The Best Venison Chili

4.91 from 156 votes
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Everyone says they have the best venison chili, but this really might be it. This recipe is the One Ring of chili, no matter what meat you use. It has won more awards than I ever imagined it would, and if you scroll through the comments you will see reader after reader who has won contests and awards with this recipe. 

A bowl of venison chili with toppings
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

So yeah, I am pretty proud of my venison chili. It’s been on this site since about 2008, and while I’ve tinkered with it over the past decade-plus, it’s heart has remained the same. 

And after all, who doesn’t love chili? And what hunter doesn’t love venison chili? Chili has endless variations: Beans or no beans? Ground meat or chunks? Or no meat at all? Tomato products or no tomato product? Add coffee? Chocolate? Cinnamon?

In fact, so far as I can tell, the only things that really must be in a venison chili recipe to make it a proper chili are chiles of some sort, cumin, and onions. (Yes, there are vegetarian chiles out there.)

My version of venison chili hinges on ground deer meat, but I’ve made it with all kinds of meats, even ground turkey and goose. You can use any meat here. I’ve done it with diced venison or other meat and it’s good, too. Just don’t do large chunks; the texture of the chili will be off.

I find that the chorizo, which is kinda runny, is a perfect start to the chili, as it’s often very fatty. Bacon works great, too. 

The Chiles in Venison Chili

What makes my venison chili unique is the amount of dried chiles I use.

I will typically use 12 to 16 dried chiles of all sorts, reconstituted and then pureed with a cup of weak coffee to make the backbone of the dish. Any variety of these chiles works, but remember to use mild ones, at least mostly.

My preference is to use lots of anchos, which are very dark, mild and raisiny, with some guajillos, which are bright red, fruity, and are a bit hotter. None are really hot.

Don’t get all hung up on an exact combination of dried Mexican chiles. My advice is to use at least 3 or 4 kinds of chiles if you can. Other options besides ancho and guajillo would be a mix of chipotle, puya, chile negro, chile mulato, cascabel, New Mexican, red Anaheims and pasilla chiles. As you get to know these chiles — some are smoky, some hot, some sweet — you can adjust the mix to your taste.

A big pot of venison chili
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

On Beans

I like beans in my chili, but you can skip if you feel strongly about it — talkin’ to you, Texans! You can also use canned beans, and if you are, add them towards the end of cooking. Be sure to rinse the canned beans before adding to remove some of the starchy liquid they’re canned in. 

What beans? Ideally pinto beans or something like it. Some sort of brown bean fits well with venison chili. I do have a black bean turkey chili recipe, where the black beans are a star of that show, so feel free to use black beans here. 

White beans would seem weird, though, at least to me. 

Slow Cooker or Instant Pot?

Yep, this will work with either, although in both cases you would want to sauté everything first normally and then set it in the pressure cooker or slow cooker. 

Slow cooker venison chili should take about 4 to 5 hours on “high,” and 8 hours or more on “low.” I’ve found that sautéing everything the night before, popping it in the fridge overnight, then putting it all into the slow cooker in the morning before work is the best and easiest course of action. 

For the Instant Pot, you’ll want to put everything in after sautéing and set it on High Pressure for 10 minutes, then doing the natural release. 

Topping Choices

I am partial to Mexican toppings like radishes and cotija cheese, which is a lot like feta, as well as cilantro and green onions. 

But hey, venison chili is an American thing, and so I have to give a nod to shredded cheddar or jack cheese, plus yes, Fritos. I know, I know, but they are every bit as good in chili as tortilla chips. 

Jalapenos, pickled or fresh, are a great option, as is minced onion soaked in lime juice. Diced avocado is a nice touch, too. 

Sour cream is a natural, especially if you let your venison chili get too picante — and if you didn’t, your favorite hot sauce will then come in handy. 

Bottom line: Put whatever makes you happy on top of your venison chili. You do you. 

Storing and Preserving Venison Chili

Once made, it will keep for a week in the fridge, and, if you skip the beans, it freezes well. You can still freeze venison chili with beans in it, but the texture suffers a little. 

You can also pressure can it in pints for 75 minutes at 10 psi (higher if you live at altitude). Check here for the food safety rules for pressure canned chili.

