On this day in 1961, Ma Ferguson, the first woman governor of Texas, died of heart failure. She left a Lone Star state-sized legacy but as y’all probably know by now we’re only in it for the chili.

Back in 2013, we produced a pop up restaurant event that we called “Let Us Now Praise Texas Women”

We featured Ma Ferguson’s famous Texas chili as one of seven dishes on our event’s menu.

Here’s what we said about Ferguson’s bowl following the party:

While we remain philosophically opposed to putting tomatoes and onions in Texas chili, we hewed perfectly to former Texas governor Ma Ferguson’s recipe for our event. Of course anytime red meat is involved in one of our dishes we head straight to Salt and Time Butcher Shop to procure the best beef coming out of Texas. Dry-aged, single origin, Black Angus beef powered this kettle, and while we maintain that it was a stew and not a true chili, there are plenty people who disagreed as they went caveman style on enormous bowls

Ma Ferguson’s Texas Chili Recipe


4 pounds coarsely ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon comino seed
6 teaspoons of chili powder
2 cans of tomatoes—do not drain
Salt to taste
2 cups of hot water


  • Combine meat, onions, and garlic in a large heavy skillet
  • Sear until light colored
  • Add comino, chili powder, tomatoes, salt, and hot water
  • Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer about one hour
  • Skim off fat as it cooks out to avoid greasy taste

    Cooking notes: This is an historical recipe so there are certain parts that you have to infer. For instance: we used 12 oz cans of whole, peeled plum tomatoes; we toasted and ground the comino seeds before adding them to the recipe; we used Texas sweet onion (1015 is on the sticker affixed to the onion) furthermore, homemade stock in place of water would be an estimable improvement

    We’d be willing to bet that Ma Ferguson used either Mexene or Gebhardt as her chili powder; both were widely available in Austin-area grocery stores at the time.

    There’s not a cook on earth who won’t put their “signature” on the dish they’re cooking at the moment.

    We are no different.

    While this is a bona fide Texas chili recipe it is not “Texas Red”

    Care to tackle the classic? link

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    1. This is notably similar to Lady Bird Johnson’s recipe! But I’m so glad to see it. I have a question for you about chili grind beef. If you were ordering from a butcher, what size grinding plate would you request, and would you put it through once or twice? Thank you and great article, by the way.

      • I’d just tell the butcher “chili grind please” 6mm or 1/4″ is good for coarse chili which is what I would use
        but just pick the one that suits your fancy.

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