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Homemade Version of Charlie Porubsky's World Famous Chili

When I want good chili and I don't want to head to the restaurant for the real thing, I make this recipe at home.


Charlie Porubsky's Famous Chili

This chili is the featured menu item at a tiny grocery and restaurant in Topeka, Kansas, that has been serving it up since 1955. People flock from all around the Midwest and beyond for a bowl of Charlie's chili. It is served with crackers and hot horseradish pickles.

Charlie's chili has been featured in Gourmet Magazine and the Food Network. Just last week, a film crew was there filming a documentary about the restaurant's history and its place in the growth of the city.

If you plan to travel to Topeka for a fresh bowl of this chili, you should know that they only make it from October to March, only on weekdays (Monday through Thursday but not Friday), and only during lunchtime (11 a.m. to 2 p.m.). They will extend the season if cold weather comes early or if we have a cold spring. If you are coming from a distance, it might be best to call ahead.

Some people might laugh at the thought of people traveling from far away in order to try the chili, but it happens. Folks from and other websites have organized fly/drive-ins to eat here in the past, as well as people who have seen the Porubsky documentary on PBS or in its theater run.

Another interesting fact about this restaurant: a local judge has worked here since his college days, and when his schedule allows, he still works there during the lunch hour, serving chili and Charlie's massive sandwiches and deli plates.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

1 hour

1 hour 15 min

6 servings


  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds coarsely ground chuck
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (I like Pedro Lopez brand)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 (16-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained
  • Tabasco to taste (we use 10 drops for a faint heat)


  1. In a big, heavy skillet or Dutch oven, sauté the onions and garlic in the oil until they are soft.
  2. Add the beef and salt. Cook until the beef is completely browned, breaking it up with a fork as it cooks. Drain off any excess fat.
  3. Add the chili powder, cumin, Worcestershire, sugar, tomato sauce, and 2 cups water. Bring the chili to a low boil and summer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans and simmer 15 minutes more. Add the Tabasco and more salt, if desired.

On the Side: Horseradish Pickles


  • 1 (32-ounce) jar kosher dill pickle halves (about 4 large pickles), with brine
  • 1/2 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne


  1. Pour the brine from the pickle jar into a large bowl.
  2. Mix the horseradish and cayenne into the brine.
  3. Cut the pickles into large bite-sized pieces and reimmerse them in the spiced brine.
  4. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

Top Tastes Episode 2 - Porubsky's Deli


© 2008 Mike Bouska