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Gebhardt’s Chili Powder Co.

February 18, 2011

Cropped image from an undated label for a can of Gebhardt’s Chili Con Carne. Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company Records, MS 44, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries.

This week’s post is about a former San Antonio institution- Gebhardt’s Mexican Foods Company. In 1896, Willie Gebhardt established Gebhardt’s Eagle Brand Chili Powder Company. For nearly a century, the company produced chili powder, canned chili, canned tamales, and many other Tex-Mex food products in San Antonio – first as an independent company, and then as a subsidiary of the Beatrice Food Company. Gebhardt’s is now owned by ConAgra Foods, and though the San Antonio plant has closed, a few of the products developed there are still available in stores. You can check what products are available in your local stores on the Conagra Web site: http://www.conagrafoods.com/consumer/brands/index.jsp.

When Gebhardt first started selling chili powder, his market was limited by the fact that Americans outside Texas did not know how to cook with it. In 1908, the company published Mexican Cooking, one of the first Tex-Mex cookbooks. This cookbook introduced Americans to what would become one of the most popular cuisines in the country and promoted the use of Gebhardt’s chili powder above similar products. The book warns that “The success of Gebhardt’s Chili Powder has naturally brought forth a host of spurious chili powders or compounds of, which the public should be aware…” and goes on to say that Gebhardt’s is the only product that delivers “That Real Mexican Tang.”*

Gebhardt’s used this same technique to promote later products like canned chili, canned beans and deviled chili meat. While the booklets describe the recipes as “real” Mexican cooking, it’s not likely that Mexicans would recognize much of the contents. The recipes include “Piquant Deviled Eggs,” “Hominy and Chili Scramble,” and “Gebhardt’s Beans in Tomato Cups.”

Deviled Dainties. Gebhardt Chili Powder co., 1922.

Osborne, Leno. Deviled Dainties. San Antonio: Gebhardt Chili Powder Co., c1922.

UTSA Libraries Special Collections acquired the Gebhardt’s Mexican Foods Company’s records in 1989 and is in the process of digitizing the collection and making it available through our digital portal. Readers of Top Shelf, UTSA Libraries Special Collections blog, have already been introduced to the collection’s photographs. Now, images of over 100 labels from Gebhardt’s products are also available at digital.utsa.edu.

Gebhardt Mexican Foods Company Records, MS 44, University of Texas at San Antonio Libraries.

52 Comments leave one →
  1. August 21, 2014 2:17 pm

    As Robb Walsh points out succinctly in The Tex-Mex Cookbook, Gebhardt’s Chili Powder and his recipes represented the fusion so to speak of northern Mexico cooking and Anglo tastes in San Antonio. Fortunately, there is a growing distinction in people’s understanding as well as their lexicon regarding what has been considered Mexican restaurant fare is actually Tex-Mex. Instead of incorrectly assuming this term to be pejorative, it is now being understood as a melding of aspects of northern Mexican and southern Texan diet.

  2. thelma castillo permalink
    August 11, 2014 11:29 am

    I have been using this for 34 years
    Where can I find it in bulks
    Or coupons for the chili powder

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      August 18, 2014 7:16 am

      Dear Thelma,

      I’m sorry to say that we do not have information on how to purchase Gebhardt’s Chili Powder in bulk, nor on where to find coupons. Gebhardt is now a brand under ConAgra Foods, so I would recommend contacting the company.

      As a long-time aficionado of Gebhardt’s , you may enjoy the Libraries’ recent Virtual Exhibit on the company’s history.

  3. keith permalink
    June 30, 2014 2:02 pm

    The chili barbeque sauce was the best taco sauce ever.

  4. Kevin Cisco permalink
    May 5, 2014 12:02 pm

    I just on work trip stripping decks and stairs and under the cabin found a gebhardt it simply says Gebhardt eagle brand with the trade mark eagle says chili powder on side and Patented on the bottom it very thick glass and a 3 oz size. Any ideas on its worth and any interest in purchase. Funny thing I found it on birthday above Oakhurst California.

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      May 15, 2014 12:05 pm

      What an interesting find! In general, we do not purchase artifacts, but a private collector might find it of interest. We are also unable to offer monetary appraisals of such items.

