Venison (Deer) Chili

This easy Venison Chili recipe is hearty and delicious, perfect for the cold months of hunting season or any time you have ground venison in your freezer. And it’s easy to make on the stove, in a slow cooker, or in an instant pot.

When you’re lucky enough to have a freezer full of ground deer meat, or you know someone who does, making a big pot of chili is a no-brainer.

This is a classic deer chili recipe with plenty of vegetables, beans, and all your favorite chili spices. I add chipotle chili powder because it packs a punch, but if you’re shy on spice, just leave it out. Or, add a little bit to the pot and pass more later at the table.

Serve with all your favorite toppings like shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and scallions, or get creative and add oyster crackers, diced avocado, fresh cilantro, or even Frito corn chips. Load ‘er up!

Ingredient notes

  • Chipotle chili powder: Chipotle chili powder is spicy! If you’re unsure, start with 1 teaspoon (or less) until the chili is fully cooked. Then, taste and add more at the end. You can also substitute 1-2 chipotle peppers or ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or omit it entirely.
  • Bell peppers: Or add or substitute carrots, celery, corn, or zucchini.
  • Kidney beans: 3 cups cooked beans can be substituted for the 2 cans (that’s about 1 cup dried beans before cooking). You can use any type of canned or cooked bean instead of kidney such as pinto beans, black beans, or Cannellini beans.
  • Canned tomatoes: I love the flavor of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles, but you can substitute regular canned tomatoes and add 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies. Ro*tel tomatoes work, too.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. In a Dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil in over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add yellow onion, bell pepper, chili powder, cumin, oregano, chipotle chili powder, thyme, coriander, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Cook until vegetables have softened, 7 to 10 minutes.
  1. Stir in kidney beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Remove lid and continue to simmer for 30 minutes longer.
  1. Remove bay leaf and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with shredded cheese, scallions, and sour cream.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This Venison Chili recipe makes about 9 cups of chili, enough for 6 hearty servings, 1 ½ cups each.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Cool within 2 hours, cover, and refrigerate up to 3 days in advance. Reheat the full recipe on the stove over low heat to 165 degrees. Reheat small batches in the microwave.
  • Freezer: Cool cooked chili to below 40 degrees on an instant-read thermometer within 2 hours and place into airtight containers. Frozen chili will last 4 to 6 months in the freezer. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Instant Pot: Sauté the onions, peppers, spices, garlic, and venison in a pressure cooker until the venison is browned, breaking up any large pieces with a wooden spoon. Add the beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, and bay leaf and mix well. Cook on manual or high pressure for 10 minutes. Fast release the pressure when done.
  • Slow cooker: At the end of step 2, transfer the cooked venison mixture to a slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients as directed in step 3, cover and cook the chili on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours.
  • No tomato puree: Can’t track down tomato puree? Substitute an equal amount of tomato sauce, and you can always cook it a little longer to thicken it up if needed.
  • Extra deer meat: If you still have a pile of ground deer meat in your freezer, make a burger! Venison burgers make a super lean, high-protein meat mixture and it’s absolutely delicious. Or, if you have other cuts of meat, my Venison Stew is always a winner.
  • More toppings: Cheese, sour cream, and scallions are classics. You can also try diced avocado or heaping spoonfuls of guacamole, crispy cooked bacon, fresh cilantro, minced white onion, hot sauce, lime wedges, tortilla chips, corn chips (Fritos), or oyster crackers.
  • Favorite sides for chili: Enjoy a spicy-hot bowl of Venison Chili with classic CornbreadSoft Dinner Rolls, or No-Knead Bread. If you prefer to make cornbread from a box or buy a loaf of bread from the store, that’s fine too! Round out your menu with a simple garden salad.
  • Chili Cheese Burrito: Put leftover chili to work in this easy Chili Cheese Burrito. Just fold up leftover chili with cooked rice and shredded cheese, then toast in a dry skillet.
  • Classic Beef Chili: This easy Beef Chili recipe tastes just like the one mom used to make! It’s also easy to customize with your own special additions if you want to.
  • Chili con Carne: Made with boneless beef chuck roast instead of ground beef, this delicious Chili con Carne recipe has layers of flavor from bacon, fire-roasted tomatoes, lots of garlic, and all the classic chili spices. And it’s made right in your slow cooker!
  • Turkey Chili: This delicious Turkey Chili recipe is made with ground turkey, so it’s a little bit lighter than the standard beef version. It’s full of vegetables and classic spices and it’s ready for all your favorite healthful toppings like diced avocado, green onions, and fresh cilantro.
  • Hot Dog Chili: Make a batch of Hot Dog Chili to spoon over Chili Dogs for the ultimate tailgate recipe! It’s perfect for any game day celebration.
  • Sweet Potato Chili: This hearty vegan Sweet Potato Chili is loaded with black beans, vegetables, and all the classic spices. Like all chilis, it freezes well and makes a great meal prep option.
  • Cincinnati Chili: Made famous by Skyline Chili in Ohio, this Cincinnati Chili recipe is full of secret ingredients and served on spaghetti with lots of toppings like shredded cheese, raw onions, and kidney beans. Which “way” do you want yours?
  • White Chicken Chili: When the temperature drops, slow cooker White Chicken Chili is the ultimate comfort food. Tender chunks of chicken simmering in a creamy broth studded with white beans, green chiles, and corn make for a most satisfying meal.
  • White Turkey Chili: This is my favorite soup to make after Thanksgiving when leftovers are abundant. It’s hearty, creamy, and a refreshing way to enjoy leftover turkey all over again. To keep things easy, make White Turkey Chili right in your slow cooker.
  • Chili Mac: Made in just one pot in 25 minutes or less, this easy Chili Mac recipe is like a great bowl of chili in casserole form. It’s perfect for the busiest, hungriest weeknights.

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