Bison chili is rich and comforting, with a kick of heat! The perfect hearty meal for a cold day. Made with ground bison, kidney beans, and jalapeños - just add your favorite chili toppings.
It's no secret that I love making chili in the slow cooker (see my taco chili and classic chili recipes). With very little effort, your home is filled with the savory, spicy flavors of chili by dinnertime.
Don't have a slow cooker? No problem! I've also included stove top directions below.
Serve slow cooker bison chili for your next dinner - no matter the time of year. Bison chili is especially comforting on a cold winter day. It pairs well with skillet cornbread or jalapeño cheddar cornmeal biscuits.
Ingredients and substitutions
- Ground bison - Can be substituted with any ground meat you have on hand, like ground beef, ground turkey, or ground pork.
- Onion - White or yellow onions work well in this recipe.
- Jalapeño - For more heat, leave the seeds and membranes in. For a milder flavor, remove some or all of the seeds and membranes. For an even milder flavor, replace three jalapeños with one bell pepper.
- Crushed tomatoes - Can be substituted with petite diced or diced tomatoes for a chunkier chili (like in my slow cooker chili recipe). Substitute with tomato sauce for a thinner chili with more tomato flavor.
- Kidney beans - Any canned or cooked beans will work in this recipe.
- Garlic - Minced garlic will add the best flavor to your chili. However, two cloves of garlic can be substituted with ½ teaspoon of garlic powder if needed.
- Spices - Chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and salt. These add flavor to your chili. To make a milder chili, cut the cayenne and red pepper flakes in half.
Tips and tricks
Brown your meat first - It may be tempting to toss the raw meat in with the rest of the ingredients and avoid dirtying an extra pan. However, browning your meat adds extra flavor to the chili that you'd be missing out on by skipping this step.
For thicker chili - To make a thicker, chunkier chili, use diced or petite diced tomatoes instead of crushed tomatoes. As written, this chili turns out a bit thinner and saucier.
Stir sparingly - I suggest stirring your chili once during the last half of cooking so as to not let out too much heat. Repeatedly opening your slow cooker releases heat and slows down the cooking process.
What does bison taste like? Bison is a red meat that has a similar flavor to high quality beef. It is not gamey, and some describe it as having a slightly sweet undertone.
What's the difference between beef and bison? Bison is a nutrient-dense food and an excellent source of protein, iron, zinc, vitamin B6, and the antioxidant selenium. When compared to beef, bison is lower in calories, higher in protein, and lower in fat. This makes it a great swap if you're looking to lighten up your meals. Here's an article explaining the differences between bison and beef: Cooking Light - Why You Should Buy Bison Instead of Beef
Frequently asked questions
On low heat, chili takes about 8 to 9 hours. On high heat, chili takes about 5 hours.
While it's not necessary, it does add extra flavor by browning the meat beforehand. I don't recommend skipping this step.
No. Raw or dried red kidney beans contain a toxin that needs to be heated to a certain temperature, for a certain amount of time, to kill it. For more information: Allrecipes: Why you should never cook kidney beans in a slow cooker
Yes - simply brown your beef in the bottom of a stock pot, then add your remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. I've included these directions in the recipe card below.
Slow cooker chili leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. I'd argue that chili tastes even better the next day!
Yes, chili can be frozen for 3 months or more if stored in a well sealed container. I almost always make a double batch of chili and freeze half for future meals.
Shredded cheese, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, chives, green onions, and pickled jalapenos make great chili toppings.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound ground bison
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 jalapeños, diced
- 30 ounces canned kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 30 ounces canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon salt
- In a sauté pan over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and crumble ground bison into pan, cooking until browned. (If substituting with a fattier meat, like ground beef or pork, olive oil may be omitted).
- Add cooked ground bison to a 3 quart slow cooker. Add the remaining ingredients - onion, jalapeños, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and spices. Stir to combine.
- Cook on low heat for 8 to 9 hours, or on high for 5 hours. Stir sparingly (once during the last half of cooking will suffice).
- In a stock pot over medium heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and crumble ground bison into a stock pot, cooking until browned.
- Add the remaining ingredients - onion, jalapeños, beans, tomatoes, garlic, and spices. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 2 hours, stirring sparingly.
- This recipe makes a spicy chili. For a milder chili, remove all the seeds and membranes from your jalapenos (or replace with a bell pepper), and reduce the amounts of red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper by half.
- Chili leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
- Chili can be frozen for 3 months or more if stored in a well sealed container or freezer bag.
- Top with sour cream, shredded cheese, chives, crumbled bacon, or fresh jalapenos.