Love him or hate him, and there are plenty people in each camp, Texas would look a lot different without the looming presence of LBJ in our state’s history. We could wax endlessly on the controversies of Johnson’s reign, but at the end of the day, we’re only in it for the chili.

Below, you will find LBJ’s Pedernales River chili recipe. It ain’t Texas Red by a long shot, but we’ve had this formula in our arsenal for a coon’s age, and it’s solid country gold. “Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing. One of the first things I do when I get home to Texas is to have a bowl of red. There is simply nothing better.” LBJ

Hat tip to Lone Star Legacy, one of the cornerstone cookbooks of our collection, this recipe is from its pages.


4 pounds coarsely ground beef (chili-grind)

1 large chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground cumin

6 teaspoons chili powder

2 (16-ounce) cans tomatoes

Salt to taste

2 cups hot water


In a large frying pan, brown meat with onion and garlic until meat is lightly browned; transfer ingredients to a large kettle cast-iron Dutch oven.

Add oregano, cumin, chili powder, tomatoes, salt, and hot water. Bring just to a boil; lower heat and simmer, covered, for approximately 1 hour. Remove from heat. Skim off grease and serve.

Serves 12.

One imagines White House cook Zephyr Wright spent many a shift in the kitchen knocking out big kettles of this ambrosia-like dish.

Wright wielded quite a bit of power in Johnson’s White House. Speaking to Senator JW Fulbright, Johnson pulled a note out of his pocket that Ms. Wright had written to him.

“Mr. President you have been my boss for a number of years and you always tell me you want to loose (sic) weight and yet you never do much to help yourself. Now I am going to be your boss for a change. Eat what I put in front of you and don’t ask for more and don’t complain.”

Johnson went on to add “Nobody is likely to get too big for his britches when he gets notes like this”

You go Zephyr!

Want to make a batch of authentic Texas Red Chili? Here’s our formula

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