Food & Drink

Southern Classic: Texas Chili

Serves 6

Chili and tortilla chips from the Lone Star State

Yes, Dean Fearing cooks in cowboy boots. He isn’t just posturing, either. Fearing is the original cowboy in chef’s whites, with three decades under his belt at some of the Lone Star State’s finest establishments, including Dallas favorites the Mansion on Turtle Creek and Fearing’s. And he has been loyal to the foods of his home state all these years, dishing enchiladas and smoked brisket long before upscale spots across the country went regional.

Now, Fearing is spilling a career’s worth of secrets in a new book, The Texas Food Bible. The chef’s magnum opus covers the basics of Lone Star cuisine, with recipes for tamales, gumbo, fry bread, biscuits, fruit pies, and a whole lot more. It’s a fine reference work. And while rabbit enchiladas and cornbread-stuffed doves are showstoppers, any cook worth his or her mesquite-smoked salt needs a reliable recipe for Texas-style chili. Fearing, of course, delivers.


  • Chili Base

    • 10 dried ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded

    • 2 dried pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded

    • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

    • 1 cup roughly chopped carrots

    • 1 cup roughly diced onions

    • 1/2 cup celery, trimmed and chopped

    • 2 tbsp. peeled and smashed garlic

    • 2 tbsp. roughly chopped shallot

    • 2 tbsp. toasted cumin seeds

    • 2 tbsp. toasted coriander seeds

    • 1 bottle Shiner Bock beer

    • 2 cups fresh orange juice

    • Fried tortilla strips (recipe below)

    • 1/4 cup toasted unsalted peanuts

  • Chili

    • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil

    • 1 3/4 pounds lean sirloin, finely diced

    • Kosher salt, to taste

    • Freshly ground pepper, to taste

    • 1 cup small-dice onions

    • 3 cups chili base

    • Juice of 1 lime

    • 1 tbsp. Aleppo pepper

    • 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

    • 1 tbsp. pureed chipotle chiles (optional)

    • Hot cooked rice, for serving (optional)

    • Saltines, for serving (optional)

    • Tabasco sauce, for serving (optional)

  • Fried tortilla strips

    • 4 cups vegetable oil

    • 5 yellow corn tortillas, cut into short, thin strips

    • Salt


  1. For the chili base:

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

  2. To make the base, place the dried chiles on a baking sheet in the preheated oven and toast for 1 minute, or just until slightly softened. Set aside.

  3. Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and shallot, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to color and caramelize.

  4. Stir in the reserved chiles along with the cumin and coriander. When blended, add the beer and orange juice, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for 5 minutes. Raise the heat, add the tortilla strips and peanuts, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by three-quarters.

  5. Remove from the heat and pour into a blender. Process to a smooth puree. Strain the puree through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean container. Set aside.

  6. For the chili:

    To make the chili, heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the meat, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes, or until lightly browned.

  7. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes, or until translucent.

  8. Add the reserved chili base and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour.

  9. Stir in the lime juice, Aleppo pepper, and Tabasco. Taste and, if necessary, season with additional salt and pepper. If you would like the chili to be hotter, add chipotle puree until you reach the desired degree of heat.

  10. Serve hot over a bowl of rice with saltines and Tabasco sauce, if desired.

  11. For the tortilla strips:

    Heat the oil in a medium frying pan until it registers 350 degrees on a candy thermometer.

  12. Add the tortilla strips and fry for about 2 minutes, or until lightly colored and crisp. Then, using a slotted spoon, transfer the tortilla strips to a double layer of paper towels to drain.

  13. Season with salt and use as directed. Or just snack away!

Recipes excerpted from the TEXAS FOOD BIBLE by Dean Fearing. © 2014 by Dean Fearing. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.

To make Fearing’s Frito Pie:

Place a good handful of fried tortilla strips (or Frito-Lay Corn Chips) in the center of each of four warm large shallow soup bowls. Spoon an equal portion of chili over the top of the tortillas. Sprinkle with as much grated cheddar cheese, sliced fresh or pickled jalapeño chiles, and diced red onions as you like. This is the best of the best Texas dishes!