Stay warm during these crisp, cold fall and winter months with a big bowl of this venison chili! Loaded with tender chunks of deer meat, pinto beans and your favorite toppings in every bite, this hearty chili comes with just the right touch of spicy heat to keep you and your guests feeling perfectly cozy. When you're craving that stick-to-your-ribs kind of comfort food, look no further than this very best venison chili.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
Chile paste makes the best chili: Most chili recipes call for chili powder, and they’re fine. But they have nothing on a dried chile paste — the flavor is so much richer and more complex. Plus, making your own chile paste requires very little hands-on preparation, so you can get a much superior chili with little effort.
The perfect meaty texture: No soupy, watery chili here. After slowly simmering on the stove, the broth reduces to a thick gravy with loads of venison, beans, onions and diced tomatoes.
Serves a crowd for game day: No Super Bowl party or tailgate is complete without a big pot of chili. With this recipe, you can get a good 10-12 servings to keep everyone full and happy.
Perfect for making ahead: Hosting is always easier when make-ahead recipes are on the menu. Not only can you make this chili ahead of your serving time but I highly recommend it. Allowing the chili to refrigerate overnight gives the flavors time to meld. That means you get an even tastier chili and easier entertaining duties.
Ground venison: Of course, you can source your own wild venison or buy it at your local butcher shop. I typically don’t see it at standard grocery stores, but you may have some luck at Whole Foods, Sprouts or another high-end store.
Dried chiles: My chiles of choice are guajillo and chile de àrbol. Guajillo shows off smoky, fruity notes while the chile de àrbol adds some heat.
Chipotle chiles: Look for chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. In addition to the chipotle peppers, we also add some of that adobo sauce.
Spices and seasonings: We use a combination of cocoa powder, dark brown sugar, cumin, smoked paprika, Mexican oregano, coriander, cayenne pepper, salt, cinnamon, cloves and allspice.
Apple cider vinegar: With the chiles and spices, this gives the chili a welcome brightness.
Beef stock: For a store-bought beef stock, I highly recommend using Better Than Bouillon. It’s much more flavorful than those powdery cubes. If you happen to have homemade beef stock, you’re more than welcome to use that.
Coffee: Those roasted coffee notes add complexity and depth of flavor. Don’t worry. It doesn’t make the chili taste like coffee.
Step 1: We start by making the dried chile paste. The first step is to toast the dried chiles in a large Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat for two to three minutes until they turn fragrant (photo 1). We then add the beef broth and simmer until the chiles are nice and pliable (photo 2).
Tip: While the chiles simmer, this is the perfect opportunity to prepare your other ingredients, so you can see that making a chile paste really doesn’t add much time.
Step 2: Once the chiles soften, we add them with the beef stock to a blender or food processor with the chipotles and adobo sauce and purée to make a smooth mixture (photo 3).
Step 3: Now we add some olive oil to the pot and cook the onions and jalapeños over medium heat. After the onions and jalapeños soften, we add the garlic cloves in the last 30 seconds while stirring constantly (photo 4). Garlic burns easily, so the constant stirring helps avoid that.
Step 4: From here, we’re ready to add the ground deer meat and cook the meat until it starts to brown (photo 5). As it browns, we want to use a sturdy spoon to break up those large chunks of meat.
Step 5: With the meat browned, we now pour in more beef stock, coffee and the reserved chile paste (photo 6). Using a wooden spoon, we scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pot to loosen.
Step 6: Now we stir in the Rotel tomatoes, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, cocoa powder, brown sugar and spices to make one cohesive mixture (photo 7) and increase the heat to bring the chili to a boil (photo 8).
Step 7: After the chili reaches a boil, we reduce the heat to a simmer and place the lid on the pot with a crack open (photo 9). This allows the liquid to reduce and thicken. As the chili simmers, we want to stir it occasionally to keep any bits from sticking and possibly burning.
Step 8: We let the chili cook over medium-low heat for about two to two and a half hours and add the pinto beans in the last 10 minutes or so of cooking (photo 10).
When we’re ready to eat, we load up our bowl with our favorite toppings, serve with a slice of cornbread and dig in to the most delicious deer meat chili! If you need a little topping inspiration, here are a few of my favorites.
- Cheddar cheese
- Sour cream
- Fresh jalapeño slices
- Chopped red onion
- Avocado slices or guacamole
- Crushed tortilla chips or corn chips
- Fresh cilantro
- Sliced radishes
- Hot sauce
- Green onions
Bonus: For more venison recipes, don't miss these juicy venison burgers.
Preparing in the Slow Cooker
Let me caveat this by saying I recommend preparing this chili as directed on the stove for best results. Since you have to keep a lid on the slow cooker, the liquid won’t reduce to a gravy. That said, we have a little workaround, so here’s how I recommend adjusting this recipe to make a slow cooker venison chili.
- Cook the chile paste, soften the onions and jalapeños, and brown the venison on the stove as directed.
- Move the deer mixture to a large slow cooker and pour in all the liquids and seasonings.
- Cook the chili on low for four to six hours or high for two to three hours.
- If you’d like to thicken the broth, stir together 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and just enough water to make a slurry. Pour the cornstarch slurry into the slow cooker in the last 10 minutes of cooking with the beans.
- Spoon into bowls and serve.
Note: Once the chili finishes cooking, do not let it sit on the Warm setting for more than two to four hours. Check your individual model for exact time guidelines. After two to four hours, you risk food safety issues, and the texture of the meat can start to change.
How to Store, Freeze and Reheat
After cooking, you can keep the chili in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. If you have any leftovers beyond that, you can move the chili to freezer-safe containers and freeze for four to six months. Frozen chili is still safe to eat after six months, but the quality eventually degrades as it sits in the freezer.
