Lady Bird Johnson’s Pedernales Chili


I was looking for a simple, basic chili…one that might taste somewhat like Hormel chili in a can.  Don’t know Hormel chili?  Hmmm.  There were many, many canned foodstuffs that I knew nothing about, had never tasted or purchased or even thought about purchasing.  Why?  Because I always knew how to cook.  Okay, not always.  But, I did not grow up with canned products in our house.  Instead, my parents ate out a lot.  A lot!  And, for such a small isolated town in a foreign country, thanks to the many Italians there we had some delicious options.  Lasagne Bolognese?  Milanesa?  Minestrone?  Ceasar salad…prepared tableside?  An open-air steakhouse, where the partially cooked steaks are brought to you tableside, on a grill, for you to finish cooking as you see fit.  And, you order your dinner by country- cuts, sausage and sides vary according to the “country” that you order.  And my friends wonder why I cook as much as I do, why I cringe at the thought of my baby loving Hormel chili?

Oh well, I still love Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (and,only in the blue box, please; no imitations allowed) and I also love Campbell’s Tomato Soup.  Some things just hit the spot.

But, right now, my nine-year old wants to eat a can of Hormel chili practically every day!  This is where I draw the line, and explain that these are a treat, not even for every week!  Mama will make one just as good, even better than her other favorite chili (the white chicken/pork green chili that she loves, and will eat when the Hormel chili just won’t be served.

So, in all my internet searches, I found this recipe.  It really doesn’t get any simpler than this.  This, to me, is a good, basic chili – perfect for fritos, perfect for hotdogs, perfect for a Halloween party!

You will need:

  • 4 pounds ground beef, chili grind if available
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons chili powder, depending on age of powder and degree of spice desired.
  • 1 1/2 cups diced tomatoes or tomato sauce
  • 2-6 drops hot sauce
  • 2 cups hot water
  • salt to taste

I also added:

  • 1 small green bell pepper, processed with onion and garlic (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 can pinto beans
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons stoneground yellow grits, for thickening at the end of cooking


Place meat, onion, garlic, (bell pepper, if using), in large, heavy pan such as a dutch oven and cook until light in color.  (I prefer browning that meat!  Get some flavor in there!)  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let simmer for 1 hour.  I prefer 2 to 3 hours; it’s actually better served the next day.  Skim off fat during cooking.  At the end of cooking, add the grits, cornmeal, or crushed fritos to thicken.  Bring to a simmer, stirring continuously to prevent scorching, for about 5 to 8 minutes, till thickened.   Will thicken a little more upon sitting.

And, there you have it.  a very simple and basic recipe, sure to please a lot of people!  This is a good place to start.

Here is the original recipe:  and you can also find out her history.

Apparently, she would hand out copies of the recipe all the time….now you know how the beefy chili becamed so ingrained in Texas culture.  Well, the south’s culture.

**I did add a few things different- I processed the onion, garlic and one very small green bell pepper in a food processor to make them virtually undetectable.  Sometimes, that’s a good thing.  This process also releases a lot of flavor from the seasoning vegetables.  I also had about 1 1/2 cups of leftover Roasted Red Pepper Tomato Marinara.  I thought this would be a great replacement for the tomato sauce.  And, my daughter and I compromised and she agreed to let me put a little bit of beans in this here chili.  Just to make mama happy.  Oh yes, and to thicken it?  Well, many of the copykat recipes advise putting crushed up Fritos in the chili to thicken.  I went for something more basic: stoneground yellow grits.  My favorite chili thickener!




Great on Fritos with cheese or on a hotdog!

**To achieve a smoother commercial consistency (like Hormel), I passed an immersion blender throughout it, pulsing briefly. Perfect!


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