
  • Ladle with Care: Using a ladle, carefully portion out a generous serving of the chili into each bowl. Make sure to include a mix of beef, tomatoes, and flavorful broth.
  • Toppings Galore: Provide an array of toppings to let everyone customize their bowl. Classic choices include shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack), chopped onions, and a dollop of sour cream. These add both texture and a burst of additional flavors.
  • Side Accompaniments: Consider serving your chili with a side of warm cornbread, tortilla chips, or crusty bread. These complement the hearty nature of the dish and offer a satisfying crunch.
  • Garnish for Freshness: Add a sprinkle of fresh cilantro or chopped green onions on top for a burst of freshness and a hint of color.
  • Presentation Matters: Present the bowls with care, ensuring an appealing arrangement. A drizzle of hot sauce or a wedge of lime on the side can enhance the presentation.
  • Pairing Suggestions: If you're serving Tolbert's Chili as part of a larger meal, consider pairing it with a crisp green salad or a side of rice to balance the flavors.


  1. Quality Ingredients: Use high-quality, fresh ingredients for the best flavor. Opt for good-quality ground beef, ripe tomatoes, and aromatic spices.
  2. Chili Grind Beef: Choose coarsely ground beef specifically labeled as "chili grind." This ensures a hearty texture in the final dish.
  3. Adjust Spice Levels: Tolerances to spice vary, so feel free to adjust the amount of chili powder and cayenne pepper to suit your preference. You can always start with a bit less and add more later if needed.
  4. Simmer for Flavor: Allow the chili to simmer for at least an hour. This extended cooking time helps the flavors meld and intensify, resulting in a richer taste.
  5. Taste and Adjust: Regularly taste the chili as it simmers. Adjust the seasonings if necessary to ensure a well-balanced flavor profile.
  6. Optional Ingredients: Feel free to experiment with additional ingredients like kidney beans, black beans, or diced bell peppers if you enjoy extra elements in your chili.
  7. Toppings Variety: Offer a variety of toppings for a personalized touch. Beyond the classic cheese, onions, and sour cream, consider avocado slices, fresh cilantro, or a squeeze of lime.
  8. Make It Ahead: Chili often tastes even better the next day. Consider making it ahead of time and reheating for a convenient and flavorful meal.
  9. Storage and Freezing: Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Chili also freezes well, so you can save some for future meals.
  10. Serve with Complementary Sides: Pair Tolbert's Chili with sides that complement its robust flavors, such as cornbread, tortilla chips, or a simple green salad.

Ingredient Substitutes

In the event that you find yourself missing a few ingredients for Tolbert's Original Bowl of Red Chili, here are some substitutes you can consider:

  1. Chili Grind Beef: Substitute with ground beef if you can't find chili grind. While chili grind provides a coarser texture, regular ground beef will still work well.
  2. Crushed Tomatoes: If you don't have canned crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes or tomato sauce can be used as alternatives. Adjust the quantity based on your preference for chunkiness.
  3. Vegetable Oil: Canola oil, olive oil, or any other neutral cooking oil can be used in place of vegetable oil.
  4. Chili Powder: Create your own chili powder blend using a mix of paprika, cumin, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. Adjust the ratios to achieve the desired level of heat.
  5. Ground Cumin: Cumin is a key flavor, but if you're out, ground coriander can offer a similar earthy and citrusy note.
  6. Dried Oregano: Substitute with dried thyme, marjoram, or Italian seasoning if oregano is not available.
  7. Beef Broth: Replace beef broth with vegetable broth or chicken broth if you prefer a different base. Alternatively, use water with a bouillon cube for added flavor.
  8. Cayenne Pepper: Adjust the heat with red pepper flakes or hot sauce if cayenne pepper is not on hand.


Savor the legacy of Tolbert's Chili, a culinary masterpiece that transcends time. As you indulge in its rich flavors, embrace the warmth of Texan tradition. Your journey into the heart of chili perfection is just the beginning. Cheers to the enduring spirit of good food and shared moments!

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