Bison Chili

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When football season rolls around, I do love making a big pot of chili! Chili stews are quick to put together, tasty, and often economical. I love vegetarian chili, too, although this is decidedly not a vegetarian recipe. This recipe replaces beef with ground bison. Several North Carolina farmers are raising bison now, so we have some terrific local sources. If you’ve never had bison, it is very similar to beef, with a definite meaty flavor. Bison is lower in fat, higher in protein and richer in nutrients than beef, and it is very high in iron. Using ground bison in chili or tacos is a good way to test it out without spending a fortune (and really, your family will probably not notice the difference).

This chili uses up a lot of late summer vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, onions, kale and pumpkin. Yes, I said pumpkin! It also incorporates Anasazi beans, an heirloom variety of bean that is very meaty and holds up well in a stewed dish like this. I prefer them to kidney beans, which to me don’t taste like anything, but you could substitute any kind of canned canned bean if you like. While this chili is a bit spicy, it is not super hot. Instead, we used cumin, smoked paprika and cinnamon to add spice without so much heat. So it is a bit on the cozy side and not so much on the hot side. While we love hot and spicy food, this more soothing chili was still a hit.

This recipe makes quite a bit of food–we liked that because we wanted leftovers for a busy week. If you are feeding more people, you could easily reduce the amount of everything by half or just reduce the amount of meat and increase the amount of beans to stretch things out a bit. This dish also freezes very well. Leave off the cheese and/or sour cream and freeze the chili in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

Bison Chili (makes 6-8 servings)

  • 1 lb. ground bison meat
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 large, organic sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 sweet bell pepper, washed and chopped
  • 3 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2-3 jalapeño peppers, trimmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1 small bunch of kale, washed,stemmed and chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups organic, canned pumpkin
  • 2 cups rehydrated anasazi beans (1cup of dry beans soaked in water overnight)
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Shredded cheese, chopped red onion, sour cream for garnish (optional).
  1. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes or until soft.
  2. Add the bell pepper, jalapeño and kale. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute.
  4. Add contents of skillet to a large pot or dutch oven and wipe skillet clean.
  5. Put skillet back on medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the ground bison and cook, stirring often, until browned. Sprinkle the spices over the meat and stir well. Add the meat to the pot.
  6. Add the beans, pumpkin and tomato to the pot and mix well.
  7. Simmer the chili over medium low heat for an hour or more. Or add all ingredients to a slow cooker and cook on low for several hours.
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