When you’re ready to thaw, you can leave the chili in the refrigerator for 24 hours or use the defrost setting on your microwave. To reheat, you can use the microwave again in two-minute intervals or warm it on the stove over medium heat.
If you’re serving this for a party, I like to reheat it and then move it to a slow cooker and keep it on the warm setting.
Best Alternative Serving Ideas
As if you needed another reason to love this deer chili recipe, there are so many ways to enjoy this dish besides scooping it into a bowl with tons of toppings. These are just a few of my favorite ways, but feel free to get creative.
- Load on top of nachos.
- Smother on a baked potato.
- Top on pasta to make a venison chili mac.
- Spoon onto burgers or hot dogs — bonus points for getting some high-quality hot dogs at your butcher shop.
- Stuff into chile rellenos.
- Stir into queso.
Venison is a wild game meat, so you might expect a gamey flavor, but that’s not the case here. By the time we add the chile paste and all those wonderful spices, that gamey quality takes a backseat. Even if someone doesn’t love game meat, I have no doubt they’ll adore this chili.
It’s all about that chile paste — it makes a world of difference in the final product. If you’ve only made chili with chili powder, you’ll never go back after tasting the deep flavor this paste adds.
No, you can omit the beans if you’re not a fan. In my Texas chili, I don’t include beans because that’s a strict rule for that variety, but I do enjoy the heartiness they add in other chili recipes. Let your personal preference guide you here.
Absolutely. This recipe calls for 2 pounds of venison, but if you’d like to add some classic beefy flavor, simply swap 1 pound of deer meat for ground beef.
I definitely recommend making chili at least 24 hours before serving. Don’t get me wrong — this chili is delicious right off the stove, but you’ll love how the flavor deepens and the meat tenderizes after sitting in the refrigerator. Plus, it makes hosting so much easier.
Variations and Substitutions
Love to put your own spin on recipes? You’re more than welcome to customize this chili to fit your taste preferences. These are just a few ways you can experiment with this chili.
- Use another dried chile variety — ancho or generic New Mexican chiles work well for guajillo chiles while Japanese japone peppers or cayenne peppers show off a similar heat level of the chile de àrbol.
- Substitute pinto beans for another variety, such as black beans, red kidney beans or white cannellini beans.
- Swap the venison for your favorite ground meat. Besides beef, ground turkey, chorizo or sausage are all options.
- Amp up the heat if you really like a spicy kick and substitute the jalapeños for hotter serrano or habanero peppers.
Wear kitchen gloves when handling the jalapeños: The chile pepper's oils will get onto your skin. Not only can this irritate your skin but it won’t feel good if you rub an eye after handling those peppers without protection.
Rinse the beans: Add the beans to a fine-mesh sieve and rinse well before stirring them into the chili. We don’t need the extra salt and starch that comes with the liquid.
Don’t use stale spices: You should replace dry spices every six months. After that, they start to lose their potency, and your chili seasonings won't be quite as flavorful.
Consider this a medium-heat chili: Of course, this is entirely subjective, but after serving so many chilis over the years, I’d say this is the general consensus from most people who have tried it.
Are we even serving chili without a good beer on the side? A bold stout is my favorite with a red chili. That big body stands up to the meaty venison and filling beans, and the roasted malt perfectly complements the rich spices.
For pairing wine with this venison chili, I love a zinfandel. This wine offers both fruity and peppery notes. The fruit undertones are nice for countering the heat and matching the guajillo chiles while the peppery touch melds with our spice medley.
When you need the ultimate bowl of comfort food, this hearty venison chili is here for you. You’ll love every spicy spoonful.
Get More Favorite Chili Recipes
If you love this recipe, please leave a comment with a five-star rating — or simply hit the five-star button in the recipe card. Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter, and you can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok.
- Large pot or Dutch oven
- Blender or food processor
- 8 dried guajillo chiles stemmed and seeds removed
- 1 dried chile de árbol stemmed and seeds removed
- 6 cups beef stock divided
- 4 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce seeds left intact
- 2 tablespoons adobo sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 yellow onions chopped
- 2 jalapeños seeded and chopped
- 6 garlic cloves grated or minced
- 2 pounds ground venison
- 1 cup strong coffee
- 2 (10-ounce) cans of Rotel tomatoes
- 1 (6-ounce) can of tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 2 (15-ounce) cans of pinto beans rinsed and drained
- Favorite toppings such as shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, red onions, jalapeños, lime, cilantro, tortilla chips, etc.
- Over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven or stock pot, toast the dried chiles until fragrant, about two to three minutes. Add 2 cups beef stock and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat and continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes until the chiles soften and are pliable.
- Add the chiles and beef stock used to simmer the chiles to a blender with the chipotle peppers and adobo sauce. Blend until smooth. Set aside the chile paste.
- Heat oil in a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and jalapenos to the pot. Cook until softened, about four to five minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
- Add ground venison to the onion mixture. Cook the venison until it browns, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat as it cooks.
- Pour in remaining 4 cups of beef stock, strong coffee and reserved chile paste, scraping up the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.
- Stir in the Rotel tomatoes, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, cocoa powder, brown sugar and spices. Bring the heat back to medium-high and boil the mixture.
- Once it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer. Put the top on, leaving a small crack open. Simmer for two to two and a half hours while stirring occasionally.
- In the last 10 minutes of cooking, add beans. Turn off heat. Serve with desired toppings. Enjoy!
- You can store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days. After that, you can freeze leftovers for four to six months.
- If possible, plan ahead and let the chili sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow the flavors to meld.
- Wear kitchen gloves while handling the jalapeños.
- While heat is subjective, I consider this a medium-heat chili.
- Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.