Wild Thing Texas Chili

by Fresh Planet Flavor

The idea for this Wild Thing Texas Chili started as my answer to the “what kind of chili do you like?” question, which came up over the Christmas holiday in Texas with my family. This isn’t the chili I was raised on, because that chili is not my cuppa, and almost defies description. Okra. LOTS of mustard greens or kale. Watery, too. Needless to say I never preferred that chili as a child, because aside from everything else, it’s missing what I consider the essentials of the genre: 1) no beans (this is Texas chili, after all) with 2) a deep, complex balance of sweet, bitter, hot, and fruity flavor plus a robust, meaty kick and thick, rich red sauce to bind the other ingredients together. That being said, let’s break down how I accomplish these essentials in this recipe.

The Meat

Folks have strong opinions about what constitutes chili (as I discovered when I conducted some highly scientific research and asked Quora “does real chili have beans?“) so I suspect this chili could be considered heretical because it doesn’t include beef! I got the idea of naming this Texas chili “Wild Thing” from the fact that it’s made with bison, venison, and wild boar… although complemented with a product from a domesticated animal: pastured bacon. I chose bison, venison and wild boar because these wild game meats are naturally very lean, and leanness is preferred here for two important reasons:

  1. Lean meat browns in a skillet. Browning provides a boost of meaty flavor (which is why searing the meat is often the first step in slow cooker recipes, for example) but it’s nearly impossible to properly brown a pot of fatty ground meat. As soon as it begins to cook, the juices seep out and submerge the bottom layer, and there’s nothing uglier than meat graying in its own fat as you cook it, not to mention the wasted flavor potential from browning being prevented. For this recipe, keep the heat high under the skillet after cooking the bacon and sear the ground game meat until there is crispy browning on each side (it’s not important to cook the meat all of the way through during this stage). Open the windows or turn on the vent, and don’t lose your nerve.   
  2. Lean meat is an appropriate pairing for a fatty supplemental ingredient like bacon. Fat = flavor and bacon is debatably the most delicious source, but bacon in combination with a fatty ground meat results in an unappealing greasy-texture.  

Therefore, this recipe can accommodate any ratio of lean game meat (even 3 lbs of a single type), but substituting ground pork or 85% ground beef will fail! 

The Vegetables

The meat is the star of the show here, but if you prefer a milder, sweeter chili then by all means double the peppers or add an extra onion. I’ve played around with sweet potato for a higher-carb version in the past: just shred in your food processor with the other vegetables and be sure to let it cook down until al dente in the final stage. The result is a subtly stickier, chewier texture that’s wonderful in its own way. As for the tomato, I call for tomato purée below which is not tomato sauce. If tomato sauce is all that’s available to you, use only one cup and make up the difference with more broth.  

Coffee and Fish Sauce

The goal here is umami, that savory taste found in foods like cheese, soy sauce, and ripe tomatoes that Asian cuisines have always understood makes food delicious. Fish sauce is a hack used here to achieve maximum umami; it doesn’t make the chili taste like fish, it merely intensifies the existing flavor of the chili in a meaty, non-specific way. I may add as much as four teaspoons of fish sauce next time, or an anchovy or two!

Aside from the benefit of caffeine, the coffee lends depth and a nutty bass note to balance the sweetness of the vegetables and to complement the smokiness of the chili powder. Experiment with adding a few heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder or a few ounces of unsweetened chocolate to achieve the effect without coffee. 

Okay, enough talking. Enjoy!

Wild Thing Texas Chili

Wild Thing Texas Chili

PinShareTweetThe idea for this Wild Thing Texas Chili started as my answer to the “what kind of chili do you like?” question, which came up over the Christmas holiday in Texas with my family. This isn’t the chili I was raised on, because that chili is not my cuppa, and almost defies description. Okra. LOTS of mustard greens or kale. Watery, too. Needless to say I never preferred that chili as… Entrées chili, game meat, Texas European
Serves: 6 Prep Time: Cooking Time:
Nutrition facts: 200 calories 20 grams fat
Rating: 3.0/5
( 4 voted )


  • lb ground bison
  • 1 lb ground venison
  • 1 lb ground wild boar
  • 3 slices of bacon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 bell peppers, cored and chopped
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp ground chipotle pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1 tsp chili flakes
  • 2 cups tomato purée
  • 1 6-oz can tomato paste
  • 2 cups bone broth
  • 1/2 cup strong black coffee (optional)
  • 2 tsp fish sauce (optional)


