Texans are known for many things – we are big, bold, and our legends are as large as the state itself. And, as an expert on Texas food, I can tell you there is no dish more iconic than Classic Texas Chile con Carne.
Because chile con carne is so popular, there are loads of magical mixes and powdered spice blends out there that promise an authentic flavor. Alas, unfresh, over salted ingredients will never give you good chile con carne. That’s why I am sharing this very basic, absolute scratch recipe with you now.
Is it Chili, Chilli, Chilie or Chile?
Authenticity seems to be a buzzword whenever anyone talks about chile con carne. What makes chile con carne authentic? The English translation of the dish is simply “chile with meat,” and I always opt to spell the word “chile” the way it is spelled in Spanish. If we are trying to be authentic, let’s keep the name authentic too! Having said that, most people the US call chile con carne by the word “chili.”
Beans or No Beans?
Adding frijoles to your chile con carne is the iconic argument that accompanies this iconic dish. Should you add them or not? The answer to this question lies in the legend of San Antonio’s famous Chili Queens.
Long ago, before San Antonio was a major metropolis, the famous Chili Queens of San Antonio would set up their sawhorse tables around the Alamo to sell chile con carne by lamplight. The competition was fierce, with the most beautiful queens and the most reasonable prices as the main attraction. Any food service person can tell you that stretching your ingredients improves your margin of profit, and adding beans to a pot of chile con carne would make perfect sense to an entrepreneurial chili queen.
Others argue that beans are not authentic to chile con carne, but if we are going to be purists, most of the ingredients in a bowl of classic chile con carne are not authentic either. Onions, garlic, beef and pork are not ingredients that are native to the American continent.
Cattle, pigs, horses, sheep, and goats, along with onions and garlic were brought by the Spanish during the colonization period. Chiles and beans are native to the Americas, so before Europeans made it to the continent, Texans wouldn’t have had all of the ingredients that we consider to part of an “authentic” bowl of red. Beans and chile have been eaten together for over 11,000 years, whereas chile and onions have only been served together since the 1600’s.
Beans are a Native American Food
Considering that chiles have anti-septic qualities, it was many times pounded together with dried meat such as venison or turkey to improve the flavor of the meat and extend the shelf life of precious protein. If a native American needed a meal away from home, chile-infused dried meat could be chewed or reconstituted in water to make a stew. This was the first version of chile con carne.
In my opinion, there is no heresy in adding beans to your chile. In fact, I love them, but adding them is your choice.
Professional Hacks for Chile con Carne
The texture of the protein in your chile con carne is important, so stay away from finely ground meats. I mixed stew sized cubes with chunky ground beef for an amazing texture.
Also, another trick for better chile con carne is to make it at least one day in advance. After your chile has simmered, simply cool completely and then transfer to a storage container. Overnight, the flavors will marry perfectly without the risk of scorching on the stove.Print
Classic Texas Chile con Carne
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 30
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 12 Servings 1x
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Stewing
- Cuisine: Southwest
½ oz dried chile chipotle (14gr)
2 oz. dried chile ancho (56gr)
2 oz. dried chile guajillo or pasilla (56 gr)
2 large cloves of garlic
1 lb. fresh tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped (500gr)
1 cup water (240ml)
2 tbsp. olive oil (30ml)
1 lb. onions, peeled and chopped (500gr)
3 lbs. beef ground for chile (1.5kg)
2 lbs. pork ground for chile (1kg)
1 tbsp. salt, or to taste (12gr)
2 cups cooked beans (optional)
Optional toppings – grated cheese, chopped cilantro, chopped onions, avocado slices
Place the dried chile chipotle, chile ancho and chile guajillo (or pasilla) in a 2 qt. saucepan and fill the pan halfway full with water. Place the saucepan on the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to simmer, cover the saucepan, and allow the chiles to simmer until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly, then drain the water. Remove and discard the stems and seeds of the chiles, rinsing the chiles under running water briefly to remove any remaining seeds.
Place the prepared chiles along with the garlic and diced tomatoes in the container of a blender. Add the water and blend the mixture until very smooth. Add ½ cup more water if needed to facilitate blending. Set aside.
In a large lidded Dutch oven, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onions, and sauté until the onions are well caramelized. Add the beef and pork, and brown over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Break the ground meat up with your spoon.
Once the ground meat is thoroughly cooked, add the prepared chile mixture. Lower the heat to medium low and cover the Dutch oven. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to confirm that the chile con carne is not scorching. Add the beans if desired, and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve warm.
Serve with your favorite garnishes and toppings.
Although this recipe is not very spicy, but you can always add more chile chipotle for a spicier dish. If you can’t find dried chile chipotle, you can substitute canned chile chipotle in adobo sauce. Three canned chiles equate the same heat level as 1/2 oz. (14gr) of dried chile chipotle.
Chile con Carne is best when prepared 24 hours in advance. This recipe can easily be doubled to feed more people, or cut in half to feed fewer.