The Best Ever Bison Chili Recipe


If you’re looking for an alternative to a nice hot bowl of chili on a cool evening (or better yet, a hot summer’s evening) you might want to consider using something other than beef as the main ingredient.  In this case, I chose the American bison, or Buffalo, and I couldn’t be happier with the results. I’ve actually been dying to try it since I found that I could purchase bison at the base commissary.

While this is just a riff on my normal chili recipe, there are several ingredients that I omitted, both to be true to the bison itself and because I wasn’t sure that those additions would do any justice to the slightly gamy flavor of the meat.  In my opinion, I made the right choices.

We tried to keep the ingredients to something that native Americans might have had on hand if they had decided to make this dish.  since the primary crops of many tribes were beans, corn and squash, I used these things as the secondary cast in this production, with stellar results.

The end product is most definitely chili, but with an ever so slightly gamy back note and a deep, rich flavor that I doubt could ever be achieved using beef. It is, in my humble opinion, everything that chili should be, and If you can find buffalo or bison locally I urge you to try it, you won’t be disappointed.

The Best Ever Bison Chili Recipe
  • 2 lbs. Al natural bison chuck roast, cut in 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 2 - 14.5 oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 8oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup red chili powder
  • 1 Dried ancho chili pod, chopped fine or ground.
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 24 oz of your favorite dark beer, I recommend Shiner Bock or Ziegen Bock (Any good German beer will do)
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut in 1/2 cubes.
  • 4 cups cooked pinto beans (or about 3 cans, if you don’t want to cook them.)
  • 10 oz. whole kernel corn (or the corn from 2 cobs)
  • 4-6 oz. chicken stock or water.
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 2 tsp dried cilantro leaves
  • 2 tbsp corn masa flour (Masa Ferina)
  • Salt and pepper to taste.
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or bacon grease.
  • Beef stock if needed to thin chili during cooking.
  1. Heat oil or bacon grease in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add cubed bison in batches, browning well on all sides. Remove browned pieces and place in a large bowl until all buffalo is browned well.
  2. Return browned bison to pot with whatever juices collected in bowl. Add onion and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato paste and continue stirring until paste no longer smells raw (Your nose will know, the paste will start to smell a bit sweet and the aroma will deepen.)
  3. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, ancho chili, chili powder, cumin, paprika, garlic powder and beer. simmer for 30 minutes and taste for seasoning. (it will still taste bland at this point, just make sure the amounts are close.)
  4. Add butternut squash and simmer 45 minutes to 1 hour or until squash is just about fork tender, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring often to prevent burning. Add beef stock or water as needed to achieve desired consistency.Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  6. Simmer uncovered for an additional hour, adding liquid if necessary. Allow to rest 15 minutes before serving
  7. Serve with cheddar or jack cheese, sour cream and a slice of good cornbread .

What I would have done differently had I thought of it at the time:

The spice levels on this ended up being a bit much, but that’s not due to the recipe above.  I think it has far more to do with the fact that some of my spices were old and I had to add a bit more than the recipe calls for.  later in cooking they got a just a bit too intense.  otherwise, the flavor of this chili is simply something amazing!

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    • says

      Generally i find it milder than beef. When braised for a very long time like this, it does have a mildly gamey, grassy flavor. it’s actually quite nice!

  1. says

    Love buffalo meat. The health benefits to it are amazing. They are one animal that cannot be force fed anything. They need to be grass raised. Love it!

  2. says

    Have never tried it but hear it’s much better for your body than beef. I know I can get it, but will have to hunt a bit. Hmmm…so much for being a locavore on this one. Don’t think there are too many bison or buffalo near San Diego. Catalina’s not too far, though. I hear they’re all over the place there. That photo is GORGEOUS.

  3. says


    Prolly not going to find local. Most comes from Montana. I’ve seen some from Oklahoma

    Start with a roast!

    In the “Add remaining ingredients” portion

  4. Blake says

    This is a great recipe. After reading your follow-up comments, I reduced the chili powder by half, plus a couple more shakes. For me, it’s just the right amount of heat. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Vieve says

    Thank You! Dee-licious… even w/out the beer and more tomato juice . I too, halved the chili powder. I sub-d orange bell pepper for squash- YUM ( I look fwd to your version!)

  6. Kaitllyn says

    This recipe is awesome. However, I have to say that neither Shiner Bock nor Zeigenbock are German beers. They are Texas brews. But I commend the use of a German “Bock” beer in this recipe!

    • Jerry says

      They are both definitely Texas brews, but in the German tradition. If you want to use an imported German bock, feel free!

  7. Alison says

    FANTASTIC!! what a fine recipe. We ended up not using masa at all – with the long cooking and the breakdown of the squash it was plenty thick and extremely delicious!

  8. steve rainbow says

    I would fry the tomato paste same as with Italian sauces and add 2 tablespoons of black treacle it contributes a fantastic deep sweetness. As with Politics,as with Chilli, everyone has their views.

  9. Darin Oldham says

    I have used ground Bison for this recipe and it turned out great. You can also use sweet potato instead of the squash. Plus I add a little honey to sweeten it up a little.

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