  5. cheweka permalink
    April 24, 2014 10:37 am

    My son found this old glass bottle of your chili powder it looks blown glass I cant find pic any where like it and he wants to no what year its from its about 2in no design on it just on side your name and chili powder spice . Get back plz so I can send a pic we look at alot of website to if we can find this same but nothing ..thanks

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      April 25, 2014 12:10 pm

      Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any information on blown glass chili powder containers in our Gebhardt Collection. I am out of the office at present, but if you email your query to specialcollections@utsa.edu, one of my colleagues may be able to look into the question,

  6. Lori L. permalink
    March 4, 2014 11:23 am

    Hi Juli,
    Thank you for your message. Just a few more details about the cookbook I have which is in
    execellent condition.
    I found this cookbook in my great grandmothers recipe collection. She was from the Boston area and I have no idea how she got this booklet. I can tell you she was a collector of recipes and was a fabulous cook. The booklet cover has a stamp on it which says Laredo Piggly Wiggly. Laredo which I believe must be in Texas. When researching Piggly Wiggly I found out that it was a grocery chain In the southwest US, now home office is located in Keene NH. I will be cooking one of the recipes in this booklet soon, but would like to find this brand of chili powder so that it comes out exactly like the booklet recipe. I love Mexican food and can’t wait to do this. Thanks again, looking forward to hearing from you again.
    Lola (Lori)

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      April 25, 2014 12:08 pm

      Hi Lola,

      Gebhardt was acquired by Conagra Foods – if you contact them, they should be able to tell you whether any stores in your area still carry the chili powder.

      Best,
      Juli

  7. Neil permalink
    February 5, 2014 12:22 pm

    What sizes were available before the current round 3 oz jar?…I have an old recipe that calls for one large container but the size has changed???…

  8. August 6, 2013 9:27 am

    I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I will bookmark your
    blog and check again here frequently. I’m quite certain I’ll learn many new stuff right here!
    Best of luck for the next!

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      August 7, 2013 7:38 am

      I’m glad you’re enjoying our blog. We do occasionally publish guest blog posts. If you are interested in preparing a recipe from one of the cookbooks and writing about it, please email me through the contact form.

  9. August 4, 2013 3:39 am

    I absolutely love your blog and find nearly all of your post’s to be exactly what I’m looking for.
    can you offer guest writers to write content in
    your case? I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on many of the subjects you write regarding here. Again, awesome blog!

  10. March 31, 2013 10:56 am

    Can it still be purchased a 25 pound container. for the last 2 years I’ve only been able to purchase in 5 pound containers. From
    Ben E Keith.

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      April 1, 2013 9:57 am

      Hi Johnny,

      I don’t know whether Gebhardt’s chili powder is still available in 25 pound containers, but the folks at ConAgra should be able to tell you: http://www.conagrafoods.com/contact-us. Also, while I can’t say for sure how close it is to Gebhardt’s, Dos Gringo’s Secrets to Cooking Tex-Mex sells a similar/purportedly same chili powder in bulk: http://www.texmex.net.

      Best,
      Juli

  11. March 31, 2013 10:46 am

    For the 40 years our restaurant has been in business, maybe twice in those 40 years that we were not able to locate Gebhart’s chili powder when we were out. When we did use a substitute, we could taste the difference, in our cooked, finished product.
    Our food supplier Ben E. Keith did sell me a substitute, but I tell you it’s not the same.
    Can you advice on where to be able to purchase Gebhart’s Chili Powder.
    I use to be able to purchase it in 5 pounds pay you

  12. March 30, 2013 11:54 am

    I agree with everyone, used new gebhart chili powder, and enchiladas are not the same. where can we get the original gebhart chili powder. Nothing comes close to it not even memos chili.

  13. fj revo permalink
    February 17, 2013 9:30 pm

    buy gebhardt’s powdered chile from mild bill’s on line

  14. Dave B permalink
    February 6, 2013 8:10 pm

    Found Gebhardt chili powder through WalMart on line but had to order 12 3 oz bottles for around $55.00. Ordered a case for myself and a case for my friend in Oklahoma.

