Hearty Bunkhouse Chili Recipe for a Cozy Night In

Welcome to the wild west of flavor with the Bunkhouse Chili Recipe. As a culinary explorer, I’m always on the lookout for the best chili recipes out there. And let me tell you, this recipe is one that you won’t want to miss.

Straight from the bunkhouses of Texas, this hearty, spicy chili will warm you up on even the coldest of days. With bold flavors and just the right kick of heat, it’s no wonder why this recipe has been a cowboy favorite for years.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it out for yourself and experience the undeniable taste of the southwestern bunkhouse in your own kitchen. So gather your ingredients and get ready to create a savory masterpiece that would make Lady Bird Johnson proud.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Bunkhouse Chili
Bunkhouse Chili

If you’re a fan of hearty meals that are packed with flavor and are easy to make, then this bunkhouse chili recipe is perfect for you. This recipe has been enjoyed by cowboys and cowgirls in bunkhouses across America for years, and it’s not hard to see why.

First off, this chili recipe is incredibly versatile – you can really make it your own by adding in different types of beans or switching up the amount of chili powder. It can be tailored to suit any taste preference, whether that be sweet chili or extra spicy Yellowstone-style.

Furthermore, this recipe incorporates a variety of ingredients that work together beautifully to create a taste sensation. From the red kidney beans and pinto beans, which add a healthy dose of protein and fiber, to the garlic cloves and chili powder that provide depth and richness of flavor to the dish. The addition of barbecue sauce also gives a smoky taste that is simply irresistible.

And let’s not forget about the chunks of beef stew meat that are tenderized – making it easy to simply devour! Whether cooked on a stove-top or in slow cooker, this recipe is sure to provide a meal that will satisfy both your hunger and your tastebuds.

Lastly, what makes this recipe truly special is its rich history. The bunkhouse chili has long been associated with cowboy culture and is said to have been enjoyed by some iconic figures such as Lady Bird Johnson and Walt Disney himself.

So why not join these legendary fans of the bunkhouse chili recipe? With its perfect blend of hearty ingredients and rich flavors, it’s no wonder people continue to love this classic recipe each time they make it.

Ingredient List

 A bowl of pure comfort: Bunkhouse Chili
A bowl of pure comfort: Bunkhouse Chili

The ingredient list for Bunkhouse Chili Recipe features classic southwestern ingredients that really pack a flavorful punch. You will need 2 lbs of lean stewing beef cut into 1-2 inch cubes, 2 tbsp of vegetable oil, 1 medium green bell pepper chopped, 1 medium onion chopped, 1 cup of barbecue sauce, 3 garlic cloves sautéed until tender, 1 tbsp of chili powder, 1 tsp of dried oregano leaves, 1 can (6 oz) of tomato paste, 1 can (28 oz) of whole canned tomatoes crushed by hand, 1 can or bottle (12 oz) of beer and a combination of canned beans, including 1 can (15.5 oz) of red kidney beans and 1 can (15.5 oz) of pinto beans. Don’t forget to garnish with some freshly chopped green onions for a pop of color and taste.

The Recipe How-To

Now, let’s get to the heart of the matter: the bunkhouse chili recipe!

Prep time:

  • Cooking: 2 Hours
  • Preparation: 20 Minutes


For this West Texas inspired bunkhouse chili recipe, you will need the following:

  • 2 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (28oz) whole canned tomatoes
  • 1 can (15oz) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15oz) pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1/4 cup chili powder
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • beer (optional)


To start things off, take a large Dutch oven and heat up your vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add your beef cubes in batches and saute until tender and golden brown. Once they are golden brown, remove them from the Dutch oven and set them aside.

In that same Dutch Oven (don’t forget to top it off), add in your green pepper, onion, celery and garlic. Saute them until tender-crisp.

Once your vegetables are done cooking ,hurl in all those amazing spices: chili powder, dried oregano leaves; salt and pepper (more or less depending on seasoning preferences)!

Give these ingredients a good stir then add in the tomatoes (chop or break apart with spoon), beer (optional), tomato paste and barbecue sauce. Stir everything together so that everything is coated by the mixture.

Finally, add your cooked beef cubes back into the dutch oven along with your pinto and red kidney beans. Let this entire mixture simmer for two hours on low heat.

After two hours have passed, you’re ready to take that first bite of mouth-watering bunkhouse chili!

P.S: A tip straight from the heart of Southwestern love

Serve this dutch oven-made bunkhouse chili with an ice cold brew or ladle it onto some hot dogs! It’ll turn even a bland day into a happy one!

Substitutions and Variations

The beauty of bunkhouse chili recipe lies in its versatility. It adapts well with substitutions and variations, making it a perfect fit for a creative cook looking to put their spin on the classic Texan chili.

For those who prefer less heat, replace the jalapeño pepper with a sweet chili that packs more flavor and fewer scovilles. For a smoky taste, add in some fresh or canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. You can also substitute sausage for some or all of the ground beef for a richer flavor.

