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First Place Judges Choice Kiwanis Chili Cookoff

I’m not an experienced competition chili cookoff cook and have entered about four contests so far. I’ve finished in the top three spots but have not won first place until the Kiwanis Chili Cookoff in Alameda in January 2018. I’ve enjoyed cooking chili for many years for family and friends on game days such as the Superbowl. In 2009, I was on a TV show called BBQ Pitmasters and learned how to make Johnny Trigg’s chili recipe which was prepared and served by world barbecue champion Johnny himself in the season finale. Trish, his wife, shared the recipe with me in her own handwriting and got Johnny’s permission for me to use it. Over time, I’ve adapted the recipe to suit my tastes. Many have tried the recipe I posted on my website and it was the inspiration when my sweetheart Donna of Butchers Daughter BBQ of Alameda asked me to enter the Kiwanis Chili Cookoff contest in January 2018. For competition chili, it’s customary to use tri tip only with no beans or other filler ingredients. Here is the actual recipe and YouTube video that I made that won first place Judges Choice. When you have a craving for good chili, this recipe will hit the spot. You can adjust the heat and amount of chili to your liking. For a vegetarian chili version, replace tri tip with canned beans. I like 2-parts red beans, 1-part black beans, 1-part white beans. Replace the meat bouillon with vegetable bouillon paste. If you are making a non-competition version, you can also add beans and vegetables to the chili recipe.

  • Total Time: 48 mins
  • Yield: 12 1x


Units Scale
  • Two 28-oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 large onions, 1/4 inch dice
  • 4 tri tips (Prime grade preferably), 1 3/4 lbs each, 3/8 inch dice
  • 1/2 cup rendered bacon fat
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2 cubes beef bouillon cubes
  • 4 teaspoons chicken bouillon paste
  • 6 small packets inside the 1.41 oz package of Sazon Goya Culantro Achiote powder
  • 4 oz shredded sharp cheese
  • 1/2 cup ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • White pepper and black pepper to taste
  • Slap Yo Daddy All Purpose rub to taste, or salt and pepper

Spice Mix (heaping tablespoons; this is for 4 tri tips and 2 gallons)

  • 6 tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons Berbere chili (Ethiopian chili)
  • 2 tablespoons New Mexico chili (hot)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne


  1. Brown the cubed tri tip in small batchers using the bacon grease. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat until all the meat is browned. While you are browning the meat, season to taste with Slap Yo Daddy All Purpose rub. It’s best to do this in two pots so it is faster as this recipe makes 2 gallons which is the required amount for a cookoff contest
  2. After meat is done, use the same pot to make a roux by adding two tablespoons of flour to each pot. Turn down heat so the roux does not burn. Add more oil as needed. After browning the roux on low heat about 3 minutes, add the onions. Sauté until translucent and add the diced tomato, some water, and simmer for 45-60 minutes
  3. After simmering, add two tablespoons of the spice mix you made, simmer 10 minutes, taste. Add more spice and repeat the process until you like the flavor. I did this 3-4 times before I was satisfied with the flavor.
  4. Simmer for an hour and then add the chicken, beef bouillon, and Sazon Goya to taste. Combine the two pots into one pot of chili and add the cooked tri tip. Add the 4 oz shredded sharp cheese, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground ginger, cocoa powder, and ground cinnamon in my recommended amounts in the ingredient list. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference. Add white pepper and black pepper to taste. Low simmer until flavors blended, about 30-45 minutes
  5. About 15 minutes before serving, add more spice mix to amp up the flavors before you serve your guests or the judges at a contest.

  • Author: Harry Soo
  • Prep Time: 45 mins
  • Cook Time: 3 mins
  • Category: Chili
  • Cuisine: American