Thursday, July 09, 2009

Solving the mystery of Grandma's Chili Powder (aka Grandma's Spanish Pepper)

UPDATE: Grandma's discontinued production 6 months ago. Here is the email I got from the company.

Regina, We appreciate your loyal patronage of Grandma's chili powder over the years. However, due to slow sales that product was discontinued about 6 months ago, and we have no plans to bring it back at this time. Our Williams Original Chili seasoning is the closest we make to the Grandma's brand. It is available on our website at: am sorry, but none of our formulas are made public. However, I found a chili powder recipe on the internet that has the same basic ingredients as Grandma's. for your support of Williams products, and please let me know if you have any further questions. Regards,Debbie NewcomerConsumer Correspondence RepresentativeWilliams Foods CompanyC.H. Guenther & Son, Inc.1-800-255-6736 ext 2719


At long last, I figured out what happened to Grandma's Spanish Pepper and where I can get some.

I'm sharing this with the world, since there seem to be a handful of people out there that care as much as I do about this elusive spice.

Some background:

My family (which came to Sacramento, CA from Portugal and the Azores about 75 years ago) cooks extensively with Grandma's Spanish Pepper. It's in all these old recipes my grandmother was famous for, all the recipes my Dad inherited from her, and consequently is in nearly every ethnic Portuguese dish (and some non-Portuguese dishes) I make.

When Safeway stopped carrying it, I googled around for it but couldn't find mention of it anywhere. The only sites I found were the occasional posting on a random message board: "Does anyone know what happened to Grandma's Spanish Pepper??"

Google Books found an entry about Grandma's Spanish Pepper in the 1905 "Official Catalogue to the Lewis and Clark Expedition." Check it out. Crazy!

Finally, Safeway stopped carrying it. A call to their customer service department netted me a bitchy CS rep who wouldn't give me any information on the manufacturer. Panic set in. Finally I came across, of all places, the Lenexa Lion's Club website where someone posted a message saying that they, too, were having trouble finding it but had heard that it was now owned by Williams Foods.

I checked the Williams Foods website: no Grandma's chili powder. But I remembered the name "Lenexa, KS" from the back of the bottle. I sent them an email. Here was their response:

Thanks for your email and interest in Grandma's chili powder. That product is not widely distributed, but has been found at Food 4 Less, and Lucky Stores in northern California. It has also been found at Liras Market in Rio Vista, CA and Murphy's Market in Eureka, CA. You can also purchase it direct from us by the case. Direct orders require a check or money order be mailed to us. Once we receive your check, the product would be shipped to you. I have attached our price list and order form. Instructions for direct orders are at the bottom of the first page.

Thanks for your support of Williams products, and please let me know if you have any further questions.

Sure enough, I checked the price list, and BOTH incarnations of Grandma's were on there - both the regular, and Zesty Chili Seasoning varieties. A case of 12 for a mere $28. If you need the price list, let me know and I'll email it to you.

When I finally get my hands on another bottle I'll post pictures, too, since there are no pictures of this spice on the Internet, anywhere. I feel like, if something's not on the Internet, there's a problem. I've made it my official goal to remedy this problem, in the name of my grandmother and every other person who relies on this unique spice.

Okay. Back to studying for the bar exam.


auntiebk said...

Thank You! Stumbled on your blog while searching for source for Grandma's. Fell into your Letter to Juliet. You ROCK! You're doing the right things (although I think you should sleep for a week after the bar exam . . . ;> ) Your writing is warm human engaging and addictive, hmm maybe a second career after the children grow and you weary of the law?

Well done and WOW do I admire you.

law mama said...

Wow, thank you so much for the kind words, auntiebk! I ought to let you know that I did not find it at Food 4 Less, but I DID find it at Raleys (I am in Davis, near Sacramento, CA). If you're in CA or NV, you might be in luck. I'll be happy if I was able to help at least one person by writing that post.

Thanks also for the comment about my writing - that's far too kind of you considering my brain has eroded beyond recognition during this bar studying process. My father is a writer and although it's not the most lucrative of professions, the future is wide open, isn't it?

Thanks again for writing - that made my day.

Prairie Rose said...

