Spicy Bison Chili Recipe

This bison chili is a perfect dish to warm you up on a cold day. It’s pure comfort food, made with lean, protein-rich ground bison and a tasty mix of spices.

A picture of bison chili in a bowl with slices of lime, jalapenos and avocados

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This is our favorite chili recipe. It’s a little different than traditional chili. I use two surprising ingredients that elevate classic chili: coffee and cocoa powder. The result is a rich, complex, flavor that sets it apart from other chili recipes.

Why you will love this recipe

  • Bison meat is lower in fat and calories while rich in protein, making it a healthier choice than beef.
  • Flavor! It has a unique blend of ingredients that add a distinctive depth of flavor.
  • It’s customizable; you can easily adjust the amount of spices and hot peppers to suit your taste.
These are ingredients in the picture to make bison chili in white bowls and one measuring cup holding the brewed coffee. Ingredients pictured are: ground bison, black beans, garlic, onion, bell peppers, jalapeno pepper, chipolte chili powder, chili powder and crushed tomatoes.

This is a brief summary of the ingredients needed to make this Spicy Bison Chili Recipe and a convenient shopping list from my Instacart affiliate link. For a printable recipe card with exact measurements and detailed instructions, scroll down to the recipe card section.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Ingredients

  • Olive Oil
  • Ground Bison
  • Black Beans
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Onion
  • Bell Peppers
  • Jalapeno Pepper
  • Chipotle Chipotle Chili Powder
  • Chili Powder
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • Crushed or Diced Tomatoes
  • Brewed Coffee
  • Fresh Cilantro

Here is How To Make Bison Chili

Prepare the ingredients: Chop the onions, garlic, and peppers. Drain the beans if using canned, and measure the seasonings, tomatoes and oil.

A picture showing the four process steps for making bison chili. steps are described below.
  1. Add the oil to a Dutch oven or large soup pot and heat it over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the ground bison meat, chopped garlic, and onions – cook until the meat is almost cooked through.
  2. Reduce to medium heat, add the bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, chili powder, and cocoa powder; gently stir to combine.
  3. Stir in the coffee, tomatoes, and beans. Reduce the heat to low.
  4. Cover the pot loosely and cook over low heat for at least 30 to 45 minutes.

Making slow-cooker bison chili is simple. Follow the instructions on the recipe card – brown the bison and sauté the aromatics in a skillet. Then, transfer everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.

You can easily adapt this recipe for an Instant Pot. Use the saute function to brown the bison and cook the aromatics. Then switch to the pressure cooking function and cook on high for 15 minutes. Slow-release the pressure cooker after 8 minutes.

Substitutions and variations

Ground Bison Meat – This is a flavorful, lean meat and a great alternative to beef. You can replace bison with lean ground beef or any ground meat such as ground pork, ground turkey or ground chicken.

Black Beans – If you use dried beans, cook them before adding them to chili. You can also use canned black beans (drained). Black beans can be replaced with kidney beans, pinto beans or a combination of both.

Garlic can be replaced with 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder.

Bell Peppers – You can use any color of bell peppers. I prefer using a combination of green and red bell peppers.

Onions – You can use any onion in this recipe. I like to use yellow onion, sweet or red onion when I make chili.

Jalapeno Peppers – These add heat to chili. For milder flavor, use less or poblano pepper.

Chili Powder – I use two types of chili powder, which add a delicious dimension to the chili. If you don’t have chipotle chili powder which is smokey or don’t like a smokey flavor, you can use all plain chili powder.

Tomatoes – This recipe can be made using canned diced, crushed, or freshly chopped tomatoes. Unseasoned tomato sauce can also be substituted for the tomatoes.

Bison and Pumpkin Chili – Embrace fall flavors and add a can of pumpkin puree to your bison chili. The natural sweetness and earthy notes of pumpkin will complement the ingredients in the chili beautifully.

Add Grains – For added heartiness, consider serving the chili over cooked brown rice, quinoa or pasta.

Vegetarian Bison Chili – For a meatless version, replace the ground bison with crumbled tofu, and tempeh or you can add more vegetables such as zucchini, and mushrooms which will enhance the texture and flavor.

“Success. To those who were wondering, the coffee and coco give it a smoky campfire bite. You don’t taste either of them distinctly as coffee or coco within the mix. It really does work.” -Andrea

A picture of bison chili in a bowl with slices of avocado and lime on top

Serving suggestions

Serve bison chili with a splash of fresh lime juice, a dash of red pepper flakes for extra heat and side of tortilla chips.

Don’t forget to add your favorite chili toppings, such as shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, chopped onions, shredded cheddar cheese, sliced avocados, tortillas, a side of cornbread, olives, a dollop of sour cream, Greek yogurt, or guacamole.

