Terlingua Chili Cook-off

The granddaddy of all chili cook-offs is the Terlingua International Chili Cook-off.  It’s an annual chili cook-off event in Terlingua, Texas, USA.  The town is just outside of Big Bend National Park.

It takes place on the first Saturday of November every year and usually last for several days.  

People come from all over the United States and even from other countries.  Last year more than 10,000 people attended.



Sites at the Terlingua chili cook-off



Chili Appreciation Society International was founded in 1967.  They are responsible for organizing the event. 

It’s their way to help promote a greater appreciation of chili and help teach people the art of chili cooking.

The competition must stick to the rules and regulations that CASI has created.

All the proceeds go to the CASI Scholarship Fund.


Terlingua Texas




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How the rules work for the Terlingua International Chili Cook-off

All intended competitors must register in advance and pay an entry fee to be eligible for the competition. 

To start, all the contestants must prepare their chili from scratch on-site and only use raw ingredients.  



Chili Ingredients



However, the biggest rule to follow is that all the chili entries must be cooked outdoors on open fires or gas stoves.  Beans and fillers like rice are strictly forbidden.

Traditional Texas chili is meat, spices, and peppers. No beans or rice are allowed in the competition.



No beans at Terlingua Cook-off







Judging the Terlingua International Chili Cook-off

The judging of the chili cook-off is a very serious matter.  The judges evaluate each chili entry on taste, aroma, texture, and appearance.  

They give them points for creativity, authenticity, and how clever the name of their chili is, like, Girl on Fire Chili, Gator Chili, Mean Mama Chili, Ferrel Cat Chili, and Pappy’s Hot Stuff.

The judging is broken into categories.  The main category is the “Red Chili” category.  This refers to the classic meat-based chili without beans or other fillers.  Some of the different categories might be “Chili Verde” and “Salsa.”  These all depend on the rules and regulations per year’s competition.

The judges are usually chefs, local celebrities, food critics, and previous winners.

Remember, the whole competition is done with blind judging. That way, the judges need to find out whose chili was made by whom.

The cook-off usually presents prizes to the top-ranking chilis in each category. 

Occasionally, a. “Peoples Choice” award is judged by the competition attendees.  They choose the one the public likes the most.

So bring your taste buds!


Terlingua Texas


The winner receives a trophy, the recognition of being a top chili cook, and $100,000 in prize money.


Other activities

Each year of the chili cook-off, they have live entertainment, chili-related unique vendors, and a lively atmosphere where visitors can enjoy the unique Texan culture and camaraderie.

Some years the event might include arts and crafts vendors, Beer and beverage gardens, demonstrations of chili making, and chili pepper eating contests.

While the judges are blind-tasting the competitor’s chili, the public has the same opportunity to do some taste testing themselves.

Some of the vendors at the Terlingua International Chili Cook-off Championship could include; chili vendors selling the spices for a great batch of chili.  

The championship includes live music performances of all different genres.  Arts and crafts are some of the other types of activities happening at the event.

Sometimes, there is a chili pepper eating contest where brave participants taste test to see who can handle the hottest peppers.  It’s a lot of fun for the audience, but I can’t imagine it would be fun for the contestants.



Chili pepper eating contest




Accommodations available at the Terlingua chili cook-off

If you attend the championship with a camper or RV, there are places for you to stay.

Because Terlingua is about 5 minutes from Big Bend National Park, there are plenty of friendly campgrounds to set up your RV or camper.

Here are a couple of places for you to try out. Several RV parks in the Study Butte//Terlingua area have various levels of facilities. 

  • Chisos View Lodging Campground in the Terlingua ghost town that is centrally located between state and national parks
  • Basecamp Terlingua Campground is a great spot to check out the Terlingua ghost town and do some hiking in Big Bend Ranch State Park
  • Coyote Crossing Campground is near Big Bend
  • Mel’s Place Campground with multiple sites that some recommend for people who don’t have a tent

Dry camping around the area is on a first-come basis.  Here is an excellent website from the National Park Service, all about primitive camping in the area. 

You can come and enjoy the weekend by staying in an RV, hotel, or AirBnB.  



Nibbler Tip:  It’s important to remember that the exact details and specific activities and attractions at the Terlingua International Chili Championship may vary from year to year.



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Going to chili championship cook-offs can be a lot of fun.  Make sure you can try each of the competitor’s entries so you can be the judge for the day.  See how close you get to the winner crowned by the official judges.  



Terlingua Chili Cook-off Pinterest Card



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