My family in San Francisco has been cooking with Grandma's for three generations and I have the bottles to prove it. Oldest is a metal bottle in red and yellow labeled "Grandma's Spanish Pepper." Originally used by my Grandma Gladys, the painted label states it is manufactured in Berkeley, CA. (Haciendas in Berkeley? Ole!) The second bottle, labeled "Grandma's Spanish Seasoning" is the 2 oz. glass container my mom used for making tamale pie (beef or chicken) throughout my childhood. Mine is from the 1970's and says it is made in Lenexa, KS. Finally, in clear plastic, the 21st century model, which is labeled "Grandma's Chili Powder." I am currently out of powder to fill the bottles so thank for the tips on where to find it.

law mama said...

Prairie Rose, I love that you've held on to the tins for so long.. I think antique tins are very cool. Would love to see pics sometime! (yes, I'm a dork for food/history!)

Chris Bjorklund said...

Please send me the price list and contact info for Grandma's Chili Powder. We just used our last bottle!

Skip Kennedy said...

I would **dearly** love the information to order more. I have a couple of recipes that depend on Grandma's. Other chili powders don't work. I've tried. And Safeway doesn't carry Grandma's anymore.


law mama said...

Ok everyone, sorry it took me so long - but I just saved the order form to PDF file on Google Docs - you can download it at:

Grandma's Spanish Pepper Order Form.

You shouldn't need a login or anything, but if you can't access it, let me know.

Happy cooking! :)


veronica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MiamiHank said...

Hello, Try this link. I was raised of this stuff. Its not in the container you described but I think its the one. Do you have a savemart near you. thats where I find it at here in Fresno,Ca.'s%20chili%20powder

Grandma's Seasonings Chili Powder 3 oz (85 g)UPC: 07095772952

willie said...

grandma's zest chili powder is no longer available from williams foods in lenexa ks

snooks said...

Found Grandmas Chili powder at Luckys Food Store in Sebastpol, CA It was on close out, so I bought all of it. Guess I'll have to reorder from the factory when it's gone. Odd that a good product that has been around for over 100 years would just disappear from the market place.
Chuck Sommers Guerneville, CA

Jenealogy said...

Thanks so much for all of the info! I have soooo missed eating enchilda's from Capital Tamale in Sacramento! Found a recipe and it calls for Grandma's - and now I know where to find it.

If you have any other recipes using Grandma's Spanish Pepper that you'd like to share -- I'd love to try them.

Joan said...

Thank you for solving the Grandma's chili powder mystery... The family has used it for years... in Novato, CA.. When I visit from NC I always pick up bottles of take back with me..But as you found out... it is not to be found even in Lucky Stores in N CA... Could you send me the contact information?...We must keep th tradition alive! Hope all went well with the bar exam!!
Joan Quinn
Cary, NC

Danielle said...

Please send this me info on how to purchase this spice! This is the secret ingredient in the enchillada recipe that has been handed down for generations in our family. My mother, my aunt, my 83 yr old grandmother and myself are lost without this spice... it just does NOT taste as good with anything else.

Thank you thank you thank you!

reyespd said...

Hi. I have been looking online for a place that sells Grandma's Chili. I checked Williams' website but no luck. Do you know where to get Grandma's Chili?

sofia said...

I'm so glad I chose to read your blog about this very much loved chili powder, I live in Murrieta, CA and earlier this evening I recieved a phone call from my mother in law, she asked me to google grandmas chili powder because she can not find it anywhere anymore, she lives in San Jose and shops at Safeway, she does not have internet and wants me to find out where she can buy it. I would appreciate it if you can email me the order form so that I can order some for her and myself, my e-mail is Thank you for putting this out there, there are a lot of happy people out there. Keep it up!

Joan said...

4/19/10. I just phoned the Williams Food Co in Lenexa, KS... the maker of Grandma's Chili Powder. 913-888-4343. I was told that they stopped production 3 1/2 mths. ago..and their inventory is nil... So I guess that is the end of a tradition..They are sending me a sample of their brand that is suppose to be close to our beloved Grandma's recipe..
Joan in North Carolina

ladyd said...

