Venison Chili: Flavorful Dish Comes From the West

Venison chili is a favorite of many hunters. It’s easy to make, you can use ground or chunked venison, and it is so doggone versatile it’s not even funny. Make it mild or hot, spoon it out of a bowl or eat on cornbread or spaghetti, beans or no beans … so many options.

One of the great things about deer chili is its versatility, and folks definitely like to put their own twist on things when they make it.

One of the great things about deer chili is its versatility, and folks definitely like to put their own twist on things when they make it.

Brad Fresch, who lives out west and hunts or eats whitetail, mule deer, antelope, moose and elk, emailed last year with his chili recipe after we ran this story and recipe from Stephen Burchett,

“Mr. Burkett’s Venison Chili looks tasty; I’ll have to try it,” he said. “Here’s mine. It’s very popular with my family, friends and co-workers (many of whom aren’t hunters, and never liked the “wild” taste of game; they wouldn’t know this was venison if I didn’t tell them).”

“I also substitute Elk, Moose and Antelope for the ground venison, but I always start with the Venison breakfast sausage. The chili doesn’t come out ‘hot’ because I’ve removed the Jalapeno seeds and ribs. It’s a personal choice; you can add Serrano or even Habanero peppers if you choose. I like the taste and mild heat that this chili has.”

Hunt, Cook, Love: Hundreds of Venison Recipes, Tips and More

So, there you have it. Fresch’s chili sounds great. Here’s the recipe:

Brad Fresch’s Venison Chili

2 lb Venison breakfast sausage (pork added, along with spices to make the sausage; I add a little extra sage)
3 lb ground venison (or small cubes if you’d prefer).  (FYI only, I have 10% beef fat added to my ground venison)
4 tbsp. olive oil
1 large white onion, diced  (or more if you like onion)
3 heads of garlic, coarsely minced (I adjust up from there, and even add some roasted garlic depending on my mood)
1 large can diced green chiles
6 – 8 tbsp. home made chili powder (I make my own using a combination of dried peppers such as Ancho, Cascabel and arbols)
8 – 10 Jalapeno peppers with the seeds and white ribs removed, diced
3 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans black beans, drained
1 large can sweet corn (or more if you’d like), drained
2 bottles beer (I use Negra Modelo, but it’s your choice)
5 Bay leaves
Several dashes of Frank’s Red Hot sauce, to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
handful of corn tortilla chips (minimum, more depending on desired thickness); crushed

Heat a large, porcelain-coated cast-iron Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add oil.  Add the venison breakfast sausage to brown and release fat; break into small chunks.  Add the remaining ground venison and the chili powder; cooking the chili powder releases the essential oils.  You can add a quarter cup of water to the meat; it helps to break down the meat into smaller chunks and is evaporated during the cooking process.

Once the meat is all browned, add the onions and jalapenos.  Cook until the onions are translucent, add garlic and stir into mixture.  Add the beer; use a wooden spoon to scrape up the bits off the bottom of the pan.  Add tomatoes, green chiles, black beans, corn, and bay leaves to the mixture.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer.  I try to let the mixture simmer for at least 1 hour before I taste it.  At this point you can add additional seasonings if desired.  I’ll occasionally add a bit of sugar or honey if the tomatoes are to acidy; it depends on your taste and what you like.  Don’t add too much salt; the tortilla chips have salt also.

Once you have the basic taste the way you want it, add the crushed tortilla chips.  Masa was used to thicken the chili in the Southwest many years ago; I use tortilla chips since they’ve been roasted and add a nice flavor, as well as thicken the chili.  You can add or subtract the amount of chips based on the thickness and texture you like.  Cook for at least 1 additional hour.  I personally like to transfer the mixture to a large crock pot, and refrigerate the chili overnight.  I’ll then set up the crock pot to cook on low heat the next day.

My family likes to serve the chili over spaghetti (my wife was born in the Cincinnati area where this is common).  We’ll add grated cheddar cheese, some additional hot sauce if desired, diced onion and sour cream.

How about that? Sounds pretty good!

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