Venison Chili – Slow Cooker + Stovetop Directions

by Erin @ Food Doodles on September 26, 2021

This Venison Chili is hearty, easy and perfectly spiced. It’s a basic chili but with ground venison making it leaner and healthier. It can be made on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. Ground beef can also be used.

It’s getting brisk in the evenings, and nothing soothes the belly like a warm bowl of chili. This chili recipe is a perfect way to use up the ground venison after hunting season. But if you’re not a hunter, I’ve included places where you can purchase the best game. 

If you love the idea of using venison in your chili, you should check out this Homemade Cheesy Venison Hamburger Helper. It’s an easy pasta recipe that is on the table in 30 minutes.

If you’re looking for ground beef chili, this Kid-friendly Chili has hidden veggies and is spiced just right for the whole family.

I think once you try this venison chili recipe, you’re going to keep it in your fall and winter rotation of amazing meals. 😁 Oh, and don’t forget the Dinner Muffins! They’re perfect with this chili.

Venison Chili Ingredients:

  • Olive oil
  • Ground venison
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • Kidney beans
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Water
  • Chili powder
  • Ground cumin
  • Dried oregano
  • Kosher salt


Venison Chili Slow Cooker directions:

  1. Brown the meat with garlic and onions.
  2. Transfer the meat to your slow cooker.
  3. Add in the rest of the ingredients and let it cook.

With just 15 minutes of prep, the slow cooker does the rest.

Stovetop directions:

  1. Brown the meat with garlic and onions.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer.
  3. Cover and stir every 10 minutes.
  4. When it’s done, turn off the heat and serve.

For either version:

Chili is always best served warm, so garnish as you like and serve it while it’s hot.

Store any leftover chili in an airtight container in the fridge for up to five days. You can reheat it on the stovetop over low heat until it’s hot.

If you want to freeze the chili, let it cool completely and put it in an airtight container and write the date on it. It will maintain its taste for about 6 months.

Whether you refrigerate it or freeze it, you can reheat it on the stovetop over low heat until it’s hot.


  • To keep the venison from drying out, make sure the skillet is hot before browning the meat. The lack of fat in venison often means the meat can be dry if overcooked.
  • Do not add salt to raw venison as it will draw out the natural juices and make it dry.
  • If using a slow cooker, don’t lift the lid during the cooking process. It takes 20 minutes to bring it back up to temperature.
  • The chili should be a minimum of 160°F (71 °C)
  • Pay attention to the spice. If you don’t like it hot, add half the spices then add more as you go.

What is venison?

Venison is meat from any kind of animal with antlers, so deer, elk, caribou or moose would fall under this category. With this recipe, we are making deer chili.

Using venison instead of ground beef makes for a lighter chili because deer meat has less saturated fat and is leaner but high in protein which is great for building muscles.

The flavor also holds up better in spicy dishes than ground beef does. But if you want to use ground beef, simply omit the olive oil in the first step.

Some people that aren’t used to eating wild game may notice a pungent taste and flavor, what we call “gamey”. It has to do with what the animal eats, but not all venison has this unusual flavor.

How to get the gaminess out of wild venison:

If the venison is wild, it can lend to a gamey flavor which can be an unfamiliar taste unless you’re an avid hunter. It’s a taste that is somewhat tangy in taste and smell. There are a few factors that can determine how gamey the flavor might be like the age and diet of the animal.

So a wild deer that eats acorns and sage will have a more pungent smell and wild taste than a deer raised on corn and soybeans.

Most people who cook with venison usually soak the meat to reduce the blood and reduce that tangy flavor. So what should you soak it in?

You can soak the ground venison in milk or buttermilk to reduce the tangy gamey flavor. Just put the amount of ground venison you want to use in a bowl and cover it with the milk. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.

The next morning, drain the milk and rinse in cold water. Rinsing the meat ensures the milk and blood are removed, as well as the gamey flavor.

If you’re buying raised deer for this chili, I don’t think you have to go through the soaking process. Most store-bought venison is raised with a low-key diet and the flavor is not as gamey as it would be if you just went on a hunt.

Do I have to use ground venison?

No, you could cut venison steaks into small uniform pieces, sear and brown the pieces, then place them in the slow cooker. Cutting them into uniform pieces will help the venison cook evenly and will prevent bacteria from growing.

Whole cuts should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 160°F (71°C).

You can also substitute ground venison for ground beef. The only thing to eliminate is the olive oil in the browning process.

If you like the idea of lean meat, then you definitely can use a ground turkey or chicken too.


I love cheese, so it’s my favorite topping. You can also add sour cream or go lighter with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

I also like to add some chopped green onions, or raw onions if you like that. Or some chopped cilantro.