Hello and thank you for the info on Grandmas chili powder, I am simply lost without it, could you please send me the price list you mentioned, thank you sooo much

woobbie said...

Thank you for doing so much work on this. I am very upset to see that as of the first of the year, this family tradition was discontinued. My family has used Grandma's for 4 generations. I can't believe that Williams did this. I guess it was an easy decision/choice for them to make. Purchasing their competitor and then discontinuing the brand. So much for tradition. Another sad example of how big business really works. I have recently found a company called The Spice House in Illinois. They specialize in fresh spices. I have emailed them to see if any of their chili powders would be similar to Grandma's. I will update you once I get an answer. Keeping my fingers crossed!

Sharon said...

Funny, I was just googling for Grandma's Seasoning. I've notice the last time I went to purchase the seasoning at Safeways uit wasnt their . I love this stuff my best friend's mom use to make the best shredded beef with this seasoning. I would love for you to send the the price list and how to order a case. LOL! got lucky today with you blog ! THANKS

Chris said...

I am hoping that you have just saved "Chris's Award Winning Chili (self-proclaimed)" from ruin.

I set out to create my ideal chili recipe about 15 years ago and "Grandma" intrigued me. She's been a part of the very non-secret recipe for years now.

My wife's a heat wimp, so I've dumbed things down from "zesty" to regular, and I lay off the Tabasco, but I think it may actually be richer that way.


Laura said...

Yes! Thank you! Also stumbled upon this blog, as 'AuntieBK' did.

This is SUCH A BUMMER!! My aunt turned my mom & I onto Grandma's Chili Powder over 30 years ago! She uses it in a very easy and DEE-licious chili con carne recipe! I still have 1/2 a bottle left! Sheesh! It's like gold! Who's tried the William's stuff that's replaced it? Comments wanted, please! :o)

Happy Mother's Day, y'all

Kelly said...

Today is the day my husband spoils me silly (Mother's Day)...I went to my recipes and picked one of my mother's (chili) and one of my grandmothers (tamale pie)and who would guess, they both req. Grandmother's seasoning. Went to Lucky's in Napa and no Grandma's. He will have to get creative with the seasoning tonight but for the future, please send me the list if you would be so kind:)
Sincerely, Kelly

amber said...

Please send me the address/price list also. My great aunt from Cape Verde just ran out of her's and she is panicking!

d said...

Just got into Sacto from oregon to buy some Grandma's and Corti brothers does not sell anymore. can you send me address of the place in kansas. im desperate cant cook without. nice to see someone else who's roots are from the azores, my grandmother came over in the 1900's and settled in sacto. i still visit the southside and landpark area when im here. lots of changes. hope to hear from you, thks again for the info

Christina said...

Would you please forward a copy of the order sheet to my email address. I would truly appreciate it. I have been looking for Grandma's Chili and have been unable to find it anywhere.

Thank you,

mary said...

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
At long last my search for Grandma's Pepper is over. I found you while on another search. My mother grew up in Port Costa Calif. Just across the bay from Benicia Calif. My grandparents came from the Azores also. Azores heritage "Never give up"
Thank Again Mary

law mama said...

Well, everyone... I emailed the kind folks at Williams to beg them to reconsider stopping production, or at least to release the recipe to us! You're right, Mary... Azoreans never give up! Here's what I told them.


I am writing to follow up on this note I wrote nearly a year ago at this time. Debbie (in the email below) was very helpful. I blogged about Grandma's Spanish Pepper around this time and have since been overwhelmed by people Googling for it, because they cannot locate it any longer in stores. (Please see my blog post at

Recently I received a posting from someone who indicated to me that you have stopped production. As another commenter so aptly put it, my Azorean heritage will not allow me to give up. That is why I am writing to please ask you to reconsider stopping production of Grandma's. As you can see from the numerous comments in the blog post, there are so many of us (especially those in the Portuguese community) who have never found a chili powder that even comes close to the Grandma's formula. If you do not have an intention of continuing production of Grandma's, I would humbly request that you release the recipe to us so that we may cobble it together ourselves. I truly do not think you will find such a devoted group of followers who will miss this product as much as we do.

Thank you for listening, and I await your reply.


Regina Cabral Jones