Johnny Cash’s “Old Iron Pot” Family Style Chili

Johnny Cash was a country singer and songwriter. He is best known for such hits as Ring of Fire, I Walk the Line, A Boy Named Sue, and Folsom Prison Blues to name a few. My personal favorite is the duet he did with his wife June Carter Cash called Jackson. Cash also was known to perform at prisons and released a record for two of them: Folsom Prison and San Quentin. Not only was he an advocate for prison reform but also for the rights of Native Americans. He had a short-lived variety show as well as a few Christmas specials. I quite liked the one from 1977 which you check out below. If you are into rock music history, the special does a tribute to the early days of Sun Records.

Honestly, there is so much more I could write about Johnny Cash but we will end it here. Though fun fact about my mother is the song Ring of Fire used to freak her out when she was young and it is still a song she does not like to listen to.


This is Johnny Cash’s recipe for chili. The chili, not surprisingly, is a big, hearty, rustic style chili. This was a recipe that Cash never shared even though he got many requests from people who tried it. It wasn’t until his mother, who was writing a cookbook, asked for the recipe that Johnny Cash finally relented. The one problem though is that he really didn’t know the measurements he uses. Under the recipe I found in Celebrity Cookbook, it literally says “You must guess at the amount to use. I do not measure them”. Which is what I did. Hopefully, I did his chili proud. As you will notice in the pictures, I served it with saltines and Coke. Why you ask? Well because Johnny Cash said so. Also saltine crackers crumbled on top is an old-school way to serve chili. It is the way my father remembers eating it.


Johnny Cash's Family Chili

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A delicious chili from the Man In Black, Johnny Cash!

source: Celebrity Cookbook by Sandra Battelstein


  • 3 tablespoons shortening, butter, or oil
  • 2 to 3 lbs sirloin steak, cubed in bite-size pieces
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapenos, chopped (remove the seeds if less heat is desired)
  • 2 envelopes of chili seasoning mix
  • 2 28 ounces cans of whole tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz  can tomato paste
  • 2 14 oz cans of kidney beans, drained and rinsed.
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon sage
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a large pot, heat the shortening, butter, or oil. Add the steak and cook until almost done.
  2. Then add the jalapenos and onion to the pan and cook till it starts to soften.
  3. Add the packets of chili seasoning and while stirring cook for two to three minutes.
  4. Put in the whole tomatoes and break up with your spoon in the pot. Then stir to combine and scrap the bottom of the pan to get that delicious goodness up
  5. Add the tomato paste, kidney beans, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, sage, and sugar.
  6. Simmer for twenty minutes on low. If it gets too thick, add a little water.
  7. Give it a taste and season with salt if needed.

NOTES: Johnny Cash says this is best served the day after making it. He also says to serve it with saltines and Coke or Pepsi.


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