Close this search box.

Witte Where You Are

Make Your Own Chili Queen Chili con Carne


Market Plaza by Thomas Allen, 1878-1879. Witte Museum Collection.
Market Plaza by Thomas Allen, 1878-1879. Witte Museum Collection.

As you explore San Antonio, picture moments like the one captured in Thomas Allen’s painting of 19th-century Military Plaza. Imagine market squares filled with fragrant food stands run by women, called Chili Queens, with all types of people—from vaqueros to politicians and travelers—sitting side by side at their tables and enjoying a hot “bowl of red.”

The Chili Queens introduced San Antonio’s international community of residents and travelers to chili con carne, which they had traditionally prepared at home for their families. It didn’t take long for the love of ‘chili’ to spread across the country and beyond.

Learn more about the Chili Queens in the book Chili Queen: Mi Historia by Marian L. Martinella, available at the Bolner Family Museum Store, or during your visit to the Witte in the Robert J. and Helen C. Kleberg South Texas Heritage Center.

Prepare this historical chili con carne recipe. Share your creations by posting your pictures on social media and tagging @WitteMuseum using the hashtag #WitteWhereYourAre.

San Antonio Chili con Carne

From the Witte Museum Archives


  • 2 lbs. (907 g) beef shoulder, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 lb. (454 g) pork shoulder, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • All-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup (54 g) suet*
  • ¼ cup (54 g) pork fat*
  • 3 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 quart (946 ml) water
  • 4 ancho chilies
  • 1 serrano chili
  • 6 dried red chilies
  • 1 Tablespoon Comino (Cumin) seeds, freshly ground
  • 2 Tablespoons Mexican oregano
  • Salt to taste


  1. Place lightly floured beef and pork cubes in with suet and pork fat in a heavy chili pot and cook quickly, stirring often.
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook until they are tender and limp.
  3. Add water to the mixture and simmer slowly while preparing the chilies.
  4. Remove stems and seeds from the chili and chop them very finely.
  5. Grind chilies in a molcajete (a special mortar and pestle) and add oregano with salt to the mixture.
  6. Simmer for another 2 hours.
  7. Remove the suet casing and skim off some fat.
  8. Traditional Texas recipes do not include beans. Serve as a separate dish.

* Suet can be obtained from your local butcher or substituted with ½ cup vegetable oil.

Vegetarian Adaptation: Replace suet and pork fat with ½ cup of an oil of your choice, such as vegetable oil. Substitute meat for a pound of beans and lentils. Add sweet bell peppers with the onions. You may need to adjust the cooking time, depending on whether you use dry or canned beans.

Bolner’s Fiesta Chili Queen Chili Mix Adaption: Replace the chilies and Comino seeds with 8 Tablespoons of Bolner’s Fiesta Chili Queen Chili Mix, available at the Bolner Family Museum Store. Flour is not needed as the chili mix already had a thickener in it.

Corn Tortillas


  • 2 cups (59 grams) of nixtamalized corn flour, such as Maseca
  • ½ tsp (0.5 grams) salt
  • 1 ½ cups (356 ml) water


  1. Add dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and combine.
  2. Add water slowly and mix. After all the ingredients are added, mix until well incorporated.
  3. If the mixture is dry add 1 Tablespoon of water one at a time until the dough comes together.
  4. Divide the dough into 19 equal pieces.
  5. Roll each piece into a ball and place the dough ball into the tortilla press. Press flat. If you don’t have a tortilla press, feel free to improvise with two heavy flat objects or a rolling pin between two pieces of plastic.
  6. Cook on a flat griddle or in a dry pan. Flip after 2 or so minutes. Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your tortilla.
Looking for more recipes from South Texas? The Los Barrios Family Cookbook, available at the Bolner Family Museum Store, has more than 140 recipes from San Antonio’s ‘favorite’ Tex-Mex restaurant.