Bison and Red Bean Chili


Warm up on a cool fall day with this delicious, hearty, and easy-to-make chili. Simple, fresh ingredients and lean bison make it healthful too!

Ground bison is a lean red meat that can be used in place of beef in most, if not all, dishes. It has great taste with less fat and makes great burgers as well as a fantastic ingredient for chili. If you can’t find bison in your area, substitute ground prime beef or ground sirloin, which are also lean meats.

This chili recipe is very simple and easy in preparation—it just needs time to develop its flavors. Make it when you can put it on the stove and leave it alone for a few hours.

Red Beans Are a Natural in Chili

“Traditional” chili doesn’t call for beans at all—just meat and a tomato-based sauce with spices. That’s a good combination, but many people expect, and love, beans in their chile.

There are many varieties of red beans, including the red kidney bean commonly used in chili. You can also find dry beans simply labeled “red beans,” which are famous in red beans and rice recipes. These red beans are a bit smaller and not as oblong as kidney beans, and they make a great companion for meat and fresh tomatoes in chili recipes. If you can’t find bags of dried “red beans,” just substitute dark red kidney beans.

Fresh Tomatoes in Chili

There’s nothing wrong with adding a can of good-quality, whole, peeled tomatoes to your chili, but try fresh tomatoes if you can. They add to the healthfulness and fresh taste of the dish and they’re almost as easy as the canned variety—you just need to peel any tomato that’s a roma or larger.

The tomatoes provide enough juice on their own, so you don’t need to add any liquid unless you like a very thin, runny chili. After simmering a few hours, the delicious fresh fruit breaks down to provide fantastic taste and the perfect consistency for thick, hearty chili.

Bison and Red Bean Chili


  • 1 cup dry red beans
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3-4 cayenne peppers, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs assorted fresh tomatoes (peel romas or any tomatoes larger)
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cayenne
  • hot sauce, to taste


  1. Parboil the beans in a medium pot for 2 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover, and let rest 2 hours. Rinse and drain.
  2. In the same pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the rinsed beans and stir well.
  3. Add the chicken broth or water and the bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Discard the bay leaf, then drain any excess liquid and set aside.
  5. In a large pot, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.
  6. Add the bison, onion, peppers, and garlic. Stir frequently, breaking up the meat into small pieces. Cook until bison is just cooked through, about 6 minutes.
  7. Add the tomatoes and spices and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and taste for seasoning. If you like it a little spicier, add some hot sauce, such as Tobasco.
  8. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and let simmer 2-3 hours.
  9. Stir the beans into the meat mixture and warm over low heat for 10 minutes.
  10. Divide among 4-5 bowls and serve with crusty bread spread with soft cheese.


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