Bullshit-Free Moose Chili Recipe


Everybody and their uncle has their special chili recipe, and they all swear theirs is the best. They all claim to have a secret, be it an unexpected ingredient or some special cooking technique.

Well, to that I say bullshit.

Of course there are some basic parameters for any chili recipe, and innumerable regional variants, but I believe everyone should experiment with chili and use whatever they want. Sometimes you’ll want to add chocolate and coffee for complexity and depth. On occasions you’ll want chili for dinner that night and won’t be able to simmer on low for eight hours, patiently waiting for the perfect texture. And not everyone keeps fresh, whole poblano chilis in their pantry, so dried anchos will have to do (did you know that a dried poblano is an ancho? Same chili!). Don’t even get me started on the sin of ruining an old style Southern chili by adding beans—if you like beans, by all means add beans!

Many will disagree, but I love the taste of game. The “gamier” the meat, the better. But in a strongly-flavoured dish such as chili, I think stronger flavoured meat helps give it some life. Not much of a secret ingredient, but it’s how I like to do it. So, recently when a group I belong to hosted its annual summer BBQ, I volunteered to make a pot of chili using some moose meat offered by Foodists’ own metrosexual Albertan hunter extraordinaire Todd Smith. As I started browning and mixing and simmering, it occurred to me to jot down the basic measurements and steps and share it with you here (also for my personal future reference in case it worked out well). I’m glad I did and happy to share with you my “Bullshit-Free Moose Chili Recipe.”

Note before you begin: I was making a huge vat of chili for a big group, so I doubled the amounts below and fed a few dozen with small servings, but this recipe should give you a medium stock pot full of hearty chili. But the proportions and methods hold true regardless of how much you’re making.

Ingredients (don’t panic, it’s not that much stuff)

Meaty stuff
1.5 lb ground moose (beef, lamb, venison, elk, or horse work too—yes, I said horse)
1.5 lb cubed moose
1.5 lb cubed pork (I use fatty pork for flavour—no point avoiding calories if you’re eating chili)
3 rasher smoked maple bacon, diced (any bacon will do really)

Veggie stuff
2 large (or 3 medium) white onions, roughly chopped
1 bulb garlic, minced (yes, the entire bulb—trust me)
4 chopped chilis (I used poblano and california, but you can use ancho, jalapeño, Anaheim, etc)
3-4 x 15 oz cans of kidney beans (though many will argue that “real” chili has no beans! Whatever.)
3 red & yellow bell peppers
I suppose you could add carrots and celery to this recipe, but I didn’t this time.

Wet stuff
2 x 10 ounce cans diced tomatoes
3 x 6 ounce cans tomato paste
1 cups brown sugar
2 cans dark beer (I used Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout)
2 cups strong black coffee (I made espresso)
2 ounces tequila (uh-oh, is that my secret ingredient?)
2 cans chicken broth (I used low sodium organic stuff. You can use beef broth for a more meaty flavour, but I wouldn’t with moose meat)

Spicy stuff
3 tablespoons toasted cumin seeds, ground (this should be done fresh)
1.5 teaspoons toasted coriander seeds, ground (this should be done fresh)
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons ground ancho chili powder
1 tablespoons dry mustard powder
1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder (or you could drop in a bar of quality semi-sweet chocolate)
1.5 teaspoons cayenne (this is for heat, so adjust to your liking—go slow, you can add more later)
2 teaspoons salt & pepper (adjust to taste at the end)

The first thing I always do in hobby chef situations like these is get all my ingredients ready (known by poncey cooks as “mise en place”). And if you’re making a huge pot of chili, this is going to literally dominate your kitchen, so get sorted now or you’ll regret it later.

The first step is to brown your meat. If you’re making this much chili I recommend doing this in batches, though you may try doing this directly in your stock pot. I usually don’t though as it tends to steam the meat more than caramelize. And let’s get something clear here, you’re not “sealing in any juices” when you’re searing meat. The browning is for flavour, texture and colour, nothing more. Anyone who tells you otherwise—including TV chefs—is full of crap. I like to season my meat with some salt & pepper and a light dusting of flour and add it to a large pan with hot canola oil. When it’s golden brown, set it aside and do another batch until you’re done. Take your time, enjoy the process, and do this right.

Next fry up your bacon until just starting to crisp, then add to this the onions and garlic and sauté until starting to soften. Smell that? I know, right? You should be able to do this right inside your stock pot and start layering on ingredients as you build up your chili sauce. Once starting to brown, add the diced tomatoes, beer, coffee, tequila, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Add in your browned meat and stir. Starting to look like a chili already? Calm down, we’re not done yet.

Now add your chillies, various spices and brown sugar. And remember that if you don’t toast your dry spices and grind them in a mortar and pestle, Rockin’ Ronnie will hunt you down and slam you with a rack of his award-winning ribs. Let this simmer for an hour to mellow and add a couple cans of kidney beans, but save the rest for later—I’ll explain in a minute.

As tempting as it is to start spooning this into bowls at this point, don’t. Once brought to a low boil, turn the heat way down and let simmer as long as you can. I left mine overnight, no kidding. I did most of the work late one evening and let it simmer until I got up the next morning. The reason you haven’t added the remainder of the beans or the bell peppers should be obvious at this point—they’d be mush by now.

