National Chili Day is the fourth Thursday in February every year and this year it's on February 22. It’s a time when we pay our respect to the hearty dish that keeps us fed and toasty warm during the winter months.

Ever since I started cooking chili and competing in chili cook-offs I've known one thing and that is don't make the chili too spicy or not everyone will like it. When I finally got that through my thick skull, I learned that it doesn't have to be spicy-hot to win.

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For many decades I kept the Fearless "Dragon's Breath" chili recipe a well-guarded secret. It was the crown jewel of the Fernandez family. However, a few years ago a local charity needed a better chili recipe to help raise funds so I shared it with the Abilene firefighters who started cooking at The Boys' Ranch chili cook-off.

As to the debate of beans or no beans, that is for another time. On this National Chili Day, enjoy my award-winning recipe and the video below of country music singer-songwriter and comedian Ray Stevens.

Fearless Fernandez Award-Winning Dragon's Breath Chili Recipe (Family-Size)


  • 5 pounds lean, coarse ground beef
  • 7 heaping TBS of dark red chili powder (better known as New Mexico Red)
  • Super-secret ingredient Three 32-oz cans chicken broth (preferably low sodium)
  • 1-1/2 TBS of finely ground oregano
  • 1-1/2 TBS of ground cumin
  • 2 tsp salt (I prefer sea salt but table salt will do)
  • 1 to 3 tsp of cayenne pepper (this will be added to taste, depending on how spicy-hot you want your chili)
  • 3 cloves of garlic (peel and puree with onions in a food processor)
  • 3 medium onions (peel and puree with garlic in a food processor)
  • Three 14-oz cans of tomato sauce
  • 1 small bottle of red food coloring (optional)
  • 3 tsp of ground powdered cumin (the final ingredient)


  • In a bowl combine the dry ingredients of chili powder, oregano, cumin, and salt, plus the pureed garlic cloves and onions.
  • Fry the meat in a skillet while stirring in only half of the dry ingredients mixed with the pureed onions and garlic. After the meat is fully cooked, drain all the grease and meat juices.
  • In a large stockpot add the cooked meat and half of the tomato sauce, two cans of the "super-secret ingredient" Tyson's Low Sodium Chicken Broth (saving a can of chicken broth for the second secret of my recipe as you'll read below). Add the rest of the dry ingredients mixed with more onions and garlic. As you add meat to the pot, the chili will begin to thicken. Thin it down by adding the rest of the tomato sauce (this is a texture preference, so it’s your call as to how thick or thin you want your chili).
  • Cayenne pepper is added for heat only, as some like their chili spicy-hot and some do not. My game plan has always been to add only half a teaspoon because some of the judges may or may not like spicy chili. (One year, I didn't use any cayenne and I still placed first, so it's up to you.)
  • Let simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour, stirring constantly to keep from scorching. You know that can of chicken broth I asked you to save? Add into the chicken broth about seven to ten drops of red food coloring (or more as you see fit for coloration only), then stir slowly into the chili. This second super-secret ingredient of red goodness I've always referred to as my Cherry Kool-Aid ingredient.
  • As the chili is simmering, add more broth and/or sauce as you think it needs for consistency. Adding the final ingredient 20 minutes before serving, stir in the 3 teaspoons powdered cumin (it adds aroma and a bit of spice), then stir it like crazy for the next 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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