This venison chili is super Tex-Mex. If you want something a little more Southwest, go for my chile colorado recipe

A bowl of venison chili with toppings
4.91 from 156 votes

Venison Chili

This is my version of venison chili. It does involve several items you don’t often see in chili, like molasses and coffee, but I’ve been modifying this recipe over the years to the point where this is what I like. Serve this over rice or polenta, garnished with cilantro and maybe some Mexican queso seco, jack cheese or American cheddar. 
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
Total Time: 3 hours 30 minutes


  • 1 pound pinto or black beans (optional)
  • 12 to 16 combined total of dried ancho, guajillo, pasilla, or mulato chiles
  • 1/2 pound Mexican chorizo or chopped bacon
  • 2 to 3 pounds venison, ground or diced
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle powder (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup black coffee
  • 3 tablespoons molasses (optional)
  • 1 quart Beef or venison broth
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro and shredded cheese to garnish


  • Soak beans in water overnight. If you have forgotten this, pour boiling water over them and soak for 4 hours, changing the water after 2 hours. 
  • Remove the stems and seeds of chiles and tear into pieces. Cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes. Grind to a puree with the consistency of gravy, adding about 1 cup of the soaking water and the coffee to do so.
  • Meanwhile, break up the chorizo or chop bacon and fry over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large, lidded, oven-proof pot. Once the chorizo has browned or the bacon is crispy, remove it and set aside. Add the venison and brown over high heat. You want the highest heat on your most powerful burner here, because the meat will want to steam and stew and not brown. If you are doing a big pot of chili, brown the meat in batches. Stir occasionally as it browns. Salt it as it cooks.
  • Once all the meat is ready, add the onion to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. If you are using chorizo, return it to the pot; if you are using bacon, leave it out for now. Add the garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans, paprika, cumin, coriander, chipotle powder and salt one at a time, stirring to combine each time.
  • Add chile puree and tomato paste and stir to combine well. Add the molasses and enough beef broth to cover everything – you want it to be thin like a soup. I typically need at least a pint of broth, sometimes a quart. Stir to combine all this well, bring to a bare simmer and cook gently for 3 hours or so, stirring occasionally. Put the lid halfway over the pot as it cooks. You want it to eventually cook down and be thick.
  • Once the beans are tender, you're good to go. If you are using canned beans, now's the time to add them. Return the bacon to the chili if you're using it. Serve the chili with rice or cornbread, and top with cilantro, cheese and maybe some pickled onions.



If you want to go full Mexican here instead of Tex-Mex or Southwest, try my recipe for chile colorado, which is a lot like chili, but is more authentically Mexican.

Keys to Success

  • If you have all day, use dried beans. They're better. 
  • If you need to leave the house, put the chili in a 325°F oven, covered, instead. 
  • Literally any meat works here, and if you want to go vegetarian, use chopped mushrooms. I've done it and it's amazing.
  • I strongly advise you to stick to the types of chiles I list: anchos, guajillos, pasilla, New Mexican, etc. This prevents you from blowing everyone's heads off with heat. You can always make it hotter later. 
  • If you make this a lot, try the diced meat option sometimes. It is a very Texas thing and it's really quite good. 


Calories: 426kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 33g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 76mg | Sodium: 247mg | Potassium: 1614mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 20g | Vitamin A: 10198IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 95mg | Iron: 8mg

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

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

You May Also Like

Brisket Tacos

Brisket tacos are a Texas tradition that extends into Northern Mexico. Chopped, smoked brisket on a flour tortilla with all the fixins.

Deep Fried Ribeye Tacos

A recipe for chicharron de ribeye in tacos. I ate these ribeye tacos in Hermosillo, Sonora and just had to recreate them at home with venison.

British Game Pie

How to make hand-raised pies with game. This one is a huntsman’s pie, an English classic hand pie made with a hot water crust.

Braised Beef Cheeks

An old school recipe for braised beef cheeks where the meat is marinated in red wine, herbs and spices, and then slow cooked until tender.

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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. I so wanted to love this recipe but just found the chili’s overpowering. I used 4 each of Ancho, Guajillo and Padilla dried chili’s. I also used 1 lb of our farm raised ground angus as well as two lbs of diced venison. The only omission was molasses and upon tasting I added a bit of sugar. I ended up separating chilli and adding more paste and canned tomatoes to the batch to make it, more palatable. But it’s still… “rough”. Will try again in future using 4 Chili’s total.

    1. David: The chiles are the primary flavor component of the dish, so yes, they are, well, “overpowering” because they are supposed to be. I am sorry you didn’t like the recipe.