Adding jalapeno peppers will definitely kick up the spice, and add a little heat. Bell peppers or green chilis are also great additions.

Diced avocado is also a great addition for taste, texture and nutrition.

What other items do you like to add to your chili?

Can you substitute ground venison for hamburger or vice versa?

Sure, you can also use ground beef. But if you do, you won’t need the extra olive oil for this recipe.

If you want a leaner sub, you could go with ground turkey meat or leave it out altogether and add some more beans, potatoes or vegetables.

Common mistakes when making chili:

  • I think the biggest mistake anyone could make with this chili is not browning the meat before you add it to the pot or slow cooker. Missing this step can kill a chili.
  • Browning the meat intensifies the flavors which leads to better tasting chili. If you just throw the meat in with all the ingredients to simmer, you’re not going to get the best flavor from the meat or get the best texture. I like a little sear so for me, browning is an absolute must!
  • Seasoning and spice are key to a great chili. You should season from the beginning and continue throughout the cooking process.
  • If you wait to add the spice to the end, the flavors won’t infuse into the chili and you’re missing out on building tons of flavor.
  • So season and taste, stir, cook, season and taste. This, too, will save you from having firehouse chili that’s too spicy to eat. 😉
  • Since this chili takes some time to simmer, the long cooking time can result in a flat taste. If this is the case, add a dash of vinegar or a squirt of lemon once you’ve taken it off the heat to brighten the flavor profiles.

Is venison healthier than ground beef?

Yes, it is. We talked about deer meat being leaner than beef. It’s also richer in protein than other red meat. High protein dishes make you feel satisfied, so this chili is definitely a hearty one.

Venison also has very low saturated fat, like less than salmon! It’s rich in minerals and low in cholesterol. On average, it can also cost less than ground beef.

If you are looking to reduce your cholesterol intake while maintaining high levels of protein, incorporating venison is a good way to do it.

What can I do if my chili is too spicy?

  • First, check the ingredients! If the spices are something you can’t handle, then definitely don’t add the full amount. Or you can substitute a milder spice. Start with half of the amount and cook it down a bit, then stir and taste. If it needs more, then start adding more little by little.
  • The second thing you can do is add dairy. It’s the easiest way to reduce heat in any spicy meal. Add sour cream or Greek yogurt and the creaminess will smooth out the kick. But make sure you’re using plain Greek yogurt, you wouldn’t want to add strawberry yogurt to your chili. 😬
  • If you don’t have the dairy above, you can add a little milk while it simmers. Leave the cover off so the liquid can evaporate. Butter might work with the venison because it is leaner, but normally butter would add too much fat and the chili will be quite oily.
  • You can also add acid. It can even enhance the flavor. Types of you could use is a squeeze of lime or lemon, vinegar (red or white wine, apple cider vinegar). Or pop the cork and add a little wine directly into the pot. Diced tomatoes can also reduce the heat and add a little extra acid to reduce the heat.
  • Adding a little sugar will also reduce the heat. Don’t go overboard, just slowly incorporate granulated sugar (white or brown), honey or sweeteners like xylitol. Sugars absorb the spicy capsaicin oils that make food spicy.
  • Alcohol like sugar is good at soaking up those spicy oils, so simmer it a bit to cook down the proof and the dish is saved. But not beer! Beer is carbonated and that will only heighten the sensation.
  • Adding in starchy bland food like potatoes or rice is a great addition. Or serve the chili with a slice of nice bread. All work well in reducing the heat.
  • Don’t add more water. Oil and water don’t mix, so if you add water, you’re just watering down the chili but not reducing the heat.
  • It’s ready to serve, the spices are just right for you, but one of your guests can’t handle it. What do you do? Have them drink a glass of milk, but don’t swallow it. Just swish and spit it out to relieve the suffering. Don’t give them carbonated drinks like cola or beer either, that just hurts worse.

Can I leave the chili in a slow cooker on low overnight?

This chili cooks on high for 4 hours or on low for 6 hours. Though you can cook chili overnight in a slow cooker, I think it’s best for this recipe to just cook it in the time allotted for the best flavor.

To bean or not to bean?

Ok, I’m just going to say it! I’m a Texan and I love beans in my chili. I know some of you are shaking your heads in dismay, but that’s what I like. If you’re a staunch Texan or not a bean fan, then it isn’t an obligation to put them in this dish.

I think kidney beans are perfect in this deer chili, but if you’re not having it, you could go with pinto or black beans.

Besides the added nutrition and protein from beans, they tend to bulk up the meal to make it more satisfying and hearty. If you still want the bulk but not the beans, add some potatoes or veggies to the mix.

If you’re not a Texan and didn’t know there is such controversy but are interested in knowing more, just take a look at this article.

Where can I buy venison?

If you’re not a deer hunter, you may be wondering where you can buy wild venison and this article has a great list.