  1. In a large dry skillet over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until browned and crispy. Transfer to a plate to cool, and empty the fat from the skillet but reserve for later use.
  2. Brown the bison, venison, and wild boar briefly on each side. Transfer out of the skillet after the meat has a nicely seared brown color but before it has cooked fully.
    While the meat browns, load the onions, garlic, bell peppers, and bacon into a food processor and pulse until finely shredded. If you prefer a chunkier chili, chop the vegetables by hand into ½" pieces.
  3. When the meat is finished, saute the bacon and vegetable mixture in the skillet until very soft. While it cooks, heat 1 tablespoon of the reserved bacon fat in a large stew pot over medium heat. Add the chili powder, cumin, chipotle powder, oregano, paprika, salt, and chili flakes. Cook until fragrant, then stir in the meat, vegetable mixture, pureed tomatoes, tomato paste, coffee, broth, and fish sauce.
  4. Combine thoroughly, allow to simmer for 10 minutes until the flavors meld, then serve warm with sliced jalapeños, cilantro and shaved red onion if desired.


I used salted broth in my version, if your broth is unsalted you may need to increase the salt to two teaspoons.

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Trisha January 12, 2015 - 3:58 pm

This chili recipe literally sounds like an adventure! I love it. Every bit. Can’t wait to try!

Fresh Planet Flavor January 12, 2015 - 9:35 pm

ADVENTURE CHILI! That’ll be the name of my next chili recipe. Maybe using ostrich or some other really crazy meat… 😀

Michele Spring January 12, 2015 - 4:19 pm

Wow, this looks really good. I’ve been craving a good chili and have several pounds of ground beef thawing in the fridge… going to have to make this!

Michele Spring January 12, 2015 - 4:21 pm

haha, though I guess I will be making it with ground beef instead of what you said (oops!)

Fresh Planet Flavor January 12, 2015 - 9:34 pm

Michele, is it lean ground beef? If so, make this as written and let me know how it goes! If it’s 85% or so, skip the bacon… 😉

Michele Spring January 15, 2015 - 3:14 am

So made this tonight with 2 lbs of 80% ground beef and 1 lb of 85% ground beef, plus made it in the crockpot instead of stovetop but did everything ELSE like you indicated and it came out DELICIOUS. Like one of my most favorite chili’s ever. The bacon lent it a nice smokiness and it just had incredible flavor from all of the spices, coffee, and fish sauce. This will definitely be going to the top of our chili list! Some day we will have the recipe as written too 🙂 (I just don’t have boar and venison thawing in my fridge like I usually do with ground beef)

Fresh Planet Flavor January 15, 2015 - 4:36 am

Wow, super duper cool that it came out so well, and in the crockpot too!

Kelly from Primally Inspired January 12, 2015 - 7:10 pm

This looks awesome, Rachel!! We are huge chili fans over here. My husband is an avid hunter and I am learning to appreciate the taste of wild game. Can’t wait to try it with our freezer full of wild meats 🙂

Fresh Planet Flavor January 12, 2015 - 9:32 pm

You know what? That’s exactly why I wrote this recipe: for the lucky folks with freezers full of wild meat!

Stacey January 13, 2015 - 5:41 am

This looks fun. My Dad would love all the wild game in it. I really like boar meat, and almost forgot about it and how good it is.

Grok Grub January 13, 2015 - 6:06 am

This is my first time cooking with it and I’m a fan!

Candace Cee January 13, 2015 - 2:55 pm

Can’t wait to try some of this. We use kelp instead of fish sauce.. A little greatly improves the flavor. Too much makes it too fishy. Watery? Remember I am allergic to tomatoes. Our chili was more like Sloppy Joe mixture – Paleo style – ; D

Grok Grub January 13, 2015 - 5:55 pm

I’d sub more broth for the tomato sauce here but keep the tomato paste. Feel free to add kale and okra to this. 😉

Kara @ Yaya Recommended January 14, 2015 - 5:24 pm

This looks so good! I’ve never tried fish sauce in chili before–can’t wait to try it out!

Grok Grub January 14, 2015 - 6:49 pm

It’s a fun little addition to give it that extra “pop”. 🙂

Tina @ Oh Snap! Let's Eat! January 15, 2015 - 10:15 pm

This looks super yummy. Perfect when I’m craving some MEAT!