A salad on the side, like this chopped salad, Mexican chopped salad, or kale caesar salad, will complete your meal.

Storage and Leftover Ideas

Store leftover bison chili in an airtight container for up to 4 days in the refrigerator or you can freeze it. Place room-temperature chili in an airtight freezer-safe container for up to three months.

Thaw frozen bison chili in the refrigerator overnight and reheat it in the microwave or on top of the stove.

Leftover chili tastes great in salads, tacos, and nachos on top of hot dogs, baked potato, rice, or pasta.

Tips

  • Planahead, and make extra coffee in the morning to use in the chili.
  • If you have time, simmer the chili slowly over low to medium heat. This will allow for the flavors to blend together.

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A picture of bison chili in a bowl with slices of lime, jalapenos and avocados

Bison Chili Recipe

A unique twist on traditional chili, bison chili is packed with smoky and spicy flavor!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Click on serving size to scale this recipe

Course: Dinner Recipes
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bison chili, bison chili recipe, chili recipe
Servings: 4
Calories: 472kcal
Author: Anne

Equipment

Scale this Recipe 4

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon [olive oil]
  • 1 pound ground bison
  • 1 large onion diced about 1 cup
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 bell peppers diced, about 2 cups
  • 1 jalapeno pepper diced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/8 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 cups diced tomatoes fresh or canned
  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/8 cup of chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • Heat 1 tablespoon [olive oil] in a ducth oven or heavy pot over medium to high heat.
  • Once the oil is hot, add 1 pound ground bison, 1 large onion diced, 4 cloves garlic– cook until the meat begins to brown and vegetables become translucent.
  • Reduce the heat to medium heat, add 2 bell peppers (chopped),1 jalapeno pepper (chopped), 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon chipotle chili powder and cook until the peppers begin to soften – about three minutes.
  • Stir in the 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1/8 cup brewed coffee and 2 cups diced tomatoes cover loosely and reduce to a simmer
  • cook the chili for 30 to 40 minutes stirring occasionally, stir in 2 cups cooked black beans and served once the beans are heated through.
  • Add 1/8 cup of chopped cilantro. Serve with a splash of lime juice and your favorite chili toppings.

Notes

 

Slow Cooker Instructions: 
Follow the instructions on the recipe card – brown the bison and sauté the aromatics in a skillet. Then, transfer everything to a slow cooker and cook on low for 5-6 hours.
Instant Pot Instructions: 
Use the saute function to brown the bison and cook the aromatics. Then switch to the pressure cooking function and cook on high for 15 minutes. Slow-release the pressure cooker after 8 minutes.
 
  • Store leftover chili in the refrigerator for 4 days.
  • or an extra punch of veggies, add  diced zucchini or carrots
  • Mix up the beans, add a combination of kidney and black or all kidney or leave them out
  • Leave beans out and add 2 cups of vegetables such as zucchini, peppers and carrots
  • Substitute bison with lean ground grass-fed beef or organic ground chicken or turkey
  • Use leftover chili in salads, tacos or nachos
  • Garnish bison chili with any combination of a  sprinkle of lime juice, a dollop of Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, chopped onions or avocado
 

Nutrition

Serving: 1 | Calories: 472kcal | Carbohydrates: 37g | Protein: 32g | Fat: 24g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 191mg | Potassium: 1224mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 3826IU | Vitamin C: 94mg | Calcium: 112mg | Iron: 8mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and can vary based on cooking methods and ingredients used

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Where can I find bison meat?

Bison meat is becoming more available and can be found in well-stocked grocery stores . You can also purchase it online.

What is the difference between beef and bison?

Bison is a red meat that is a healthier alternative to beef. It’s a high quality protein that is leaner yet deliciously tender. It has a more delicate flavor than beef and does not taste gamey at all. It is rich in protein and is a good source of iron, Omega 3’s, and vitamin B12. American bison are raised on farms where they are grass-fed for at least most if not all of their lives, making them a sustainable choice.

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10 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Success. To those who were wondering, the coffee and coco give it a smoky campfire bite. You don’t taste either of them distinctly as coffee or coco within the mix. It really does work.

  2. 4 stars
    Pretty darn tasty! I made the black beabs from dried using chicken bone broth instead of water, which added some richness. Topped with sour cream, Cheddar cheese, chopped green onions. Delicious!

      1. I am excited to try this! However, I switched from coffee to pure brewed chicory a few years ago. Do you know if brewed chicory would be a good subsitute for the coffee here, or should I just leave it out (but keep the cocoa in)?

        1. Hi Ashley, I’ve never had brewed chicory, but from what I understand, it tastes like coffee, so I think it will work. Let me know how it turns out!