Tehachapi Chili Cookoff Recipe

Full Recipe for the Tehachapi Chili Cookoff has over 30 pounds of pork and beef, so my portion sizes reflect the large amount. 

  • Lard (enough to cook the meat)
  • 1000ml New Mexico Chili
  • 1000ml California Chili
  • 200ml Pasilla Chili
  • 100ml Pequin Chili
  • 100ml Tepin Chili
  • 100ml Arbol Chili
  • 500 ml Garlic
  • 500 ml Onion Powder
  • 4 tablespoons Black Pepper
  • 4 tablespoons Cumin Powder
  • 106 oz Tomato Sauce
  • 1000 ml Mastro Scheidt Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon to deglaze the pans you sear the meat in
  • Kosher Salt (to taste, adding to chili after the first and second hour)
  • Water to cover all the chili initially and to de-thicken when necessary
  • 10lb Beef sirloin (grilled on mesquite charcoal, allowed to rest and sliced into bite size pieces
  • 6lb Beef Chuck, ½ inch cubes (seared in lard)
  • 12lb Pork Loin ½ inch cubes (seared in lard)
  • 8lb Beef Chuck, ground (dropped in to large pot uncooked at beginning of process)


Can’t stress Step 1 enough: Sear and brown all the Pork and Chuck Roast Cubes! Color equals flavor and all of this meat should be browned heavily in lard before being added to the large pot. Don’t crowd your sautee/skillet with meat, take your time and brown the meat properly. I do not season any of the pork or chuck roast cubes prior to cooking. The meat will stew long enough to pick up flavors, besides, seasonings will burn in the time it takes to brown all this meat. Remove all the browned meats to a separate bowl for later incorporation.

DON’T WASH THE PAN YOU SEARED ALL THAT MEAT IN! You will need to deglaze the pan that you seared all the meat in.

ADD THE SECRET INGREDIENT…Mastro Scheidt Cabernet Sauvignon to deglaze any elements that have stuck to the bottom of the pan or pans you browned the meats. Scrape all the bits off the bottom of the pan and throw all that liquid in the same bowl you have all your meat waiting to be incorporated into your big pot of chili.

Meanwhile, take your whole sirloins and slice them in quarters. Place them on the BBQ and grill them quickly on all sides. You want to mark all sides of the sirloin with the grill and seal the meat thoroughly picking up flavors from the mesquite. When all sides have been seared well, take the sirloins off the BBQ and set aside to rest. The sirloins will NOT be fully cooked. You will cut the sirloin prior to adding it to the chili.

After all your meat is browned in a skillet or marked on the BBQ, take out your big stew pot. Turn the stew pot on high heat and dump a couple tablespoons of lard in the stew pot and allow to melt. Then take HALF of ALL the spices above and dump them in the pot with the hot lard. Make sure the spices are well coated in the lard, stirring everything together to be coated. Continue stirring so the spices don’t stick to the bottom of the large pot for about 3-5 minutes to make sure all the spices are toasted through and toasty but not burnt.

Add ¾ of your tomato sauce to the pot with the spices and continue to stir so that the tomato sauce comes to the boil. Keep the remaining tomato sauce to adjust thickness and flavor near the end of the cooking process. Tomato adds a little acid to the chili which can make the flavors pop (like squeezing lemon on steaks)

Dump in ALL of your mixtures of meat INCLUDING the uncooked ground beef. The uncooked ground beef will add texture to the chili and will slowly cook.

Bring the pot up to a boil, stirring everything to incorporate. Then lower the heat on the pan to a slow simmer. Add just enough water to cover all of the ingredients. Stir occasionally to ensure that nothing is burning or sticking to the bottom.

After the chili has cooked for an hour taste for salt and add some salt.

Roughly 2 hours into the cooking process, dump in the remaining spice mixture from above and add water if needed to ensure the mixture doesn’t get to think.  Allow the chili to cook for about 30 more minutes and again, taste and adjust for salt and if desired, heat.

I add chili powder (tepin and pequin) for heat about 30 minutes before I’m ready to serve to adjust for the heat the crowd is looking for. Since everyone is different I leave you and your audience to decide. Once the heat is added, it can’t be taken away, so I don’t add much at all. You can add jalapenos, habaneros, or whatever you like at this point...that for you to decide.

Chili should take roughly 3-4 hours to cook for the 36 pounds of meat recipe because of all the browning of the meats. With a smaller portion, it could be completed in 3 hours of cooking time.