Terlingua Chili Cook-Off

Terlingua Chili Cook-Off

Beans or no beans? 

This simple question is the reason why 20,000 “chiliheads” gather in Terlingua on the first weekend of November each year.

In 1967, H. Allen Smith published an article in the New York Times titled, “Nobody Knows More about Chili than I Do.” In this humorous piece, Smith included his perfect recipe for chili and beans.

When word of this article reached Wick Fowler, a Dallas newspaper man and chili enthusiast, he sent Smith back a response that essentially said, “If you knew beans about chili, you’d know chili doesn’t have beans.” A competition between the two men was arranged and today this annual event is known to the world as the Terlingua Chili Cook Off.

In fact, there are actually two chili cookoffs held in Terlingua during the same weekend. The Terlingua International Chili Championship and the Original Terlingua International Chili Cookoff are both prestige events where spicy chili (minus the beans!) and a hearty serving of fun are always on the menu.

Attending the Terlingua Chili Cook Off

While sampling chili is the main event of this four day gathering, there are numerous other activities to keep you busy while you’re waiting for the chili to be served. The fun starts on Wednesday night and continues with the crowning of the chili champions on Saturday. The 2011 event will be held from November 2nd through 5th.


Visitors fill the usually desolate desert with RV’s, tents and trailer beds. Most guests prefer to forget the hotel and stay among friends under the stars. The celebration that accompanies the event is almost as famous as the chili that is served. Quirky outfits, zany performers and folks from every walk of life are just part of what makes this event so unique.  Leaving the kids at home might be best, as this gathering has been known to be on the wild side.

Terlingua International Chili Championship

The Terlingua International Chili Championship is sponsored by the Chili Appreciation Society International, Inc. Held at Rancho CASI de los Chisos, the gate admission per person for the entire event is $30.00.

To be eligible to participate in this event, cooks must qualify and receive an invitation. Cooks earn points by placing in CASI sanctioned Chili Cookoffs around the country.

For more information on the Terlingua International Chili Championship, check out www.chili.org.

Original Terlingua International Chili Cookoff

Also known as the Frank X. Tolbert – Wick Fowler Championship Chili Cookoff, this event is held behind “The Store”, just East of Downtown Terlingua.  Participants in this event are qualified cooks from multiple organizations.  

Live music, an ugly hat contest, a golf shootout and a multitude of vendors are just a few of the activities that keep visitors busy throughout this lively affair.

For a detailed event schedule, visit www.abowlofred.com.

2 thoughts on “Terlingua Chili Cook-Off

  1. Pingback: West Texas Weekly 05/27/10 Vol. II Issue #12 | West Texas Weekly

  2. I was there

    November 1992 I was there….we didn’t know what we had walked in to.. The chili was all gone, but the party had just started!