Cozy up to big bowl of healthy Venison Chili. Chock full of herbs and spices, this recipe will warm you from the inside out and leave plenty for second helpings.
When you’re lucky enough to have a freezer full of deer meat, or you know someone who does, making a big pot of chili is a no-brainer. Ground venison makes a fabulous substitute for ground beef, and since it’s so lean, there’s no need to drain off the extra fat.
This recipe can be made on the stove, Instant Pot, or in the crockpot; instructions for what you’re looking for are below. Plus, like every award winning venison chili recipe, there’s loads of ways to make this recipe exactly the way you want it: beans or no beans, spicy or mild…you get the picture.
- First, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, coriander, oregano, thyme, chipotle chili pepper or cayenne, and the salt and pepper. Continue to sauté until the vegetables soften, maybe 7 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic, then add the venison. If you’re using ground venison, break up the larger clumps with a wooden spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink. 5 minutes ought to do it.
- Then add the (drained and rinsed) beans, tomatoes, and tomato purée, and bring the contents to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes, then cook for 30 minutes longer with the lid off.
- Before you serve the chili, give it a taste and adjust the seasoning, if needed. Then serve it up in big bowls with all your favorite chili toppings: shredded cheddar cheese, a dollop of sour cream, and lots of chopped scallions.
Recipe tips and variations:
- Using dried beans: 1 pound (about 2 cups) of dried beans yields 6 to 7 cups cooked beans. One 15-ounce can of cooked beans yields 1 ¾ cups beans after draining, making it equivalent to ¼ to ⅓ pounds ( or ½ to ¾ cup) dried. Cook your beans in unsalted water beforehand, then measure them out and add them to the pot.
- Spicy chili: Add dried ancho, chipotle, guajillo, or New Mexican chilies to the pot to bump up the heat, add some sweetness, or make deer chili a little more complex.
- Just add bacon: A handful of cooked bacon or crumbled chorizo cooked with the onions, and add another layer of delicious flavor to the pot.
- No beans: Some chili lovers insist beans don’t belong in a traditional chili. No matter where you stand on the bean issue, you can leave them out. Just add extra meat and some extra veggies.
- Chocolate in chili: Yes, you read that right! A square or two of unsweetened baking chocolate makes a bold, deeply delicious chili (Skyline’s famous Cincinnati Chili uses a little bit of chocolate). Some cooks even pour in a little strong coffee to get that roasted taste. Try it!
- Beer: A can of good beer cooks down and gently flavors your deer stew. Especially good over open fires, with lots of friends.
- Stew meat chili: You can use chunks of venison for a heartier stew, but it might take longer to cook. Dredge the stew meat in salt, pepper, and flour and add to the pot. Simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours until fork tender.
- Super healthy: Beef up the vegetables. Add celery, red bell pepper, fresh tomatoes, even a little chopped carrot.
- Get the chili started in a Dutch oven by softening the vegetables and browning the meat, following steps one and two in the recipe.
- Then transfer everything to a slow cooker large enough to hold it all, add the tomatoes and beans, and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
The great thing about cooking chili in a pressure cooker is that you do everything in the pot, rather than start off on the stove and finish cooking in a crock pot.
- Soften the onions and peppers in the pot on the sauté function, then add the spices, venison, and garlic.
- Once the venison is cooked through, add the tomatoes and beans.
- Seal the Instant Pot, turn the pot to the Chili/Bean setting, which takes about 20 minutes. Depending on how quickly you want to eat,
you can either release the pressure manually, or wait for the pressure to naturally release over the next 10 to 15 minutes.
- If the chili is too brothy, you can thicken it by letting it cook down with the sauté function for another 10 minutes, until you get the right consistency.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 onions chopped
- 1 green bell pepper stemmed, seeded, and chopped (see note 1)
- 1/4 cup chili powder
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoons chipotle chili powder (see note 2)
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 2 pounds ground venison
- 2 (15.5 ounce) cans kidney beans drained and rinsed (see note 3)
- 2 (10 ounce) cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chiles undrained (see note 4)
- 1 (28 ounce) can tomato purée
- 1 bay leaf
- shredded cheese and scallions and sour cream, for serving
- In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil in over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle chili powder, thyme, coriander, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook until vegetables have softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in garlic until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add venison and cook, breaking up the clumps with a spoon, until the venison is no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to simmer for 30 minutes longer. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with shredded cheese, scallions, and sour cream.
- Bell peppers: Or add or substitute carrots, celery, corn, or zucchini.
- Chipotle chili powder: Substitute ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper or omit if you don't like spicy food.
- Kidney beans: 3 cups cooked beans can be substituted for the 2 cans (that’s about 1 cup dried beans before cooking). You can use any type of canned or cooked bean instead of kidney.
- Canned tomatoes: I love the flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles, but you can substitute regular canned tomatoes and add 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies. Ro*tel tomatoes work, too.
- Yield: This recipe makes 8 (1-cup) servings, about 2 quarts chili.
- Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- Make ahead: Cool within 2 hours, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days in advance. Reheat the full recipe on the stove over low heat to 165 degrees. Reheat small batches in the microwave.
- Freezer: Cool cooked chili to below 40 degrees on an instant-read thermometer within 2 hours and place into airtight containers. Frozen chili will last 4 to 6 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Instant Pot: Sauté the onions, peppers, spices, garlic, and venison in an Instant Pot until the venison is browned, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf and mix well. Cook on manual or high pressure for 10 minutes. Fast release the pressure when done.
- Slow cooker: At the end of step 2, transfer the cooked venison mixture to a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients as directed in step 3, cover and cook the chili on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
- More toppings: Cheese, sour cream, and scallions are classics. You can also try diced avocado, cooked bacon, fresh cilantro, minced onion, hot sauce, lime wedges, tortilla chips, corn chips, or oyster crackers.