Will Rogers’ Chili and Beans

Will Rogers, the “cowboy philosopher,” was a man of many talents: actor, cowboy, newspaper columnist, and humorist. After settling his family on a ranch in California, he also became a beloved local figure in Beverly Hills; in 1926, he was briefly declared the honorary mayor. Naturally, when the Beverly Hills Woman’s Club produced a community cookbook, they asked him to contribute an introduction. He did – along with two recipes of his own.

Will Rogers, Library of Congress.

I decided to try out Will Rogers’ recipe for chili and beans, the quintessential cowboy food. Will Rogers was known for his love of chili. Once, while suffering from gallstones, he cheerfully proclaimed that he had “nuthin’ that a bowl of chili can’t cure.”

I can’t promise that this chili will cure any diseases, but it is very good – especially if you follow Will Rogers’ advice for reading the cookbook: “first you get hungry…the hungrier you get the better the book will appear.”

Like Will Rogers’ signature style, the recipe is simple, straightforward, and doesn’t need much explaining. I followed the recipe exactly as directed, although I did buy ground beef rather than grinding my own as he seems to suggest.

Tasting notes:

This was a classic, simple chili. It’s not very spicy on its own, so I did end up adding both salsa and cheese for a little extra flavor. While it is a pretty basic chili, it’s a perfect base for adding whatever condiments you prefer. The leftovers were also excellent used in burritos the next day.

I made it on the stove at home, but it would be a perfect dish for making over a campfire after a long day of hiking or rounding up cattle.


Beverly Hills Woman’s Club. (1931). Fashions in foods in Beverly Hills. Michigan State University Libraries Special Collections, Original Publisher: Beverly Hills Woman’s Club. https://whatamericaate.org/full.record.php?kid=79-2C8-129&page=1

Robinson, R. (1996). American original: A life of Will Rogers. Cary: Oxford University Press, Incorporated.

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