Chasens Famous Chili History and Recipe

Chasen Restaurant Chili


History of Chasen’s Chili:

Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood, California probably made the most famous chili.  The owner of the restaurant, Dave Chasen (1899-1973), ex-vaudeville performer, kept the recipe a secret, entrusting it to no one.

1936 to 2000 – For years, he came to the restaurant every Sunday to privately cook up a batch, which he would freeze for the week, believing that the chili was best when reheated.  “It is a kind of bastard chili” was all that Dave Chasen would divulge.

Chauffeurs and studio people, actors and actresses would come to the back door of Chasen’s to buy and pick up the chili by the quart.  Other famous people craved this chili such as comedian and actor Jack Benny (1894-1974) who ordered it by the quart.  J. Edgar Hoover (1895-1972), former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who considered it the best chili in the world, and Eleanor Roosevelt (1894-1962) wife of the 32nd President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, sought the recipe but was refused (a complimentary order was dispatched to her instead).  It is said that Chasen’s also send chili to movie actor Clark Gable (1901-1960), when he was in the hospital (he reportedly had it for dinner the night he died).

During the filming of the movie Cleopatra in Rome, Italy, famous movie star, Elizabeth Taylor, had Chasen’s Restaurant in Hollywood, California send 10 quarts of their famous chili to her.  She supposedly paid $200 to have it shipped to her in Rome:

Writing to Dave Chasen about his Chasens Famous Chili Recipe by Elizabeth Taylor, on location in Rome, 1962:

“The chili is so good.  All gone now.  Please send me ten quarts of your wonderful chili in dry ice to 448 Via Appia pignatelli. – Love and kisses, Elizabeth Taylor.”

The original Chasen’s restaurant closed in April of 1995, and the new Chasen’s on Cañon Drive closed permanently in April of 2000.

Learn about the history and legends of Chili, Chili Con Carne.



Chasen’s Famous Chili Recipe:

Chasens Famous Chili recipe from the cookbook Chasen’s – Where Hollywood Dined, by Betty Goodwin, published by Angel City Press, 1996.

Chasens Famous Chili History and Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Yield: serves many


1/2 pound dry pinto beans
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 large green bell pepper chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely-chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 pounds beef chuck, coarsely chopped*
1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped*
1/3 cup Gebhardt's chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Farmer Brothers ground cumin**

* Chasen's used the best beef chuck, center cut, trimmed completely of fat.  The restaurant used a special meat grinder, but for the home cook, meat chopped into one-quarter to one-half-inch chunks is much better than ground meat for this chili.

** Sometimes cumin seed is used in place of the ground cumin.  It is a matter of personal preference.



Rinse the beans, picking out debris.  Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover.  Boil for two minutes.  Remove from heat.  Cover with lid and let stand one hour.  After one hour, drain off liquid and discard.

Rinse beans again.  Add just enough fresh water to cover the beans.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer covered, for one hour or until tender.  Stir in tomatoes and their juice and let simmer five minutes.  

In a large skillet, saute bell pepper in oil for five minutes.  Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently.  Stir in the garlic and parsley.  Add mixture to bean mixture.  Using the same skillet, melt the butter and saute beef and pork chuck until browned.  Drain.  Add to bean mixture along with the chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin.

Bring mixture just to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for one hour.  Uncover and cook 30 minutes more or to desired consistency.  Chili should not be too thick - it should be somewhat liquid but not runny like soup.  Skim of excess fat and serve.

NOTE:  You can freeze this chili for several months.  When reheating refrigerated leftover or frozen chili, add a few tablespoons of water to regain proper consistency.

Serves many.

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Comments and Reviews

5 Responses to “Chasens Famous Chili History and Recipe”

  1. Nancy

    What an amazing recipe! I used a red bell pepper instead of a green one, added more garlic and maybe a cup more onions. While you could use ground meat I think using the meat as suggested here really makes the dish! When it finished it tasted great but overnight in the fridge truly enhanced the flavor. Liz Taylor was onto something . . .

  2. Ricki Torres

    David Chasen would make very large batches of his chili and then freeze it. He felt that letting the ingredients “marinate” made for the best tasting chili. I completely agree. It’s definitely better reheated. I promise!

  3. Jacquelyn o’Dell

    Made this with ground round and groud italian pork. Add 1/2 tsp. Cloves and 1 T Courisvoer and you will win chile cook-off contests.

  4. Adlar

    Saw Giada making ths on TV… will try

  5. James Anderson

    I had to delight and extreme pleasure of dining at chasen’s many times from the 70s to the 80s at least and I went a couple of times in the late 90s early 2000s delightful place will always miss it good food Thanks for the Memories


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