Venison Chili

First, if you are going to put tomatoes in your chili, just don’t tell me about it.

Using up the last two pounds of venison cubes from the deer I killed last fall, and adding about 1.75 lbs of ground beef, I made a huge pot of chili today. I always make a huge amount of chili, mostly because it just seems right. The big flavors of meat and chili peppers, garlic and cumin and beans just wouldn’t look right in a small pot, so, we’ll be eating it for a few days, but that’s okay with me.

I make it in two pots, beans in one, meat in the other, both cooking in the same chili base, and then combine them for the last half hour. It works well to assure that both components are cooked to the right doneness.

Venison Chili

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: moderate
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I pretty much always use both chunks and ground meat in chili. You get meat in every bite and the chunks are a real treat.

You need to make three things in this recipe, the beans, the pot of meat, and the chili base. Start with the beans:

Dried Beans Quick Soak Method

This recipe can hold a full pound of beans, but I only used a half pound today to highlight the meat and because it’s less filling. The method is the same for any amount, just adjust the ingredients.

  1. Rinse and sort pinto beans (or your favorite bean)
  2. Place in pot with 3 cups water for a half pound of beans
  3. Cover and bring to a boil
  4. Turn off heat and let sit covered for one hour
  5. Return to boil and then simmer, covered, for a second hour
  6. Add half the chili base during the last half hour
  7. Add all to the meat pot and cook for another half hour

Chili Base

Someone asked me once how chili would get a red color without tomatoes (someone who had never encountered dried peppers).

Using the recipe below for reconstituting dried chiles, prepare the chiles you will use (I used 5) while the beans are cooking. If you are not familiar with them, you should experiment. We finally settled on the flavor of ancho chiles as our favorite pepper flavor. Even if you decide on a few Anaheim or New Mexico chiles (hotter), I recommend using a few anchos for their depth of flavor. For a slight amount of smoky heat, I added a little ground chipotle.

  1. In a large sauté pan, sauté two chopped onions in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 teaspoons salt over medium heat for about five minutes
  2. Add 3-4 large minced cloves of garlic and cook for another two minutes
  3. Add 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon dried or ground oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper and cook for 1-2 minutes
  4. Add the strained, reconstituted dried chiles with all their liquid and heat through (I used 5 ancho chiles today)
  5. Add half the base to the beans during their last half hour of cooking. Add the other half to the browned meat, cover and simmer for 1 hour


As noted above, we like a combination of ground meat and chunks, but either one by itself would be okay.

  1. Brown about 4 lb of meat in large pot—I used about 1/4 cup olive oil, a lot of salt, maybe 2 teaspoons, and pepper to brown the lean venison and then stirred in the ground beef to brown
  2. Add half of the chili base
  3. Cover and simmer for 1 hour—the meat cooking in the chili base is key for developing flavor
  4. Add beans and simmer all for about a half hour
  5. Make a slurry of Masa corn flour and water; I used about a cup of flour for this pot. If you can’t find Masa, you can use a fine ground corn meal, which will taste good, but be a little gritty. It’s kind of like cooking polenta in your chili! Stir in the slurry and cook until thickened–it will thicken quickly. I continue to simmer it for 5-10 minutes.

Reconstituted Dried Chiles

  • Servings: based on recipe
  • Difficulty: easy
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We lived in Texas for three years after grad school and got used to Tex-Mex cuisine, so I had to learn how to use dried chiles, because, for one thing, THERE ARE NO TOMATOES IN CHILI.

  1. Rinse dried chiles, remove stems and seeds
  2. Tear into pieces so it fits in a small container or bowl
  3. Cover with boiling water; cover container with plastic wrap; the final amount will depend on how much water you use in soaking (I used about 3-4 cups today)
  4. Set aside for about 45 minutes
  5. Place reconstituted chiles in blender with part of the liquid, adding more as needed to make a purée about the consistency of tomato juice (ironic, isn’t it?)
  6. Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove large pieces of pulp

You can’t keep this purée or freeze it, as it will separate and just not be the same.

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