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Pedernales River Chili

Pedernales River Chili ~ Lyndon B Johnson's favorite chili recipe ~ Sumptuous Spoonfuls #presidential #meaty #chili #recipe

This meaty chili was Lyndon B Johnson’s favorite. My dad made it, and told me how good it was, and had me taste it. Now, I’m not normally a “meaty” chili kinda person–I tend to stray over towards the ones with beans and loads of veggies, not that I have anything AGAINST meat per se, I just prefer vegetables. I know, I’m strange, but anyway, back to the chili at hand–this one is wonderful. I can certainly see why it might be the president’s favorite.

Apparently the recipe was named after the location of LBJ’s ranch in Texas. Mrs. Lady Bird Johnson had cards printed with the recipe. She is quoted as saying, “It has been almost as popular as the government pamphlet on the care and feeding of children.”

I hear the preferred meat to use is venison, which is, incidentally, what I used. I took a large venison roast and chopped it into chunks, then entered it into the chili cookoff at work. It won the “Looks Ugly, Tastes Great” award … which made me laugh. I don’t think it was ugly, but I guess it didn’t fit the other categories in the chili fest and it WAS the only chili with hunks of meat floating in it.

So anyway, here’s my take on LBJ’s famous chili. My dad found it in one of his cookbooks. I revised it a bit. I had some fresh brilliant red cowhorn peppers that I had fire roasted–I used them in place of the green chile, mainly because I had them on hand and couldn’t find any green chile in my freezer readily available. Dad used green chile and that was marvelous too. I got to the end and thought it needed a little bit of sweet, so I added the maple syrup. You can leave it out or add it in, whatever makes your tastebuds happy.

Pedernales River Chili

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: Over 2 quarts of chili

Pedernales River Chili


  • 4 lbs. lean beef, venison, antelope and/or elk meat, cut into small chunks
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 - 6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 quart canned tomatoes (or 28-oz. can)
  • 2 - 6 Tablespoons chili powder (I used 2 Tablespoons chipotle chile powder)
  • About 1 cup sweet and/or hot peppers (I used 1 bell pepper, plus about 6 fire-roasted cowhorn (cayenne) peppers) - original recipe calls for 1 cup green chiles)
  • 1 - 4 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup (optional - this is not in the original ... I used 4 Tablespoons maple syrup)
  • 2 cups beer (I used pumpkin ale - use a good-flavored beer that you like)


  1. Cut up the meat into small chunks. Heat the oil and butter in a large nonstick soup pot over medium-high heat until the butter is melted, then add the meat. Cook and heat the meat to sear it for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.
  2. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes longer. Add the rest of the ingredients (start with lower amounts of each and add more to taste). Lower the heat to simmer, cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste, then cook another hour, stirring occasionally.


RECIPE SOURCE: http://www.sumptuousspoonfuls.com/

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Pedernales River Chili ~ Lyndon B Johnson's favorite chili recipe ~ Sumptuous Spoonfuls #presidential #meaty #chili #recipe

This recipe was shared at Munching Monday, Tuesday’s TableTuesday’s TreasureSimple Supper TuesdayWednesday Roundup and Hearth & Soul Bloghop.

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6 Responses

  1. Cathy

    This looks fantastic! Pretty much like I make mine, except I always use ground meat. Why not chunk it! And the pumpkin ale, sounds like a great touch! Am going to try this soon along with the “no knead peasant bread”
    Just started reading your blog. Really enjoying it!

    November 4, 2014 at 6:21 am

    • Ann

      Thanks for your comment Cathy! I’m so glad to meet another Pedernales River Chili fan 🙂

      November 4, 2014 at 9:46 pm

  2. Ann, I don’t even know where to start. Old recipes, TEXAS recipes, recipes with a story, CHILI….I don’t know what I love most about this Pedernales River Chili (even the name!!). Thank you so much for sharing this with us at Treasure Box Tuesday- I have pinned this to a couple of my boards! 🙂

    November 5, 2014 at 10:32 am

    • Ann

      Thank you, Joy! It really is a treasure of a recipe … I am so happy you like it 🙂

      November 8, 2014 at 9:21 am

  3. That is really yummy chili, I need to try as weather getting colder. Thanks for sharing with Hearth and soul blog hop. pinning

    November 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

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