Vegetarians can switch the meat-based ingredients with plant-based alternatives like soy crumbles, mushrooms, or jackfruit for a great meatless and protein-rich dish. Or go all-veggie by swapping the beef with veggies such as zucchini, butternut squash or eggplant.

At your local grocery store, you may find different types of beans such as red or white kidney beans, black beans, navy or cannellini beans that can be used instead of pinto beans. Experimenting with several combinations can enrich your chili creation and broaden your culinary horizons.

Dress up your chili with toppings like sour cream, diced avocado, shredded cheese, green onions or tortilla chips. Not to mention using it as stuffing for baked potatoes or even on top of nachos and burritos.

Bunkhouse chili recipe has become an iconic Texan dish since President Johnson’s wife made it famous years ago. But today there are many variations depending on preferences and regions, like Yellowstone cowboy chili or spicy con carne. This flexibility means this dish will always please any crowd with its rich flavor and versatility.

Serving and Pairing

Bunkhouse chili is a hearty and satisfying dish that can be served in numerous ways. It is commonly enjoyed on its own, ladled into a bowl with a spoonful of sour cream or shredded cheese on top. However, it also pairs well with various side dishes and accompaniments.

For a classic approach, serve bunkhouse chili with a side of cornbread or crackers. The sweet flavors of the cornbread will complement the spice in the chili, while the crackers add a crunch element to the dish. Another option is to serve it over rice or steamed vegetables such as broccoli or carrots.

To elevate your bunkhouse chili experience, consider adding toppings like sliced avocado, diced tomatoes, or chopped green onions. These fresh ingredients will enhance the flavor of the dish and add color and texture to your bowl.

For a delicious and indulgent twist on classic chili presentation, try serving bunkhouse chili over fries or baked potatoes. The combination of crispy potatoes with hearty beef stew is a winning combination that also makes for an easy meal prep option.

Pairing suggestions for bunkhouse chili are nearly as diverse as its serving possibilities. A crisp beer like IPA or lager is an excellent complement to the bold flavors and spiciness in this recipe. For wine lovers, a full-bodied red like Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel can hold up to the robustness of chili.

In conclusion, the versatility of bunkhouse chili allows for endless variations in presentation and pairing options. Whether you opt for classic sides or experimental toppings, this recipe is sure to satisfy any craving for comfort food.

Make-Ahead, Storing and Reheating

Once you’ve made a big batch of Bunkhouse Chili, you’re in luck. This recipe is perfect for make-ahead meals, quick lunches or dinners, and reheating for later use. Here are some helpful tips to ensure that your chili stays fresh and delicious:


– If you plan on making the chili ahead of time, follow the recipe as written and let it cool to room temperature.

– Once cooled, store the chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

– When ready to reheat, simply warm on the stove over low heat or in the microwave until heated through.


– To store the chili without freezing, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

– If you need to store for longer periods of time, freeze it in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months.


– To reheat frozen chili, transfer it from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight.

– Once thawed, reheat on the stove over medium heat or in the microwave until heated through.

– To enhance the flavors of the chilli when reheating, consider adding toppings such as diced green onions or shredded cheese.

One point to be mindful of is that as the chili cools after cooking and being left standing for any length of time (hours/days) certain molecular changes take place within some compounds. The breakdown can lead to bacterial growth that may result in foodborne illness. As with all perishable foods ensure you cook until hot and consume within recommended time frames set out above.

By following these simple instructions, you’ll be able to enjoy a hearty bowl of Bunkhouse Chili whenever you want!

Tips for Perfect Results

To ensure that the Bunkhouse Chili recipe comes out perfect, here are some helpful tips that I’ve gathered from my culinary explorations.

Firstly, be sure to use the right meat. Use 2 lbs of lean stewing beef cut into 1-2 inch cubes. Using beef that is too fatty can lead to a greasy finished dish. You can also substitute ground beef if you prefer, but note that the texture may differ slightly.

Secondly, make use of your cooking vessels. A Dutch oven is ideal for this recipe. The heavy pot will help distribute heat evenly, and prevent burning by conducting heat gently. If you don’t have a Dutch oven, use any large pot with a lid.

Thirdly, don’t forget to sauté your vegetables until they’re tender-crisp before adding in other ingredients. This step ensures that they release their flavors into the chili and soft enough to blend well with the other ingredients.

Fourthly, use chili powder sparingly. Too much will overpower the other flavors of the chili. It’s better to start with a little bit and add more as needed.

Fifthly, give your chili enough time to cook. Letting it simmer on low heat for at least an hour helps to marry all the flavors together and enhances the overall taste of the dish.

Lastly, feel free to add in your preferred toppings like shredded cheese and green onions for added flavor and texture when serving.

These tips should get you on track for making the perfect Bunkhouse Chili that’ll have everyone coming back for seconds!


As with any recipe, there may be questions that arise as you gather your ingredients and begin cooking. So, here are some common FAQs to help you troubleshoot and ensure you get the best results from this satisfying and flavorful bunkhouse chili recipe. Let’s dive in!

What secret ingredient will deepen the flavor of your chili?

