Dark La Mesa Brisket Chili

I recently spent a Sunday afternoon judging the You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Bowl Chili Cookoff. I was on a panel of four judges, and after tasting 19 chilis (pass the antacid), there was one we kept dipping our spoons into. It was a deep, dark red chili that had big chunks of tender, flavorful brisket. There was an earthiness mixed with smooth sweetness that I couldn’t put my finger on. And it packed the perfect amount of heat. I don’t have the winner’s recipe (I wouldn’t dare ask), but here’s my shot at it. This recipe has many of the components that intrigued me…and made it a first-place prize winner.


Dark La Mesa Brisket Chili


6 slices bacon

4 cups chopped onion

6 garlic cloves, minced

2 Tbl Ancho Chile flakes

1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp black pepper

5 lbs flat-cut beef brisket, trimmed of all visible fat, cut into 3-inch cubes

2 Tbl Dark La Mesa chili powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp dried Mexican Oregano

1 tsp ground coriander

2 (10 oz) cans diced tomatoes and green chilies (hot or mild…your choice)

1 (7 oz) can diced roasted green chilies

1 (12 oz) bottle beer (lager)

1 sweet potato, cut into 1 inch chunks


In a large dutch oven, fry bacon to render the fat—reserve the bacon for another use (or eat it!) Saute the onion in the bacon fat until clear; add the garlic and Ancho flakes in the last few minutes and saute until fragrant. Remove the onions, garlic and anchos and set aside—they will be added back in a bit. Season the brisket with salt and pepper. In batches, brown the brisket on all sides in the bacon fat. Move the browned brisket to a plate between batches to catch any juices (you want these!) After browning, return all the meat to the pot along with the onion-garlic-Ancho chile mixture. Pour any reserved juices from the onions and meat into the pot.

Begin adding all remaining ingredients, stirring well to combine. Adjust the consistency with a little water if necessary. Simmer over low heat for 2-3 hours. Check the tenderness of the brisket and continue to cook until tender. Brisket is a highly flavorful but tough cut of meat…give it some time.

Serve with sour cream and sliced green onions. Corn bread would be great on the side. Enjoy!


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