Award-winning chili recipes for your next cookoff

Chili and sides that are worth their weight in beans

chiliA good pot of chili can be like a work of art. It takes time, a little bit of skill and a whole lotta love to make it turn out just right. Ever since the 6th Annual Bocce Chili Cookoff a few weeks ago, we couldn’t resist the urge to pull out a few of our favorite recipes and whip up some of our own.

Thinking about organizing your own backyard chili cookoff? Watch the latest video from the Bocce Chili Cookoff for ideas on table arrangements, voting and recipes. 

The Wine Sisterhood recently featured this Texas-style (bean-free) chili recipe that we thought our Purple Cowboy fans would also enjoy: 

Steak Chili Recipe


  • 3 lbs. strip steak
  • 6 each, dried red chilies: Guajillo, Negro, Mulato, Pasilla, Cascabel, New Mexico, Ancho
  • 3 corn tortillas
  • 2 white onions, sliced ½ inch thick
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 medium cans whole tomatoes
  • 3 whole sticks canela (cinnamon)
  • 2 T whole cumin
  • 2 T dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 oz bittersweet chocolate
  • Cayenne and salt to taste


To prepare the strip steak: Slice into ¼ inch slices. Season with salt and pepper. Preheat camal (flat cast iron skillet) or cast iron skillet until it is extremely hot. Sear steak slices about 45 seconds on each side. Let cool completely and chop into rough dice (not too fine). Set aside.

Wipe down camal or skillet and preheat until extremely hot. Remove stems and seeds from chilies. Toast on hot camal until charred and fragrant. Place into stainless steel bowl; barely cover with boiling water. Let soak while preparing other ingredients.

To prepare tortillas, white onions, garlic: preheat camal or skillet until extremely hot. Toast tortillas on camal until they are lightly charred and crisp. Set aside. Toast onions on pan until charred and soft. Toast garlic cloves lightly to bring out the aromatics but do not char; this will make the garlic bitter. Tear tortillas into rough pieces. Chop onions and garlic into rough dice.

To prepare cinnamon, cumin and oregano: toast on preheat camal; watch to make sure they don’t burn. Combine with broken cinnamon sticks in spice or clean coffee grinder and grind to powder.

Preheat dutch oven—cast iron is preferred. Into blender, place chilies and soaking liquid, tortillas, onions, garlic, spices and tomatoes. Blend until smooth. Pour into super-hot dutch oven and let simmer for awhile to thicken and marry the flavors. Add steak and return to simmer briefly (steak is already cooked and you don’t want to overcook it). Check for salt and correct if needed. Add cayenne if you desire more heat.

Right before serving, add chocolate. Serve with Cotija cheese (hard Mexican cheese similar to Parmesan)—chop in food processor using steel blade for a finer texture.

And this Tough Enough To Wear Pink Cowboy Beans recipe is a winning side dish for any end-of-summer cookout: 

Cowboy Beans Recipe


  • 2 cups dried pinto beans
  • 1 Tbsp bacon fat (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil (if not using the bacon fat, use 2 Tbsp vegetable oil)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 5 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 smoked ham hock or ham shank
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups black coffee
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato-based barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeños (optional)
  • Grated Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion for garnish (optional)
  • Salt to taste


Put the beans into a large pot and add enough water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes while you prepare the onions, then drain.

Heat the bacon fat and the vegetable oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed lidded pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often, until translucent and just beginning to brown. Add the garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes.

Add the drained beans into the pot with the onions. Add the ham hock, the water, a little salt, and the coffee. Stir and bring to a simmer. Cook this way for 40-50 minutes or longer. (Some beans may take longer to cook, especially if they are older.) The beans should be edible, but still just a little firm (not mushy soft).

Add the barbecue sauce and stir to combine. Cover and simmer on low heat until the meat from the ham hock begins to separate from the bone, up to 2 hours. Check on everything from time to time. If the beans begin to break down, pull the ham hock and strip the meat from the bone. The acid from the barbecue sauce should help the beans hold their shape. Add salt to taste. Add pickled jalapeños or some Tabasco to taste for some heat.

Serve with a little grated cheese and chopped red onion on top.

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