Dad’s Tavern Chili

As an adolescent I was commissioned by my dad to make a huge pot of chili for his tavern weekly, and I earned fifty cents a batch doing so! (This was before the era of food safety regulation and inspection – I just made it in our home kitchen!) Dad had taught me how to make his chili, and everyone agreed it was in a class of its own. I hadn’t thought much about it and certainly never tried to replicate it for the past 60 years or so, and now some of the ingredients are either unavailable or non-existent. But this week I started thinking about the old times and wondered if I still “had it in me” to make that wonderful chili. This recipe is about one third of that humongous kettle I made back then, stays close to my memories of how it was made, and tastes nearly the same. Dad would be proud of me if he were here to sample it. (But my price for making it today for him would be inflation-adjusted LOL!)


  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped fine (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped fine (about 1 cup)
  • 1 or 2 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground round or sirloin or other lean beef, coarse-grind preferred * (see note)
  • 1 14.5 -ounce can diced tomatoes (or use 3 large fresh tomatoes peeled and chopped)
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste, plus one can-full of water
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, plus one can-full of water
  • 2 Tablespoons chili powder (I use Gebhardt Brand)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 or 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • NOTE: The meat is not drained after browning because being lowfat it isn’t necessary and doing so would mean a loss of the onion/pepper juices and flavors as well


  • Heat oil in Dutch oven pan. Add onions, bell peppers and Jalapeno and saute 5-7 minutes until softened; add garlic and saute 1 minute more.
  • Stir in ground meat and cook stirring frequently until meat is thoroughly browned.
  • Add tomatoes, tomato paste and its can-full of water, tomato sauce and its can-full of water, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent scorching (chili is thick!)
  • Add beans and heat though.
  • YIELD: about 2 quarts, or 8 1-cup servings


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Dad’s Tavern Chili