Bison Chili with Beer and Bacon is the perfect cool-weather recipe. Layers of bacon, bison, salsa, and beer leave you with big flavors, low calories, and plenty of protein. Awesome for watching the big game! Plus, it’s gluten-free, grain-free, and dairy-free, too.
A Big, Bold Chili Recipe (That’s Good for You, Too!)
A bowl of this bison chili is perfect on a cold day when the wind is blowing and the snow is flying. You can wrap your hands around the bowl and let the warmth sink in, while you scoop up spoonfuls of hearty bison with deep chili flavor. If you need a recipe that will work for everything from game day to a quiet afternoon of reading and journaling, this is it.
I really enjoy making chili. It’s one of those recipes that is straightforward to put together – just adding layers one at a time. This recipe is great even for a beginner cook to try out, because as long as you follow the directions you will find success, and tons of happy customers at the end!
Is Bison Better Than Beef?
Better might not be the right word, because both bison and beef are healthy sources of protein. Bison is a great choice to include in your diet, because of its moderate calories (it contains about 25% fewer calories than beef on average), and because bison is often grass-fed.
Additionally, bison has a distinct flavor that’s “sweeter” than regular beef, and is known for being quite tender even though it’s also leaner.
What’s in This Chili?
Just reading through the ingredients for this chili will make your mouth water. Here’s what you’ll need to make this hearty, healthy meal.
- Bacon: Thick-cut bacon, finely chopped.
- Aromatics: I use a large yellow onion and garlic clove to give this chili plenty of aroma and flavor.
- Bison: Lean ground bison is the star of the show.
- Chili Powder: Can’t have chili without chili powder! Make sure to check the date on this as well as your other spices- older and expired spices tend to have a bland, bitter taste.
- Cumin: Ground cumin is a natural partner with chili powder in any Southwestern dish.
- Paprika: Sweet smoked paprika gives the chili a rustic, smoky taste.
- Cayenne Pepper: To taste. I use half a teaspoon for some kick, but you can dial it back (or up!) if you wish.
- Tomatoes: Crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes, or regular crushed tomatoes.
- Salsa: Use any kind of salsa. Different brands and styles will bring different flair to your chili.
- Beer: Go for a flavorful, medium-bodied beer. I used Green’s gluten-free beer.
- Beans: I’m a big fan of beans in chili, so I like to throw in a can of mixed beans or black beans. Drain and rinse them before adding them to the recipe. Make sure to check the label if you want this recipe to be gluten-free.
- Chopped Cilantro
- Sliced Jalapeño
How to Make Beer, Bacon, and Bison Chili
So how do you make this layered, spicy, deep, and rustic chili? It’s so easy! Here are the steps.
Cook the Bacon and Bison. Set a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, and add the bacon. Cook the bacon, stirring, until it just begins to brown. Then add the ground bison, breaking it up as it cooks until it’s just barely cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.
Add the Seasonings and Aromatics. Sprinkle the chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt over the meat, and stir to combine. Then push the meat to the sides of the pot, making a clear spot in the center. Place the onion and garlic in the center, and cook until translucent, stirring a bit here and there.
Add the Liquids. Next, pour in the tomatoes, salsa, and beer. Bring the chili to a boil. Once it boils, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot partially so a little steam can escape, and cook the chili for 30 minutes.
Add the Beans. Last, add the beans to the pot. Cook the beans in the chili for about 10 minutes, uncovered, and then taste the dish. Season to taste with salt.
Enjoy! Serve this bison chili warm, with toppings on the side for those who want to add them.
Does Chili Taste Better the Longer It Cooks?
Some chili recipes call for a long, slow simmering process, which can create more complex flavors by allowing the ingredients to mingle over the heat for a longer time. This is extra important, though, if you are using a tough cut of beef like beef chuck or brisket. These cuts need low-and-slow cooking to break down their connective tissue and become tender.
Since this recipe is using lean, ground bison instead of tougher chunks of beef, it does not need as long to cook. If you want to give the ingredients more time to meld, try making this in advance and chilling it overnight. It’s amazing on the second day!
- No Beans Chili: If you’d rather make no-beans chili, just omit the beans and add another half-pound to a pound of bison.
- Sweet Chili: If you love your chili on the sweet side, try drizzling pure maple syrup over your bowl.
- Add Veggies: Feel free to add extra color and texture to this recipe with sweet potatoes, squash, carrots, corn, bell pepper… you can’t go wrong!
- Top It Off: I usually keep my toppings minimal, but you can totally add avocado, sour cream, grass-fed cheeses, etc.
This healthy bison chili is perfect with sprouted crackers, tortilla chips, crudités, garlic bread, or your favorite corn muffins. You can also serve…
- Sweet Potato Tater Tots: Fair warning, these little bites are basically irresistible – you might want to make a double batch. And Sweet Potato Tater Tots are also a nutritional powerhouse, full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Zucchini Fries: Love chili and fries? Then pair the bison chili with zucchini fries! A wholesome alternative that will make your mouth happy.
- Pretzel Sticks: These old-fashioned Pretzel Sticks are not only great for a snack, but they’re also wonderful dipped in hot chili.
How to Store and Reheat the Leftovers
It’s easy to store this – just keep any leftovers in your refrigerator for 3 – 4 days. Use airtight containers to keep it fresh. Reheat on the stove over medium heat.
Can I Freeze This Chili?
Yes, you can definitely freeze this successfully. Just cool the bison chili down, and then spoon it into freezer containers or bags. Write the date on the container, and freeze it for up to three months. Defrost overnight in your refrigerator before reheating.
Bison Chili with Beer and Bacon
- 3 slices thick-cut bacon finely chopped
- 1 large yellow onion finely chopped
- 1 large garlic clove minced
- 1 1/2 pounds lean ground bison
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- About 1 tsp. salt
- 1 can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes 14.5 oz, or regular crushed tomatoes
- 1 can salsa 8 oz
- 1 cup beer choose a flavorful, medium-bodied beer, I used Green's
- 1 can mixed beans 14.5 oz, or black beans, check label for gluten-free
- Chopped cilantro
- Sliced jalapeno
- In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, cook bacon, stirring until it just begins to brown, about 4 minutes.
- Add bison, breaking up and stirring until slightly cooked through, about 5-6 minutes.
- Sprinkle chili powder, cumin, paprika, cayenne and salt, stir to combine.
- Push bison to the perimeter of pan making a clear spot in the center.
- Add the onion and garlic to the center and stir cooking until translucent, about 4-5 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, salsa, and beer and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes.
- Add beans and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.