Pedernales River Chili

(a.k.a. LBJ Chili)

February: Presidents’ Day (third Monday in February)

We took a road trip to the Texas capitol city, Austin, one year. We used to just drive through it many times from San Antonio to Dallas when visiting Highlander’s cousin in North Texas. We finally stopped for a state staycation. 

While in Austin, among other tourist attractions, we wanted to see the Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of the University of Texas. Like the other presidential libraries and museums, LBJ’s had exhibits chronicling his life and career in public service. LBJ’s wife, Lady Bird, also had some displays of her campaign clothing and ball gowns and information about her accomplishments in the community and world as well. 

We ended up at the gift shop as all tourists seem to do. Islander browsed through the cookbooks and recipe postcards but was too cheap to buy anything. Besides, several of LBJ-related recipes are online for free. For this blog post, we prepared Pedernales River Chili in honor of the 36th president of the United States who grew up in the Hill Country where the river runs through it. Politics aside, try Pedernales River Chili today for Presidents’ Day!


(Adapted from the LBJ Library)


  • 2 pounds chili meat (roughly cut or coarsely ground chuck steak)
  • Vegetable or other oil for frying
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2+ teaspoons chili powder or to taste
  • 1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1+ drops of hot sauce or to taste (optional)
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Heat a little oil in a pan and brown the meat. Set aside to drain. In a pot, add a little oil and saute the onions with garlic. 

Stir in the meat. Season with oregano, cumin and chili powder.

Stir in the tomatoes. Season with hot sauce. Pour hot water and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower heat to simmer for about an hour until meat is tender. Skim off some fat on the top during cook time and stir. Ladle into bowls and serve hot.


  • We were fortunate to have visited all three presidential libraries and museums in Texas (LBJ, Bush 41 and Bush 43) and one in California (Reagan). We also visited the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza which chronicles the assassination of JFK. 
  • We halved the original recipe to feed the two of us with lots of leftovers to share with foodie friends.
  • Texas chili does not typically contain beans like other recipes.
  • Search our blog for other recipes associated with the U.S. presidents.