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  • By Ken and Maria Perrotte

Few Things Beat a Bowl of Hot Chili When Autumn Afternoons Start Cooling Down

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

Note: In a wordplay of the now fashionable "locavore" term (meaning one who prefers "sourcing" his or her food locally, we originally called this dish "Loco-Vore" chili - as in "crazy" good! We just made another pot and it is true to its name.

Many hunters like to grind a sizeable portion of their venison, using the meat in a variety of sauces. Making chili is an excellent way to share the outdoors bounty with family and friends. We have multiple varieties but the quest for an ultimate venison chili dish is a journey that is, perhaps, without an end. We hadn’t updated a chili recipe in nearly 10 years. This latest edition is flexible and, given the variety of ingredients, represents a fine “locavore” (locally sourced food) meal.

We mainly used vegetables from our and our neighbors’ gardens (thanks neighbors!!). Alternatively, visit your local farmers market. This batch took advantage of a bumper crop of tomatoes, tomatillos and peppers. Anticipating uses in sauces or chili, we froze some for later use. We blanched (boiled them for a minute or two and then rinsed in cold water) the tomatoes before running them through a food mill before freezing. The tomatillos and peppers were blanched and frozen whole. The venison came from a white-tailed buck taken one brisk Thanksgiving morning.

This recipe doesn’t require exact measurement and can be adapted to individual tastes. We use a mix of sweet, mild and hot peppers, based on what’s available. If you don’t have tomatillos, just leave them out. Non-locally sourced items, such as a can or two of Ro-Tel tomatoes and kidney beans make good additions. In place of chili powder, cumin, coriander and garlic powder, you can use your favorite chili seasoning at a slightly less than the ratio specified on the package. We sometimes use McCormick, low salt variety. Start mild with the hot stuff; you can always add to taste as the chili finishes cooking.

Like most long-simmered dishes, this is often better reheated the day after it’s cooked. The recipe can be doubled, tripled -- heck make a vat of it if you want. We used about 8 pounds of venison last time we made it. It freezes well.

Cornbread makes an excellent side dish. Use a favorite recipe or mix. We like the sweetness of Zatarain’s boxed mix.


3 tablespoons olive oil

4 pounds ground venison

7 or 8 tomatillos, chopped

2 bell peppers (use different colors for plate appeal)

5 to 7 medium hot peppers, such as poblano or jalapeño

4 or 5 other peppers, mild to hot, depending on taste

2 large or 3 small onions, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

2 teaspoons each cumin and coriander and garlic powder

2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning

½-cup beef broth

3 pounds crushed (or very finely chopped) tomatoes

2 cans Ro-Tel tomatoes with chilis (optional, but recommended)

2 small cans red kidney beans (optional)

Salt to taste

Sour cream, shredded cheddar, cilantro or parsley and canned jalapenos for garnish (optional)


Heat the oil over medium-low heat in a Dutch oven. Add the meat and half the onions and cook until almost browned. Add rest of the onion, tomatillos and peppers and cook until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and seasonings and cook about 2 minutes. Add the broth, tomatoes and their juices, then turn up the heat, and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and continue simmering for an hour or two, or until the meat is tender, stirring every 15 minutes. Add the beans and their liquid and simmer another 15 to 30 minutes. Add salt if needed. Serve and top with desired garnish. We like sour cream, shredded cheddar and chopped canned peppers.

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