  2. Great recipe! I used a combination of ground venison and cubed venison tenderloin. I lightly dredged the tenderloin cubes in flour before browning in lard. Subbed canned diced tomatoes for paste, and store bought chili powder for the cumin and coriander because that’s what I had on hand.
    One thing to note: it’s a good idea to strain out the pieces of chili skin from the puree (like you recommend in your chile colorado recipe).

  3. I’m baking cornmeal muffins to serve with as the canned beans mellow in the Chili. My spouse couldn’t wait for the muffins to eat some and he is really pleased.
    I was going to make a conventional chili and I thought that I should check HGC for some ideas and sigh, I suddenly found myself soaking dried chilis instead of using fast taco powder. I did put in fresh sweet peppers as I have huge bag of them to use up.

  4. Hank – I made this the other weekend with Axis deer. What an incredible chili recipe. I made it exactly to a tee like the above recipe – absolutely delicious. The best chili I have ever eaten. Thank you!

  5. I am assuming the deer meat is a straight grind and why you include the chorizo is the fat. Just looking for confirmation on that. Made one of your recipes for tenderloin the other day. It was incredible. You are the man!

    1. AJ: Nope. There is fat in both ground meats. But this is a case where it won’t matter, so use whatever ground venison you have.

  6. I have 2/3 of a can of pumpkin puree (left over from when my dog had an upset stomach). I was thinking of adding it to this recipe. Do you think this would this compliment or ruin it?

    1. Bob: I don’t think it would ruin it, but it will change the flavor. Give it a go and let me know how it tastes!

      1. I made this with caribou and it turned out extremely well. Leftovers were sparse. As for the pumpkin, it didn’t impact the flavor much but it did affect the texture. I used about a cup of pumpkin puree and it added a good deal of heft to the chili. I added the pumpkin in 1/3 cup increments at the end to make sure I didn’t over do it. I think the pumpkin couldn’t break through the strong taste of caribou and the smoky/spicy flavors. I would use the pumpkin again. Excellent recipe!

  7. Hi Hank,
    So glad to find you on this site. I am following your recipe for Halloween party with deer and elk ( ground ) no pork. Going to call it “road kill” lol! but not really road kill. Anyway, I notice no tomatoes…do you think I will ruin it by adding a can of stewed tomatoes? Thanks for your help.
    ps: I do a lot of foraging so might make the acorn muffins too!

  8. Hello Hank,

    I love your recipe and my friend who owns a brewery asked me to make it with some of his new porter. It’s a robust, sweet beer. Do you have any suggestions on how to include the beer and should I use less molasses and coffee?

  9. Reading Duck, Duck, Goose last night. Saw this chili recipe for duck/goose and today made it with caribou. Wow!! Super good with a teaspoon of sour cream! Thanks Hank! Love your books and this website is my go to for cooking!

  10. Hi Hank, Love this chili recipe and so many others of yours. Planning a backcountry hunt and want to take some of this chili pressure canned. Do I cook it as per the instructions above, and pressure can the cooked chili? Or do I not simmer it for as long? Keep the great game meat recipes coming!

    1. Bryn: I would cook it for maybe an hour, then pressure can it. Make sure in this case you have soaked any beans you are using overnight before cooking them. Bean sucking up too much liquid is an issue in pressure canning.

  11. I’ve never liked chili. Everyone I know makes it with a a bunch of tomato juice so it’s more like vegetable soup than chili. I cannot wait to make this recipe again. I just wish I had easier access to all the different peppers.

    1. I found a pretty good replacement mix at of places, believe or not, Walmart. Up here in Maine Chili’s of various assortments are hard to find. It’s called Mexican Chili Powder and has most of the mild chili’s in Hank’s recommended for this recipe. No weird stuff like msg or ‘ natural flavors’ added.

      1. It’s a spice powder that is essentially made of ground up chilis. Any idea how much of that I might need to get the same impact as the 12-16 chilis described in the recipe?

      2. Jon: No idea. But remember you can always add more. So Start with a couple tablespoons and go from there.

  12. Mr Shaw,

    I have been influenced by your treatment of game for many years now, but this is the first time I’ve made your chili. It did not disappoint! I used a light roast Ethiopian guji as the coffee to purée the chilis and I was delighted by the result. The molasses adds just the perfect subtle sweetness. And I used only venison, as I was making it for people who don’t eat any pork. First I used your chorizo recipe and made venison chorizo (used beef tallow for the fat) then used another pound ground venison, and a venison roast diced into chunks. Will definitely make this with pork chorizo or bacon next time, but it was excellent this way too. I thank you!!