Bison Stew

5 from 12 votes
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A rich, hearty bison stew made “three sisters” style with corn, beans and squash as a hat tip to Native American cooking. And worry not if you’re fresh out of bison: Any red meat works here.

A pot of bison stew done three sisters style, with corn, beans and squash.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

If you’ve never cooked bison before, it is, essentially, grass-fed beef in flavor. The only other difference is that bison tend to be slaughtered older than cattle, so the meat can be a little tougher. So a bison stew is a great answer to that.

Side note: While bison is the more correct term, lots of people use buffalo. So if you want to call this a buffalo stew, go right ahead.

I really wanted to make this recipe an homage to Native American cooking, using native ingredients wherever possible. So, naturally, I went with a “three sisters” style stew. This bison stew is close to my other recipe for three sisters stew, one I make with grouse or other poultry.

In this one, I used sweet corn and lots of wild lambsquarters and amaranth greens, both of which are native to the United States. You can use whatever green thing makes you happy. Chard, kale or spinach are good alternatives.

You don’t see a ton of heavy caramelization in native cooking, so I went with a simple simmer of the bison. There is one trick to this: Barely cover the meat with water, bring to a boil, skim off all the froth you can, and then add more water or stock. This helps keep your stew clean.

If you want, you can sear the meat first if you’d like.

Most of the ingredients are easy to get in any supermarket, especially if you substitute beef or venison for bison. But there is one I use that is admittedly esoteric: green alder pepper.

I first heard about this North American spice through the Quebecois restaurant Au Pied du Cochon. Green alder pepper tastes like a floral black pepper with a little resiny, piney thing going on. You can buy it online in the link above or just skip it.

Hank Shaw holding a bison shank.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Bison Stew Meat

Really any cut you can stew will work. I used a hunk of bison shank because it was so big I wanted to use it fresh; it would be a giant hunk of meat in my freezer otherwise.

Any shank, neck, shoulder, ribs, oxtail, etc. are good options. And again, any red meat works. Beef, mutton, venison, goat, jackrabbits, goose legs, even wild turkey legs would all do well here.

Storing and Serving

Most of the time I’ll serve a bison stew all by itself — it’s a complete meal. But bread is a good side, as is a nice salad.

The stew will keep a week in the fridge, and it freezes well.

If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.

A pot of bison stew with corn, beans, and squash.
5 from 12 votes

Bison Stew

This is a "three sisters" style stew with corn, beans and squash, plus wild greens like amaranth or lambsquarters. Any greens (chard, kale, spinach, etc.) are fine.
Course: lunch, Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Servings: 8 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 2 to 3 pounds bison stew meat, see above for other options
  • Salt
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms, crushed roughly
  • 1 pound dried beans
  • 1 to 2 pounds winter squash, cut into chunks
  • 2 tablespoons bison fat, beef fat, butter or oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound greens, lambsquarters, amaranth, spinach, etc.
  • Green alder pepper (optional)

Instructions 

  • Cut the bison meat into big chunks. Just barely cover with water in a large pot and bring this to a boil. Once the foam collects on the surface after a few minutes, dump the water. Return the meat to the pot, add enough water to cover by several inches and return to a simmer.
  • Slice the kernels off the ears of corn. Reserve the kernels and cut the cobs in two pieces. Put them in the pot with the meat. Add the bay leaves and salt to taste. Simmer 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, heat the butter or bison fat in a pan over medium high heat and brown the onion. When it's mostly browned, add the garlic and cook another minute. Scrape all this into the pot with the bison.
  • After 1 hour, add the mushrooms and beans and keep simmering. After another hour, add the squash. When the bison is tender, fish it out and cut it against the grain into pieces you'll want to eat in a stew. Discard the corn cobs.
  • Add the corn kernels and greens and cook 5 minutes. Add more salt if you want, along with the green alder pepper, if using.

Notes

Bean choice is up to you. I like Hidatsa beans or great northern beans here. 
If you want to try the alder pepper, you can buy green alder pepper online here

Nutrition

Calories: 562kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 38g | Fat: 22g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 8g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 235mg | Potassium: 1735mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 9669IU | Vitamin C: 36mg | Calcium: 123mg | Iron: 9mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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16 Comments

    1. B Kelley: I go back and forth with browning in stews. Many cultures, and many traditional recipes, don’t call for it, and I find that the meat is juicier when you don’t. So it’s a tradeoff between that wonderful Maillard reaction we love, and juicier meat.

  1. The green alder pepper finally showed up. Made this with moose and it was awesome. The slight sweetness from stewing the corn cobs gave it an interesting note. Another keeper.

  2. My friend had green alder and I have bison meat and we have gotten a last dump of snow here so it was perfect timing for stew. I found the green alder I had very, very floral. I feel like it could be better combined with other spices, but I am not sure what? I get the theme of this stew doesn’t call for that, but to use it in the future have you thought of other ways to incorporate it? I am thinking baking but the internet assures me it goes with meat.

  3. Hank,
    Making this now with whitetail shanks! Out of curiosity, why dump the water instead of skimming the froth like your other recipes?

  4. This was delicious and enjoyed by all. I made it with beef, pinto beans and acorn squash. I left out the mushrooms for my mom but had some dark mushroom flavored soy sauce that added some good color and flavors. I added the beans a bit earlier cause I didn’t know how old they were and they were nicely cooked. I will be adding this recipe to the permanent collection. Thanks!

  5. Hi Hank:
    Keen to try this recipe tomorrow. I obtained some green alder pepper, but am wondering…do I throw a few of these in, or do I grind them? and, how much do you suggest.
    Looking forward to your input, and the finished product tomorrow.
    Love your recipes!
    Cheers,

    Paul

  6. Just made a batch this afternoon. I used venison shanks, chard, & butternut squash. I’ve had trouble getting beans to not be hard in other soups I’ve done, so I tried lentils, and they worked well. Very good and colorful too! I need to look into the green alder pepper. We have a lot of alders in WI and MN. I’ll have to look into what types they are for future use. I use the wood for smoking fish.

  7. I have a nice cow heart gonna slice and chunk see how that turns out.gonna put a super sear on it.Gotta have a little cayenne thow.Thanks Dennis.