The final stretch is easy. Bring your chili back up to heat and add the remaining beans and chopped bell peppers (they add some great texture and colour). Adjust for heat by adding a bit more chilli and cayenne at this point—and don’t get all sheepish now. I say if you like your chili spicy, then make it spicy. But I always have to be aware that my tolerance for heat is higher than most, so I hold back a bit.

You’ll really only need another hour or so before it’s ready to serve and I’d suggest avoiding over-stirring at this point to keep things from disintegrating. If you’d like your chili to be a little thicker at this point—cheat! Make a slurry with flour and warm water and add slowly during the final hour. Don’t add too much mind you, you’ll know when it’s enough. Another option is to add potatoes to your chili, but that’s called a stew!

You can serve on its own (my preference) or with cheese and sour cream, but the point is to enjoy. Do it your way. Regardless of how you augment or adjust this chili recipe, it will work for you. Your guests won’t be disappointed.

That’s it! Now, if you’ve read this and think this all sounded too complicated—shaddup. Pull up your big boy pants and do it your way—there is no secret, remember? Just variants on a theme. A thick, hot, spicy, meaty, delicious theme. Experiment with this and tell me how it worked out. Or better yet, send me some and I’ll tell you!

Oh, one last tip: make tons of chili at once and freeze dinner-sized portions for future use. It’ll keep well for months and taste just as good (or even better) re-heated.


28 Responses to “Bullshit-Free Moose Chili Recipe”

  1. Posted on September 28th, 2009

    Nice one…I agree that there are too many rules when it comes to cooking. I like my chili simple with not a lot of added ingredients…but it’s a personal thing for sure.

    BTW – I like the way you categorize your ingredients – “meaty stuff”, “wet stuff”…nice one.

    Thanks for sharing your recipe

  2. Posted on October 18th, 2009

    Wow. WOW. Not *that* is a chili!

    I also like how you categorize everything – makes it so much easier to organize.

    I need to try this one out when my boyfriend comes back from moose hunting..!

  3. Posted on November 9th, 2009

    tell me if you can where I can get some moosemeat, I grew up eating the stuff. (dad and I hunted) now Im a city critter and dad’s too old to hunt…the recipe makes me want wild meat again in my life… and the boyfriend claims to be a fan, so i’d like to cook for him!

  4. Posted on November 10th, 2009

    Toni – I don’t know of any local moose meat providers as it’s not an easy item to legislate. Meat can’t legally be sold in Canada unless it’s inspected and wild meat can’t be inspected because it’s difficult for butchers to verify its source. I’ve heard of Bison farms, but unfortunately I don’t know of any Moose farms.

    Your best bet might be to befriend someone who actually hunts (or is related to someone who does).

  5. Posted on January 31st, 2010

    This recipe is spectacular. I just finished it. It is very labor intensive (I made it a Sunday project, started around 1 p.m. and had it ready to eat by 8) but it is well worth the effort. I used ground venison (about a pound), a venison sirloin, and a moose top round. The two cuts I cut into inch-bite-sized pieces. I used a 60% cocoa bar instead of the cocoa powder. I added a tablespoon of smoked paprika, which I think was a nice touch. I subbed one can of black beans for one of the kidneys. And I added a can of corn. I ended up adding a bit more cayenne pepper on the suggestion of a trusted friend with a palate as durable as my own. My little changes aside, this recipe is one of the better chilis I’ve ever tasted. Mark Busse, thank you so much. I had been sitting on my game meat for a while trying to figure out how best to cook it up, and this recipe made it shine. I will make this again and again, as long as I’m lucky enough to drop a Big Bull or cow (or buck or doe…)

  6. Posted on February 1st, 2010

    Thanks everybody for these great comments. I’m glad my approach to chili seems to have struck a cord.

    Hey Duncan, I fully endorse your addition of venison, kidney beans, better chocolate, corn and more cayenne pepper. Sounds completely in-line with a “bullshit-free” approach to making chili, which was my point in the first place.

    Anyone else tried the recipe and made some modifications they want to share?

  7. Posted on October 15th, 2010

    I used your recipe verbatim and won my workplace chili cook off! I shot a young bull this year, so the the meat was excellent. Thank you! This is a very complex chili, but well worth the effort. It was very sweet, I used Anaheim peppers, I think next time I will use 1 or 2 jalapeños for a little more kick. I’m wondering if Todd Smith is the same man who works/worked at 3 Rivers Archery in Indiana?

  8. Posted on October 15th, 2010

    This is great to hear Christopher! I’m glad it worked out for you.

    I like chili with “more kick” too, so I usually try a couple different kind of peppers until I get the right mix between flavour and heat.

    Our Todd Smith lives in Vancouver, so I can guarantee it’s not the same guy! :-)

  9. Posted on December 23rd, 2010

    Season’s Greetings 2010 from Dawson Creek, BC

    No BS Moose Chili

    Just a note to say a big thanks for this recipe. Not only do I love the author’s writing style, redneck with a dash of French aplomb, I am having a ball this afternoon prepping the recipe. As we don’t have kids or family nearby, Christmas is a low key, dull even, event for us. So, we encourage neighbours and friends to drop in over the holidays,and then we stuff them with something hardy and non-turkey. Hence the need for a moose chili recipe.