    • February 7, 2013 12:15 pm

      For $45.00 you could have purchased 5 lbs of MeMaws from http://www.texmnex.net and it would be like Gebhardt’s used to be (like 10 years ago). No salt, exact same flavor and a lot finer grind than the stuff in the 3 oz bottles today. Gebhardt’s is also now made in NEW JERSEY-get a rope………..

  15. Martha Lopez permalink
    November 30, 2012 4:43 am

    Gebhart chile has been use by my mother. Her tamales she made with this chile were the best you ever had.. No other chile powder can come close. I need to know where in Fresno Calif can I find larger bottles.
    Please let me know.

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      November 30, 2012 1:47 pm

      Gebhardt was purchased by ConAgra Foods, but I believe the chili powder is still commercially available in some locations.

      ConAgra’s brand page used to include a drop-down search that would allow you to find products in your area (http://www.texmex.net), but this not longer seems to be the case. You might try contacting ConAgra’s customer service.

      Alternatively, a previous commenter suggested the following site: http://www.texmex.net/, which offers a similar chili powder.

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      December 3, 2012 6:25 pm

      Gebhardt was purchased by ConAgra Foods. Their brand page used to include a drop-down search that would allow you to find products in your area (http://www.texmex.net), but this not longer seems to be the case. You might try contacting ConAgra’s customer service.

      Alternatively, a previous commenter suggested the following site: http://www.texmex.net/ http://www.texmex.net , which offers a similar chili powder.

  16. Carole Ervin permalink
    July 31, 2012 5:59 pm

    I liked the Chili Meat, but also loved the Gebhardt Barbecue sauce. It was in a can and wasn’t sweet like most of the bottled sauces today. It sure was good–and sure was hot, and I sure wish I could find it today. I live in SE TX.
    Carole

  17. July 20, 2012 12:58 am

    We really miss the flavor of the cilli powder that came in the oblong rectangle bottle. Our mother used alot in her cooking when we were growing up in south Texas and it just made everything taste so good. There isn’t any other chili powder out there that comes close to it, not even the “Menudo Spice Mix”. If I could order some somewhere, please let me know. Thank you, Jose Luis Rodriguez

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      July 23, 2012 3:24 pm

      Hi Jose,

      Although Gebhardt was purchased by ConAgra Foods some years ago, Gebhardt’s chili powder is still listed on Conagra’s brand index page as available in some locations. The drop-down search boxes on the right side of the screen allow you to search for products (including Gebhardt’s chili powder) in your local area. Do let us know if it still tastes the same way you remember!

      Best,
      Juli

      • July 24, 2012 1:32 am

        Thanks for your quick reply Juli. The flavor in Gebhardt Chili Powder does not taste the same any more. The menudo and echiladas along with other recipies, will never taste the same. Too bad. I hope the other flavor is brought back. Thank you. Jose Luis Rodriguez

    • August 28, 2012 2:22 pm

      You can purchase at “Secrets to Cooking TexMex” and here is the web site-
      Order online or call in on Toll Free line-
      http://www.TexMex.net

  18. Bob White permalink
    July 12, 2012 8:48 pm

    Have been using Gebhardt’s chili powder at my restaurant for 21 years. We are told it is no longer available. We were buying 1 case, 4 gallons, at a time. Is it still available in this size? Any size??

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      July 13, 2012 5:37 pm

      Hi Bob,

      Gebhardt was purchased by ConAgra Foods, but I believe the chili powder is still commercially available in some locations. If you go to Conagra’s brand index page, the drop-down search boxes on the right side of the screen allow you to search for products (including Gebhardt’s chili powder) in your local area.

  19. Bilie Jean Coker permalink
    April 14, 2012 7:11 pm

    Gerbhart use to make what they called “Chile Meat” that came in a small can and I have not been able to find it in a long time and i was at the store today and it came to mind and I would love to know if they stil make it and where I may find it? I can even taste it it was so good. I use to take it and but of pickles in the meat and add manyo and make me a sandwich. Yum Yum If anyone out there can help please let me know . Thank you BJ

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      April 16, 2012 1:00 pm

      As of 1997, Gebhardt Mexican Foods was part of Hunt Foods, a division within Conagra Incorporated. I have not confirmed this, but you may be able to find additional information on Gebhardt foods on the ConAgra website: http://www.conagrafoods.com.

