The Tale of Two Chilis – Budget Low Carb Chili Recipes

Budget Low Carb-Feed 4 Under $10

2 Alarm Low Carb Knock Off Chili
Wick Fowler Knock Off 2 Alarm Chili simmers in a heavy skillet. Low carb and delicious.

BLC – A Tale of Two Texas Chiles

During those bitterly cold winter months of January and February, few things spell comfort like chili. This month, BLC (Budget Low Carb), gives you the power to make the most delicious and authentic pot of low carb chili on the face of the planet.

As your trusted guide to all things low carb, let’s look at two recipes for low carb Texas Chili. One recipe, True Texas Chili Red, while authentico, involves a bit more work. The other chili recipe plays a little fast and loose with the “true” rules of Texas chili cookery, but it’s good. So good in fact, it’s unnecessary to disguise the use of “the mix” to reinvent the sacred, weeknight chili wheel. This pot of Texas Chili was made famous by Wick Fowler, a Texas Chili legend, with his trusty 2-Alarm Chili Mix.

It’s hard to compete with Wick Fowler’s method and measurements. Most people won’t care about the appearance of tomatoes in the chili pot – especially when it takes 40 minutes soup-to-nuts, to get a big steamin’ bowl of chili on the table. Perfect for novice cooks, it’s practically full-proof. Why compete with darn good stuff?

Wick Fowler’s 2-Alarm Chili Mix = quick, easy alternative to weeknight chili and it’s low carb-able.

Chili Today But Hot Tamale

Let’s first focus on true, authentico, gen-you-eye-en (Texan for genuine), Texas Chili Red or chili con carne (chili with meat). Remember the number one rule of fight club, er, I mean Texas Chili Red club is, “There are no beans in Texas Chili Red“. Failure to remember this rule will result in hundreds of years’ worth of Texas Chili Queens rising up from their graves and hunting you down like zombies in a feeding frenzy. As low carbers, it’s likely you won’t be eager to add beans or cockamamie veggies such as butternut squash or mushrooms anyway.

The second rule of Chili Club is, “There are no tomatoes in true Texas Red.” The red comes solely from chiles. Go to Fluffy Chix Cook to read more chili history!

Trimmed and cubed chuck arm roast made it into the True Texas Chili Red pot for this recipe.
Trimmed and cubed chuck arm roast made it into the True Texas Chili Red pot for this recipe.

Feel free to use a preferred meat in either of these chili recipes. Traditional Texas Chili is made from cubed cuts of beef such as chuck, brisket, tri-tip or rump. But honestly, when you’re budget cooking, use the cut/grind of meat that fits the budget and time allotment. If you can afford grass-fed chuck roast and the time it takes to trim and cube it, even better, and may God continue to bless and keep you! I bought chili grind 80/20 chuck on sale a few weeks ago for $0.99/lb!

One last factoid of “true Texas Chili Red”; True Texas Chili Red is made from whole dried chiles, onions, garlic, dried herbs and spices, fresh chiles, meat, and water. That’s it. Nothing else. The end.

There’s no stock and no bone broth in authentic, True Texas Chili – there’s water. Period! There are no chili powders, no tomatoes, again for emphasis – no beans, no suspicious characters like butternut squash, pumpkin, or mushrooms. And no cheatin’. OK, you can cheat, just don’t call it “Texas Chili.” Call it yummy stew and give everyone a steamin’ cup of shut-the-hayull-up.

You might think working with fresh chiles is harder, but for very little extra effort, the authentic flavor imparted in return for a bit of dedication is immeasurable. Remember, most commercial chili powder (notice the “i”) is actually a seasoning mix of different chiles, onion powder, sometimes garlic powder, salt, other seasonings, preservatives, anti-caking devices, and often times MSG (mono sodium glutamate). Yuk!

ancho pasilla and guajillo chiles make up the Mexican trinity
The Mexican Trinity is a mixture of ancho, pasilla and guajillo chiles.

Chile powders (notice the “e”), on the other hand, are usually composed of a single type of chile or a group of blended chiles – often roasted, always dried, and powdered. Chile powders taste delicious, but can get very expensive. Remember BLC (Budget Low Carb) is all about “the cheap”. If you can find dried chiles in bulk bins, they’re going to be cheaper and tastier. The three dried chiles I love to use in Texas Chili are: Ancho, Guajillo, and Pasilla, sometimes termed the Mexican Chile Trinity – all caps, please.

