Soups And Stews · uncategorized

Chuckwagon Chili

Chuckwagon Chili

This recipe has a place in my heart as it was my grandfathers’ recipe. It is something that he made while he was out on the wagon train back in the early 1900s. He loved being out with his dad running cattle. My great grandfather was also a cattle farmer and I guess it ran in the family. Although I do not run cattle and that kind of stuck with my Uncle’s kids and grandkids, I loved being out there as a child.

My father had a few acres on a farm so I grew up with all the duties that come with farming. I hauled hay, fed cattle, rode horses, gathered eggs from the hens, helped out in the kitchen, and learned how to navigate (somewhat) through what I could utilize if need be.

I would say that I had a really fun childhood. To me, it was entertaining. I loved learning some of the “old ways”. To me, this recipe reminds me of how things would have been out running cattle in the old west with just what you could take with you on the chuckwagon. Although the food was simple, it had meaning. It meant that you got another day out on the job and a full belly at the end of the day.

When they would pack up the wagon and head out they often took what would last a long time on the wagon. Things like flour, cornmeal, beans, dried meats, canned items from the garden, and a lot of lard, salt, spices, and sugar. When it came to chili a lot of times the chili and beans were cooked separately and served as a sort of “side dish” to one another. If the cowboys wanted to mix the beans with the chili they could. Cornbread, biscuits, or johnny cakes were cooked as well for sopping up the liquid from the beans, soups, or chilis.

Now, this recipe is 100% authentic except for ground beef. The cowboys hardly ever had fresh meat out on the trails unless they took a cow to eat if they needed to. Other than that it was only what was fair game and on the chuckwagon.

I am so excited to share my grandfathers’ recipe with you
Let’s get started.


1 lb ground beef
1 pkg (2 cups) beef jerky (dried beef) No flavorings just plain jerky – chopped
1 onion – diced
1 jalapeno – diced (seeded if you don’t want too much spice)
2 cans – beans (your favorites will do) drained and rinsed
1 large can tomato sauce – or two regular cans
1 large can of diced tomatoes – or two regular cans
salt and pepper – to taste
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 to 2 tbsp hot pepper sauce ( your favorite brand will do)
1 cup brewed coffee


  1. In a large dutch oven on medium heat, add the ground beef, onion, and jalapeno. Cook until tender and the meat is cooked through. drain off any fat.
  2. Add the beef jerky, salt, pepper, chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Stir and cook for about 2 minutes
  3. Add the hot pepper sauce, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, and coffee. Stir to combine and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 40 to 45 minutes. The mixture should be thick. If the mixture get to thick you can add more water or broth.
  4. Add the beans and cook for about 5 to 10 more minutes. At this point you should be able to stand a wooden spoon in the center of the pot and the spoon should stay put and not fall over.
  5. Turn off the heat, check for seasoning, and serve hot.
  • You can serve with beans or no beans. You can also serve the beans on the side if you prefer.
  • If you don’t want to much heat you can add 1/4 of the jalapeno and omit the hot sauce. I would start there and work your way up in heat. If you like heat then add as many jalapenos and hot sauce as you would like.
  • If you prefer not to add the ground beef you can double the beef jerky or even triple it. I love the additio of the ground beef to the mix.
  • I would not recommend leaving out the coffe as the coffee ads a unique flavor to the chili. We love it. You can use any plain unflavored brand of coffee you like. I don’t think pumpkin spice would do well in this dish. lol.
  • Serve this with your favorite toppings. We like green onions, cheddar cheese, fermented salsa, sour cream, queso fresco, mexican table cream, hot sauce, and either cornbread or roll biscuits.
  • The beans mentioned above were the beans cooked as the side dish. I altered this to add or leave as seperate dish if need be. The origanal recipe just called for beans cooked in water with salt pork.

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