    • Claudia Pugh permalink
      May 9, 2012 1:31 am

      I loved their chili meat spread, too Mixed it with a scrambled egg and ate as a sandwich, hot or cold. I’d love to find a recipe for it. I haven’t seen any since the mid 1980’s.

      • Bilie Jean Coker permalink
        May 18, 2012 2:54 pm

        Glad to hear some one else liked it amd misses it and I wish they would bring it back if they did stop making it. I can even taste it right now as how it tasted. If they still do make it I would love to know where I could get it. Thanks and maybe if they read our wnats maybe they will put it back on the shelves at stores. I live in Tyler, Texas

  20. April 13, 2012 9:00 pm

    Visited the plant 1967 while in the Army and have used the products since (when we can find them).. Wonderful company with a great name.

    John Gebhardt Gainesville Florida

  21. Denise permalink
    March 22, 2012 4:55 pm

    My Grandmother Pauline Salas born 1925 swears by it for menudo, enchiladas and more… so do I…Denise Sepulveda Ft Worth Texas

  22. Michelle Barnet permalink
    March 18, 2012 3:20 pm

    I found a small cookbook pamphlet entitled Mexican Cookery for American Homes. How old is it? It has an introduction by Helen Harvey and was priced 25 cents.

    • Juli McLoone permalink*
      March 28, 2012 3:51 pm

      The Gebhardt company published several cookbooks with the title Mexican Cookery for American Homes: 1923, 1932, 1935/36, 1942/43, 1949, possibly one in the 1950s, and the most recent one I’ve located in 1960. Although the books have the same title, the design and recipes vary from one publication to the next.

      As I don’t have access to all editions of Gebhardt’s Mexican Cookery for American Homes, I can’t definitely confirm which edition you have. It is not the 1932 or 1943 edition as these do not have introductions attributed to Helen Harvey.

      Your copy might be the 1960 edition, as this edition does begin with a one page introduction by Helen Harvey. If so, it should have a yellow cover with a picture of enchiladas in a casserole dish, and the title in green and red lettering. It should be 18 cm. tall and have 46 pages. On the back cover, several canned Gebhardt products should be displayed on a red background, including chili con carne, tamales with chili gravy, chili con carne, chili beans, chili powder, deviled sandwich spread, and barbecue sauce.

      • Lori L. permalink
        March 3, 2014 12:18 pm

        I think I have a copy of the first original “Mexican cooking” cookbook. no copyright or date but I can tell you it has the gebhardt chili powder registered trade mark on the front cover. The flavor of the 20th century, that real Mexican tang, price 15 cents (in red print). The introduction inside (front page) is To the American Housekeeper. In presenting to the American housekeeper the “first” Mexican Cook Book ever printed. At the bottom of the introduction, It goes on to say (last sentence) used by some of the most famous chefs of Old Mexico, their dishes have graced the table of President Diaz and have made Mexican cooks as famous as those of France. Does anyone know if this is the 1908 first addition cookbook? Lori L.

      • Juli McLoone permalink*
        March 3, 2014 1:58 pm

        Hi Lola,

        I’m out of the office for the next couple of months, so I’m afraid I can’t look into your inquiry in detail. The title you have is, to my knowledge, Gebhardt’s first cookbook, but I’m unfortunately not able to tell if you have a 1908 or 1911 edition.

        Best,
        Juli

  23. March 5, 2012 11:54 pm

    Gebharts chili powder is the very best as my mother taught me and I have found that to be true.Their was a couple of times in my life that I tried a different chili powder and it ruined what I was making.It just was not the same quailty.I do like the new easy scoop bottle.I really would like to know what kind of chilies are used to make this wonderful chili powder.I also have taught my daughters to only use Gebharts and they also agree it is the best.

    • February 7, 2013 12:11 pm

      Gebhart’s and now MeMaw’s uses the Ancho Chili Pepper as the base for the Chili Powder. That and NO SALT is what makes them far superior to all others.

  24. Jay Stires permalink
    February 27, 2012 8:21 pm

    Best Chili Powder in the USA, bar none. Would not use anything else…

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