I like the complexity that results from mixing two to three types of dried chiles. For a big pot of Texas Chili Red, enough to feed about 8-10 people, I usually use a 2:1 ratio, using twice as many ancho chiles in ratio with the other chiles, to 3 1/2 pounds of chuck (pre-trimmed weight).

Let’s get started!

True Texas Chili Red

Cost of Full Recipe for 8 People: $8.04
Cost per serving: $0.90


Recipe By: Susie T. Gibbs
Serving Size: 8 servings     Serving Size:  1 cup                Yield: 9 Cups

Preparation Time: 30 Minutes
Simmering Time: 4 Hours

True Texas Chili made from the paste of re-hydrated dried chiles has a flavor all its own. Once eaten, it’s hard to go back to the chili impersonators.

A bowl of True Texas Chili warms your low carb soul on a cold winter's day.
A bowl of True Texas Chili warms your low carb soul on a cold winter’s day.


  • 2 ounces ancho chiles, dried — stemmed and seeded
  • 1 ounces guajillo chiles, dried
  • 1 ounce pasilla chiles, dried
  • ½ ounce cascabel chiles, dried
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic — peeled
  • 3 pounds chuck roast after trimming (about 3 ½ pounds untrimmed weight)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 3 cups onions — chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups water


  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese — shredded
  • ½ cup onion – chopped
  1. Stem/seed dried chile pods. Rinse chiles in water. Place in medium saucepan. Cover with water. Simmer 30 minutes, until tender. Place softened chiles in blender with garlic. Pulse to puree. Reserve chile water. Use the reserved chile water to thin and grind into a chile paste and to add to the chili pot as cooking liquid. Be sure to strain the chili water to remove stray seeds and grit. Strain the chile puree through a mesh strainer. Use a spoon to press puree through strainer. Scrape the bottom of the strainer to get puree into the pan. Discard the skins and any bitter seeds.
  2. Season meat with half of spice mixture. In heavy Dutch oven, brown in three batches over medium high. Remove browned meat to bowl. Don’t overcrowd pan. Meat should be brown, not boiled in oil. When finished, add onions to pan with the last tablespoon of oil. Cook onions until tender over medium low. Onions should have a bit of color around the edges. Deglaze pan with chile water. Scrape browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pan. Add the deglazing liquid and sautéed onions to the meat.
  3. Add chili paste and enough of the chile water to barely cover the meat. Add remaining spices. Cover and place Dutch oven in a 350° pre-heated oven or cook outside on a gas grill set to indirect heat. Cook 3-4 hours or until meat is tender and chili gravy has thickened. Stir occasionally. Add extra liquid to maintain good simmering where the meat stays covered (chile water or plain water). Taste and adjust spices to your balanced preference.
  4. (Optional) – thicken chili with corn bran, masa harina, or thickening agent of your choice. We omit this step. Chiles have thickening power on their own. We don’t like to change the flavor or texture by adding a thickener. Let your conscience be your guide!

Per Serving (not including garnish): 318 Calories; 13g Fat (35.9% calories from fat); 37g Protein; 14g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 54mg Cholesterol; 764mg Sodium; 9g Net Carbs

Serving Ideas: Serve bowls of True Texas Chili with cheese, chopped onion, and sour cream. Serve with a crisp green salad with avocado and red onions for a full meal. True Texas Chili forms a time-saving base for many Tex-Mex recipes such as Cheese Enchiladas with Chili Gravy.

4 Out of 4 ForksMom and Dad used to render their own lard for this recipe using uncured, unsalted fat back. Dad would chop the pork fat and render the cubes by cooking the fat in the oven, very slowly for several hours. Then he would strain off the rendered lard and finely chop the pork cracklings. They used the rendered lard to brown the chili meat and to sauté the onions and added the pork cracklings back to the chili. It was so GOOD!

I generally cop-out and use olive oil or bacon grease to brown the meat and onion, and omit the cracklings entirely. Still tasty, but not a dead ringer for Mom and Dad’s True Texas Chili. Also,this isn’t an “exact” recipe. I pour spices into my palm, season, cook and taste. If it needs more of this or that, add it until the flavors balance – don’t be a slave to the spoon! YOI (You Own It)!
By the way, I have used part deer, elk, and pork, even ground turkey, to replace some or all of the beef with excellent results.

