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Texas Red - What is it?

My husband is from the Texas Panhandle and I'm from NM. I was just reading Bon Apetit (sp?) & they had great places in the US to get chile. They referenced Texas Red chile which I've heard of but never seen or tasted. We've traveled quite a bit through TX and only saw Texans eat hot jalepenos and that's about where it stops for spicy foods from what we've seen. We both love NM chile - red and green sauces and everything else. Just wondering what Texas Red really is and if anyone has any classic recipes. Of course I could Google this but would like some actual info, history, & maybe even some geographical references to where this stuff can actually be found from Chowhounds

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  1. I know it's chili - you can order a "bowl of red" - but unsure of its background.

    1. Texas Red is "red gravy" chili without beans. Beans are anathema in any "real" chili. Normally it is beef, tomatoes, cumin and other spices and chiles of various kinds, with perhaps a bit of dark chocolate and/or masa harina thrown in.

      For some very good, but very hot recipes, check out the CASI website (Chili Appreciation Society International). They post previous year's winning recipes.

      Most competition chilis do not use ground meat. Rather it is partially frozen and then diced about 3/8" cubes.

      6 Replies
      1. re: KiltedCook

        Pretty sure tomatoes are not used in the "bowl of red" either.

        1. re: KTinNYC

          I'm from Canada and afraid that I have yet to visit Texas and NM. With that said, I am certainly no expert, but I remember reading a fascinating story awhile back in a magazine (can't remember which) about "a good bowl of red".
          Besides the interesting story, there was a recipe for a basic 'red' (as opposed to 'green'). It was basically meat (not ground as Kilt mentions, but rather cubes) with spices and hydrated dried chilies.
          It was the re-constituted chilies, ground, which made it red. No tomatoes.

          As Bob points out, lots of passion, lots of variation

          1. re: KTinNYC

            KT in NYC, four out of the last five Terlingua CASI world champs used tomato sauce. Check it out at chili.org.

            1. re: James Cristinian

              Those are all chili recipes but in my opinion and most of the posters in this thread there are no tomatoes in Texas Red which is a particular type of chili. Cincinnati chili contains cocoa and cinnimon but no one would claim that all chili contains these ingridients.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                The link I posted below for Texas Red has no tomato in it. Once you add tomato it becomes Chili, not Texas Red. Texas red is basically suet, beef, spices, chiles, beef broth, and that's about it.

          2. re: KiltedCook

            No tomatoes in real Texas Red.

            beef, chiles, and spices. I add onions and garlic, but never ever tomatoes.

          3. It's really just a slang expression for chili - in its purest (or should that read "purist"?) form, going back to the dish's possibly apocryphal cowboy origins, it's nothing more than beef and red chilis. Today there are hundreds of variations, and lots of people who are passionate to the point of absurdity on the subject of whether it's OK to add things like beans or tomatoes.

            1. You will see "texas red" referenced on the menu at Tolbert's restaurant in Grapevine, TX (and it does have meat). Frank X. Tolber was a co-founder of the Terlingua Chili Cookoff (grandaddy of all chili cookoffs). At this website, see "About Tolbert's".

              1. There's a commercial ground chile called Texas Red(also known as R.T. Original) but I don't know what's in it. http://www.mildbills.com/p-100-texas-...

                Bet it's a ground chile made from mild New Mexican reds or Anaheims grown in Texas.

                1. Yer right - I lost mah head. No tomatoes in Texas Red! Other red chilis, maybe like Skyline, but not Texas.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Allfrog,

                    Culinary terms are such a moving target, so I pulled my copy of Chili Madness by Jane Butel (1980 and still in print). There is no recipe or other mention of "Texas Red" in that book, although as others have noted, "bowl of red" was a common term for chili. She does describe a philosophical difference between New Mexico and Texas style chili, with NM style having diced beef, no tomatoes or other veggies, and bean served on the side, and Texas chili using coarse ground beef and just about anything you like. If you ask people who compete in chili cookoffs, it's likely the New Mexicans won the diced vs ground beef argument.

                    As for recipes, there is Pecos River Bowl of Red, which is about as basic (New Mex) as you can get (no beans, no tomatoes, cumin is the only spice other than chiles). Authentic Texas Border Chili, which has tomatoes, no beans, but does call for tomatoes, beef shank, chorizo, serranos, and bell peppers. Reno Red has tomatoes, vinegar, beef broth, and paprika. There's also Pedernales RIver Chile (LBJ's favorite, so she says) which is basically a New Mexico style chili with tomatoes. That might be a good place to start if you want a red chili that comes from Texas.

                    Chili Madness is a small book, but it seems a fair amount of work went into it. If there was a classic "Texas Red" at the time, I think she would have included it.

                    You might like to check out the book. Or just take your favorite NM chili recipe, add some tomatoes and beans, and call it Texas Red.

                    1. A Bowl of Red was the title of Tolbert's seminal book. The reported recipe from his book is shown on the following URL:


                      1. Like your husband, I was born and (mostly) raised in the Texas Panhandle, and I come from several generations of Texans. I never heard the terms "Texas red" or "bowl of red" until long after I left Texas: it's one of those things that real Texans don't actually say, but non-Texans who want to pretend that they're locals (*cough*Bush*cough*) throw around, not realizing that everyone else is sniggering behind them.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          Having lived and grown up in the Dallas area for the past 30 years - I am very familiar with Texas Red, and hear it used quite often by locals. As stated above, it is cubed beef, spices, dried chiles, and liquid (stock, beer or water) . Onions and garlic (finely chopped) are acceptable as well.

                        2. I recently stumbled upon an old brochure that I got from Marlboro, back when I smoked those. It is Chuckwagon Cooking Recipes. According to it the Texas Red has no tomatoes. Once you add tomatoes then it becomes Chili. Here is a link to a recipe that they list as Texas Red Chili, but that is not how it is named in the original, It is simply Texas Red, and it looks delicious!


                          It also gives a bit of history to it.

                          And before I get slammed, I am not saying that marlboro is the end source for all things cowboy but they did play up the cowboy aspect of that back in the days. There are a lot of great recipes in this brochure.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: danhole

                            Strikes me as very odd that they think that adding tomatoes to something that already had chilies in it makes it into "Chili." To me, adding tomatoes makes it spaghetti sauce.

                            But as you note, it's Marlboro saying this, and you have to keep in mind that their cowboy credibility is weak, to say the least. Marlboro was originally an English brand (as the name would imply), marketed as a "ladies' cigarette" for the first half of the 20th century (their slogan: Marlboro, Mild as May). By mid-century, sales were slipping so they reinvented it as a "man's man" brand, at first using all sorts of "manly" men (construction workers, drill sergeants, sailors, gamblers) in their ads before settling on the cowboy motif in the mid-'60s. They know cowboys like only Madison Avenue can know cowboys.

                            1. re: BobB

                              Now that it's started to dip down into the 80's out here in Austin I'm about to hit the kitchen and knock out a batch of Texas Red.

                              The old top hands out here that I consult for all things Texas inform me that the strictly verboten items that disqualify the chili from being Texas Red are:

                              Fresh Chiles

                              One old wiry ranch hand says that to be the real deal it has to contain beef suet and must be thickened with masa.

                              Reviving the thread...