It appears that Costco has venison steaks stocked in their stores, as well as Sam’s, so you just need to get it ground up. Other than that, take a trip to your local butcher for the freshest source.

Other hearty soups:

If you’re looking for other amazing cozy dishes for winter, try some of these and let me know what you think.

  • This Healthy Taco Soup is comforting and satisfying. It can be made on the stove top or slow cooker. It freezes great and is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free.
  • This Corn Chowder makes a lovely meal. It’s easy and made with sweet corn, potatoes, fresh thyme and bits of bacon. It can be made dairy-free.
  • This Butternut Squash and Black Bean Taco Soup is another seasonal favorite. It’s a quick recipe that is full of flavor.
  • The best way to eat your broccoli is with this Cheddar Broccoli Soup. It’s creamy and delicious!
  • If you’re having a grilled cheese sandwich, then you have to try this Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup! It’s so easy, you’ll probably never go back to store-bought.
  • This Jalapeno Butternut Mac and Cheese is more of a side dish with creamy cheesy sauce and a little kick of jalapeno.

What is your favorite chilly food? If you try this Venison Chili, let me know how it turned out!

5 from 2 votes
hand on bowl of venison chili
Venison Chili - Slow Cooker or Stovetop
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
6 hrs
Cuisine: American
Keyword: slow cooker, venison chili
Servings: 10 servings
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound (453 grams) ground venison or ground beef
  • 1 cup chopped onion (from about 1 medium onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 15-ounce (425-gram) cans kidney beans (dark or light)
  • 2 14-ounce (397-gram) cans diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup (120ml) water
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
Slow cooker instructions:
  1. In a large skillet set over medium heat, add the olive oil. Cook the onions, about 5 minutes or until translucent.

  2. Add the garlic and cook 1 more minute.

  3. Add the venison, stir into the onions and garlic, and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes.

  4. Transfer this to the slow cooker.

  5. Add in the remaining ingredients and cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 6 hours.

Stovetop directions:
  1. In a large skillet set over medium heat, add the olive oil. Cook the onions, about 5 minutes or until translucent.

  2. Add the venison, stir into the onions and garlic, and cook until browned, about 5-7 minutes.

  3. Add in the remaining ingredients.. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.

  4. Cover the pot and cook on medium-low for 30-45 minutes, stirring after every 10 minutes. Add up to 1 cup of water, ¼ cup at a time, if it seems too dry. When done, turn off the heat and let the chili sit for 15 minutes before serving.

For either version:
  1. Garnish and serve warm. Refrigerate leftovers an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Leave a Comment

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Petro Neagu October 4, 2021 at 14:49

This look so delicious! I’m gonna try it in my slow cooker


2 Heidy October 4, 2021 at 01:29

I made your venison recipe for my husband and his buddies for guys night! All eight of them went back for seconds! They requested I make it again! Great recipe!


3 Brianna October 4, 2021 at 00:07

Perfect cold weather comfort food! Easy to make and perfect level of spice.


4 Natalie October 3, 2021 at 22:53

I never tried venison chili. What an excellent idea! Looks warming and perfect for colder days. I will get venison from the market and make this chili for dinner tomorrow. Thanks.


5 Marisa Franca October 3, 2021 at 20:17

We are so lucky we have a son who likes to hunt. He’s gifted us with quite a bit of venison so I’m really excited about this recipe. Thank you for the hint about ridding the meat of gaminess. We’ve never had any problem with that. But in the future if there is, I know what to do.


6 Claire October 3, 2021 at 16:57

This was delicious, just the right combo of spices and I added beans because I love them. But the whole family approved!


7 Chandice Probst October 3, 2021 at 07:47

What a heart and delicious fall or winter meal! Your photo instructions were very helpful along the way. Thank you!


8 Mikayla October 2, 2021 at 05:04

A wonderfully hearty and tasty meal, perfect for the upcoming cooler fall evenings. Pair it with some french bread or corn bread.


9 LaKita October 1, 2021 at 23:48

This chili recipe looks so flavorful and delicious. Such a great way to use venison and a really good recipe to make in the slow cooker.


10 Eva October 1, 2021 at 19:37

Great recipe inspiration! I have just restocked my ground reindeer supply (took a trip to the northern part of my home region in Sweden!) and this recipe sounds perfect to try with that meat!


11 Liz October 1, 2021 at 13:14

Yum! We have some deer meat in our freezer, so will be trying this recipe soon!


12 Allyssa October 1, 2021 at 12:31

Thank you so much for this recipe, it’s super easy to make and tasted really delicious! Will surely have this amazing recipe again! Highly recommended!


13 Linda October 1, 2021 at 06:44

Love a slow cooking dish and this chili is so delicious and comforting!


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