Spicy Buffalo Chili -- A Twist on a Classic

Amy Claxton/Flickr
  • 90 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins,
  • Cook: 75 mins
  • Yield: 10 servings
Ratings (8)

This spicy chili recipe uses buffalo, or bison meat, instead of the usual ground beef. Buffalo chili is lower in fat and calories than chili made with beef since the buffalo is a leaner animal. 

A famous legend has it that the all-American chili so commonly found on dinner menus, so regularly served for dinner across the country and so much a part of Super Bowl Sunday traces its roots to Native Americans and then to the Old West of the 19th century, where cowboy cooks doctored up trail meats, like buffalo, beef, venison, rabbit or even rattlesnake, with spicy peppers to make them more palatable. And only use one pot over a campfire. Another legend tells of immigrants from Spain's Canary Islands to San Antonio in the early 18th century who brought the recipe to America. And so chili as we know it was born -- one way or the other.

Purists say that beans don't belong in authentic chili (since they were not used by the cowboys), but they have become more common than not these days. Chili is made in so many variations that it's impossible to say there is just one way to make it, although beef is virtually always the go-to meat. Rabbit, venison and certainly rattlesnake are pretty much off the list, but buffalo is making a reappearance because of its health benefits. 

What You'll Need

  • 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 pounds ground buffalo meat
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 jalapenos (seeded and diced)
  • 1 red bell pepper (diced)
  • 1 28-ounce can tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups beef broth (or water)
  • 2 15-ounce cans pinto beans (drained)

How to Make It

  1. Cook the ground buffalo in the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until browned and broken into small pieces.
  2. Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients except the beans and bring to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the beans and cook for 15 minutes more. Water can be added during the cooking to adjust for thinner or thicker chili.


    Serve up buffalo chili the same way you would classic beef chili -- with warmed flour tortillas or crackers for carbs. Or layer it over spaghetti.  If you like loaded chili, top with shredded cheddar and/or Monterey Jack cheese. If you really think its lower-fat buffalo meat gives you license, add a dollop of sour cream.