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Terlingua Chili Recipe

This chili recipe is packed with flavor and has a little heat.  True Terlingua chili does not have beans, but you can add them if you want!

A classic red chili with layers of flavor and a little heat. Simple to make and absolutely perfect.

There are millions of chili recipes out there, but this one is my favorite. It’s named (by me) after the most famous chili cook-off in the world, in a part of the country where chili is a little spicy and has few to no beans. Since it’s my recipe, it’s never entered that chili cook-off, but I would be proud to enter it any day.

Good chili ingredients

A lot of people say that the best chili recipe is complex, with layers of flavor. And then things start to get crazy. Dried chilis, coffee extract, weird vegetables, and other needless additions find their way into some recipes. This one has nothing too weird but still has tons of flavor.

Most chili is pure ground beef, but I always use meatloaf mix because I feel that it is more tender and flavorful. But when I use plain ground beef no one can tell the difference but me, so don’t be afraid to substitute it if that’s what you have on hand.

All the other ingredients are very simple, pantry ingredients. Look for the chiles in adobo sauce in the international aisle of the grocery store. They add a smoky, spicy flavor to the chili that is delicious.

Step by step Terlingua chili

This recipe is one of those that seems weird while you’re making it. The first step is to pour milk over a few pieces of bread and mash it into a paste. This seems strange. But the panade makes the meat stay tender through the cooking process and is totally worth it. The milk/ bread paste is mixed with the meat until it looks like this:

panade for terlingua chili- in white bowl on gray counter

I know. It will get prettier.

The onions and garlic are cooked with the dry seasoning in either bacon grease or vegetable oil, and then you add the meat and brown it.

oil, onions, garlic, red pepper, oregano, and other dry spices in stainless steel pot with wooden spatula

Then we add the beans, tomatoes, and rest of ingredients.

pot of chili with beans

Simmer for 1 hour in the pot, or transfer for a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Since there is a little heat, it is very good topped with sour cream and cheese. We also like Terlingua chili with crushed tortilla chips and cilantro.

What to serve with chili:

  • Chili and buffalo wings are a perfect and classic combination
  • A sweet cornbread would balance out the heat
  • Pumpkin sheet cake is the perfect fall dessert to go with a cold weather dinner

Here’s the recipe:

5 from 2 votes

Terlingua Chili Recipe

Print Recipe
This chili recipe is packed with flavor and has a little heat.  True Terlingua chili does not have beans, but you can add them if you want!
Prep Time:45 mins
Cook Time:1 hr
Total Time:1 hr 45 mins
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  • 3 pieces of soft bread torn into quarters
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 pounds meatloaf mix or 80% ground beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons bacon grease or vegetable oil
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 6 garlic cloves pressed through a garlic press
  • 2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 oz can of whole pinto beans rinsed
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons canned chiles in adobo sauce finely chopped
  • 6 oz of beer half a bottle


  • In large mixing bowl, pour the milk over the bread and allow to sit for ten minutes.  Mash with a fork into a smooth paste.  Using your hands, mix in the meat along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.
  • In a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, heat the bacon grease over medium heat.  Add the onion, chili powder, oregano, cumin, red pepper flakes, and cayenne until the onions have softened, about 4 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook 4 minutes more, until the garlic is softened and lightly browned.
  • Add the meat mixture to the Dutch oven, 1 pound at a time, breaking up with a spatula.  Cook until the meat is browned.  Pour in half a can of the crushed tomatoes and scrape the pan to get any browned bits.
  • Add the remaining crushed tomatoes, beans, soy sauce, sugar, canned chiles, and beer.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour on low heat.  Remove the lid and simmer for 15 minutes, or until it has thickened a little.
  • Check for seasonings and add salt if desired.  Serve in bowls with sour cream, cheese, and crushed tortilla chips.


This can also be prepared in a slow cooker.  At step four, add all the ingredients into a slow cooker and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
If using a pressure cooker, cook on low pressure for 20 minutes rather than simmering on the stovetop for 1 hour.


Calories: 331kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 27g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 85mg | Sodium: 742mg | Potassium: 227mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2340IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 4mg
Course: Soup
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chili with meatloaf mix, chili with pinto beans, Terlingua chili
Servings: 8 bowls of chili
Calories: 331kcal
Author: Katie Shaw
Did you make this recipe?Tag me @heartscontentfarmhouse so I can see!

Hope you enjoy it!

signature with strawberries

7 thoughts on “Terlingua Chili Recipe”

  1. Please remove the “Terlingua” name from your chili. Your recipe would be disqualified at Terlingua due to the addition of beans. Keep northern bean soup recipes where they belong, in the north.

    • Yes I freeze it ALL the time! Reheating in a crockpot is a great idea. For a crowd, you could double it if you have a big crock pot. I have a four quart one (its super old) and it fills it to absolute very top.

    • This is by far not Terlingua chili. In Terlingua, Texas where the world champions chili cook off is. You are strictly forbade to use any fillers such as beans. Real Texas chili is only meat and chilies and some veggies. Like onions and green chilies. The meat is 100% chili ground chuck or just cubes of good quality beef. Do not over cook your beef to mush. You want tender but have resistance. Look up casi chilli cook offs and recipes if you want to make real Texas chili. You can get these recipes. Also Do Not add bead to your beef we are not feeding the ducks. Leave in bigger pieces try not to over work or over stir.


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