As a culinary adventurer, one of my go-to tricks to add more depth and sweetness to my chili is by stirring in some puréed pumpkin right after sautéing the onions, garlic, and other flavor-boosting aromatics. Trust me, this simple step can truly level up your chili game and provide a perfect balance for all the spicy chile peppers and heat. So, let’s get started and prepare a lip-smacking chili recipe with the delicious addition of pumpkin puree.

What makes Texas chili different?

When it comes to chili, Texas chili stands out from the rest. Unlike other types of chili, it omits beans and tomato sauce in favour of a rich and meaty texture. Its distinctive flavour comes from a thick chili paste crafted from dried peppers. You could almost say it is more like a beef stew, with a pronounced chili taste.

What was Walt Disney’s favorite chili?

A beloved dish of Walt Disney was the family style chili, as it was a comforting meal he often enjoyed after a long day at Disneyland. He would frequent the Carnation Cafe located on Main Street U.S.A. where his family’s renowned chili was served.

What is the secret to making good chili?

Let’s take our cooking game to the next level! With these tips and tricks, we’ll elevate our chili recipe from good to great. First up, why settle for store-bought chili powder when we can make our own? Crafting our blend of spices not only ensures freshness, but also lets us customize our flavor profile to suit our tastes.

Speaking of spices, a little extra attention can go a long way in enhancing their flavor. To really make our chili sing, it’s recommended to toast our spices before we mix them in. This quick step will help deepen the flavors and aromas, making each bite a memorable one.

Next on the list: prepping our veggies properly. While it might seem like a no-brainer, taking the extra time to dice our vegetables into uniform pieces will ensure each ingredient cooks evenly. This step might seem small, but it can make a world of difference in the finished product.

When it comes to beans, we recommend giving them a soak in a brine solution. This not only helps soften the beans for a creamy texture but also infuses them with extra flavor. Plus, it can help break down complex sugars that can cause gas, making our chili more digestible overall.

Now onto the meat of the matter…literally! Whether we’re using beef, chicken, or a plant-based meat alternative, it’s important to treat it right. For beef, going low and slow will help break down the tough fibers for a melt-in-your-mouth experience. For chicken, we recommend using thigh meat for extra flavor and moisture.

Finally, let’s talk about fat. While we might be tempted to trim it all away, fat can actually be a key component in creating a rich, velvety texture in our chili. Of course, moderation is key, but don’t be afraid to leave a little fat on your meat for maximum flavor.

Bottom Line

In conclusion, the bunkhouse chili recipe is a must-try for any culinary explorer out there. Not only is it easy to make, but it also has a unique blend of spices that will have your taste buds dancing. The red kidney beans and pinto beans give the chili a great texture while adding nutritional value. With the right amount of chili powder and oregano leaves, you can create one of the best chilis you’ve ever tasted.

Whether you’re serving this at a cowboy themed party or just for dinner with friends, the bunkhouse chili recipe is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Don’t forget to pair it with some green onion on top and your favorite beer.

So why not take a cue from Lady Bird Johnson and try out this southwestern bunkhouse chili recipe? You might just discover your new favorite comfort food.

Bunkhouse Chili

Bunkhouse Chili Recipe

I found this recipe in a book called "Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook" and my husband said it might be the best chili that he has ever eaten. I changed up the recipe by adding tomato paste and chili seasoning mix to give it some flavor that I thought the original was lacking then served it with corn bread for some added sweetness. It's not really a spicy chili because my daughter wouldn't eat it, so we add hot sauce after it's cooked to spice it up a bit. Add enough to fit your individual tastes.
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Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 2 hrs
Course Main Course
Cuisine Fusion
Servings 8 cups
Calories 491.7 kcal


  • 2 lbs lean stewing beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (16 ounce) can whole canned tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces (or used petite diced tomatoes, lightly drained)
  • 1 (12 ounce) can beer
  • 1 cup thick barbecue sauce (I used Kansas City style but I would recommend something that's not very sweet)
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 1 (1 1/4 ounce) packet chili seasoning mix
  • 1 -2 tablespoon chili powder (I used 3 and it didn't get very spicy)
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans red kidney beans (I used one of each) or (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained (I used one of each)
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sliced green onion
  • hot sauce (add to taste to spice it up a bit)


  • In Dutch oven or large saucepot, brown beef, on layer at a time, in oil. I set the heat at Medium-High. Remove to a plate when finished.
  • Add green pepper, onion, celery and garlic to skillet; saute until tender-crisp. Add beef back to the skillet.
  • Stir in tomatoes, beer, BBQ sauce, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper.
  • Reduce heat to Medium-Low. Cover; simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Add kidney beans; simmer, uncovered, 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Sprinkle with cheese and green onions just before serving.

Your Own Notes


Serving: 3374gCalories: 491.7kcalCarbohydrates: 46.8gProtein: 34.9gFat: 17.5gSaturated Fat: 5.8gCholesterol: 82.9mgSodium: 901.6mgFiber: 10.7gSugar: 13.7g
Keyword < 4 Hours, Winter
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