    After a month’s travel in Belize – which we loved – we are back home in our own kitchen. Feels great to cook for oneself again,and making the ultimate comfort food, chili. I am trying to be faithful to the No BS Moose chili recipe and not make substitutions, at least for this time out. At the moment I’m doing the ‘mise en place’, which is like a walk between memory lane of Belize and glad to be back home. Here is what we are bringing to the No BS moose chili – hamburger from a moose that my husband shot on our own quarter section and skidded down the road by tractor, organic pork from the best dang organic farmers in the Peace country, the Ewerts of Wildwood Farm, and then Toro Tequila, duty-free from Cancun airport this past Monday, and for fun, a tiny precious vial of Habanero pepper from the Hot Momma’s factory, Western Hwy Belize, where they put habanero into everything, including mango ice cream.

    Gosh, if the chili tastes as good as the fun are reading the recipe and then following it, we will be happy campers. Thanks for a good laugh and a great afternoon of cooking.

    Get ‘er done! And Happy New Year, by the way.

  10. Posted on March 21st, 2011

    So, in the spirit of freedom from bullshit, I used your recipe as a very loose guide. I was only making chili for two and just used what I had on hand. I should first say that I live in Arctic Sweden, so I had a kilo of moose that I picked up at the store. No other meat went in except two rashers of bacon. I didn’t measure anything else, but most of your ingredients were represented. I used: random spicy peppers (no idea what it is we actually get up here, but the were small, spicy, and both red and green), this morning’s leftover cold coffee, Swedish domestic swill (because that is what I’m drinking, and good beer is waaaay too expensive here to cook with). I added a bit of fresh basil because I had randomly clipped a few leaves earlier while starting a new cutting, and since I didn’t have tequila on hand (see expense remark above), I tossed in two shots (well, one for the pot and one for the cook) of Absolut vodka for good luck. I used vegetable bullion instead of chicken broth, and right at the end I added some crushed red pepper for a little more heat and some cinnamon which I though would accent the warm chocolaty flavors nicely (it did). Otherwise, I got the spices in there in more or less verbatim, though assuredly not in the given proportions. So at this point maybe you’re thinking that I didn’t follow the recipe at all. But, I never would have reached for the coffee, chocolate, or pinch of mustard otherwise. So thanks! It turned out to be by far the best meat chili I’ve ever cooked up.
    I’ve got you bookmarked for next time. I’ll follow it a little closer, but I’m gonna have to throw some reindeer in there somewhere- no bullshitting.

  11. Posted on April 17th, 2011

    thank you for post i love

  12. Posted on April 21st, 2011

    Interesting article. It is quite unfortunate that over the last years, the travel industry has had to deal with terrorism, SARS, tsunamis, flu virus, swine flu, as well as the first ever real global tough economy. Through everything the industry has really proven to be effective, resilient and dynamic, getting new solutions to deal with adversity. There are often fresh challenges and chance to which the sector must once again adapt and reply.

  13. Posted on June 6th, 2011

    Think I could win a chilli cookoff contest with this?
    Don’t have access to wild game but I bet other great tasting meat products would work too.

    Determined to knock the top ranking guy out this year!

  14. Posted on June 6th, 2011

    You wouldn’t be the first Val!

  15. Posted on September 3rd, 2011

    This was absolutely fabulous. Could find no pork fat, substituted 1/2 pound ground pork. Used JD instead of tequila. This was great for first time venison eaters, as the moose flavour was slightly hidden by all the spices.


  16. Posted on December 24th, 2011

    when do i add the chopped chilis?

  17. Posted on December 25th, 2011

    Colin, I add the chillies when I add the dry spices and brown sugar, usually to the point where it starts to taste just a bit too spicy because it tends to mellow as you simmer. Then I adjust with a bit more chilli and cayenne later if needed. Make sense?

  18. Posted on December 27th, 2012

    Thank you!
    I never made chili before as I was always unsure of the process and have tasted some really terrible chilies over the years. I didn’t want to be the guy that thought his was good even though it looked like bear shit or Campbell’s vegetable soup!
    So the other day I used some moose meat, bear hot sausage and moose blackstrap from this years Maine fall hunting season. Wow! This was fantastic and the kids and friends gobbled it up. I will make this over and over until all my moose, bear and deer burger is gone!

  19. Posted on October 7th, 2016

    Just for us idiots out west, what the hell is a “rasher”? Just shit a young Colorado moose!

  20. Posted on October 7th, 2016

    Correction, shot! Colorado moose!

  21. Posted on February 6th, 2017

    Wow. I have had this recipe for a few years for moose ground meat for chili. I have not tried the recipe until super bowl sunday. what a hit with all my guests. I followed your recipe but utilized a slow cooker instead. Magnificent. All my friends are calling me for the recipe. BEST CHILI EVER

  22. Posted on June 28th, 2019

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