2 Alarm Texas Chili – Wick Fowler Knock-Off Chili

Cost of Full Recipe for 6 People: $5.58
Cost per serving: $0.93

Recipe By: Susie T. Gibbs
Serving Size: 6 servings     Serving Size:  1 1/8 cup                Yield: 8 Cups

Preparation Time: 10 Minutes
Simmering Time: 1-2 Hours

Easy Weeknight Chili Recipe to warm your toes on those blustery winter nights, low carbed and spiced up.

Low carb Wick Fowler Chili Knock-off
Low carb knock-off of 2 Alarm Wick Fowler Chili


  • 2 pounds beef, chuck, ground, 80/20, raw — chili or hamburger grind
  • 1 ½ cups onion – chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic — slivered
  • 1 ½ teaspoons paprika
  • 2 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground oregano
  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
  • ½ cup chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne — add to taste in 1/4 teaspoon increments
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
  • 8 ounces tomato sauce
  • 2 ½ cups water

3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup cheddar cheese — shredded
1/2 cup onion — chopped

  1. Crumble meat into a heavy skillet or Dutch oven. Add onion, sliced garlic, and half of the spices, except cayenne. Saute over medium high until meat is mostly browned and onion is tender – about 10 minutes.
  2. Add tomato sauce, water and second half of spices. Add 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Bring chili to boil and reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until meat is tender and flavors have developed. If the chili cooks down too much and exposes the meat to air, add hot water to cover meat. Add more cayenne in 1/4 teaspoon increments until you reach a preferred heat level.
  3. (Optional thickening step: To thicken chili, add your choice of thickening gums, or corn bran. Oat fiber also works if you eat oat fiber as does glucomannan. We don’t usually bother thickening it.)

Per Serving (not including garnish): 458 Calories; 33g Fat (62.7% calories from fat); 29g Protein; 15g Carbohydrate; 5g Dietary Fiber; 107mg Cholesterol; 908mg Sodium; 10g Net Carbs

Serving Ideas: Serve with chopped onion, shredded cheese, and sour cream. A crisp salad with red onion and avocado makes a refreshing side.

4 Out of 4 ForksThis is a super easy weeknight Texas Chili. Use your preferred cut of beef, or choose a favorite grind – hamburger or chili grind, and go to town. The reason you add half of the spices while cooking the meat is because cooked or browned spices have a different flavor than spices added raw and cooked in a liquid. The two-step addition of spices adds to the complexity of the flavors.

For extra flavor, slit a jalapeno and a habanero pepper (not listed in the ingredients). Skewer with toothpicks to make them easier to fish out of the finished chili. They add a little bit of heat, but give lots of extra flavor and don’t add additional carbs. Remove after cooking.

I like using real onions in the chili and end up adding both dehydrated onion as well as chopped onion. I also switched out regular granulated garlic for Wick’s 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt – use what you have! This chili makes great leftovers and makes a very authentic base for other low carb Tex-Mex dishes.

One final note. You may be concerned about the carbs in Texas Chili recipes. The BLC chili recipe carbs come mainly from slow acting carbohydrates that contain a lot of fiber – such as the chiles and spices. Other carbs come from onion and garlic (high ORAC value). There isn’t any added grain thickener to worry about. Eaten in proper serving proportions, you should not have a big problem eating Texas Chili as part of a healthy low carb lifestyle.


Please be sure to comment in the comment section and leave us your thoughts or tell us how you liked the recipes. If you have an idea for future BLC – Budget Low Carb topics, be sure to add them to the comments as well. Don’t forget, if you love these recipes, share us with friends. Sharing is caring!


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One comment

  1. This chili is good, I’ve made it three times. However the recipe is kind of dumb once you stop to think about it. Chili powder is made from paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, onion powder. The same exact ingredients the recipe calls for, along with a ton of store bought chili powder. I can understand using the individual ingredients so that you can tailor it to an exact flavor profile. I could also understand using store bought chili powder and keeping it super simple. Doing both defeats the advantages of each.

    Also, you should probably mention specifically to not drain the hamburger.


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