Grok Grub January 16, 2015 - 3:59 am

That’s pretty much me all the time… 😉

Christi January 16, 2015 - 4:38 pm

My husband and son are hunters. I can’t wait to surprise them with Wild Game Chili. They’re going to love it! And I’m excited to try the fish sauce – I love it in my Thai recipes.

Grok Grub January 16, 2015 - 5:53 pm

I think fish sauce should have wider applications than Asian food! Hope you enjoy.

chantelle January 17, 2015 - 3:21 am

Oh wow I love love love this chilli, we don’t hunt but our local butcher fortunately has all sorts of amazing wild meats. I use ground venison all the time and bison almost always replaces ground beef in our house nowadays. I find myself adding fish sauce and anchovy paste to weird things- like chili and traditional stews. Recently saw a recipe for fish sauce chicken wings!

Grok Grub January 18, 2015 - 1:43 am

I made wings today and ALSO thought the sauce could have benefited from fish sauce! What a coincidence!

Weekend Link Love – Edition 331 | HelpfulHealthBlog.com January 18, 2015 - 9:03 pm

[…] You’ll inevitably find yourself humming “Wild Thing” when you make Wild Thing Texas Chili. […]

Tessa@TessaDomesticDiva January 19, 2015 - 3:21 am

i love the interesting flavor here! I will be featuring your recipe this week on Allergy Free Wednesday this week!

Grok Grub January 19, 2015 - 3:47 am

Hooray! I was on your site the other day, loving the hot chocolate recipe!

Weekend Link Love – Edition 331 | HelpfulHealthBlog.com January 19, 2015 - 4:06 pm

[…] You’ll inevitably find yourself humming “Wild Thing” when you make Wild Thing Texas Chili. […]

Zach rusk January 19, 2015 - 5:02 pm

Sounds amazing! Nothing is better than wild game. Any concerns though with heterocyclic amine formation though from browning the meat??

Grok Grub January 19, 2015 - 8:22 pm

It’s a concern, yes. Some things you can do to mitigate include 1) don’t burn the meat, 2) don’t make this recipe every day 3) eat cruciferous vegetables as a side.

Jillian Hudson January 20, 2015 - 2:25 pm

This is a great recipe! I’d love it if you would share it on my new corn-free link party. http://www.creatingsilverlinings.com/corn-free-everyday-jan-20-15/

Grok Grub January 20, 2015 - 4:28 pm


vegetarianmamma (Cindy) January 21, 2015 - 10:30 pm

Thanks for linking up at our Gluten Free Fridays Party! I have tweeted and pinned your entry to our Gluten Free Fridays board on Pinterest! 🙂 I can’t wait to see what you share next time!

Grok Grub January 21, 2015 - 11:21 pm

Awesome, I have years’ worth of gluten-free recipes here, so lots to choose from!

Miz Helen January 23, 2015 - 2:39 pm

Your recipe is featured on Full Plate Thursday this week. Enjoy your new Red Plate and have a great weekend.
Miz Helen

Grok Grub January 23, 2015 - 5:18 pm

Hooray! Love Full Plate Thursday. 🙂

Paleo Chili Recipe Roundup | Easily Paleo... January 23, 2015 - 4:47 pm

[…] Wild Thing Texas Chili (courtesy of Grok Grub) […]

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Chanel February 12, 2015 - 11:46 pm

I can’t believe how incredible this sounds and looks! I have been looking at this recipe several times and am dying to make it!! I’m curious as to where you get your meat? We don’t really have meat like that where I live (at least not that I’m aware of). We’ve got fish, turkey, beef, and chicken. The “craziest” I’ve seen is the occasional venison in some markets, but never wild boar, and not much bison (although I have seen bison burgers once at a restaurant, but not the actual meat in any markets).

I don’t think I can eat bison anyway because they’re too adorable! I may be the only one who thinks they are adorable and cute, but anyway I do! lol – have you ever tried this recipe with no red-meats? I know they have all the flavors :/ but just curious if you’ve had any lucky with turkey or anything I could find in my local stores (and also my family tends to stay away from red meats . . . :/ )?

I want to try this recipe, but not sure if something like turkey would just hinder all the amazing work you have put into creating such a unique recipe!

This looks incredible by the way! Thank you so much for sharing this BEAUTIFUL recipe!


Grok Grub February 13, 2015 - 12:36 am

Chanel, I get these specialty meats from a fantastic butcher by the bay here in San Francisco: Golden Gate Meat Company. I would try this with turkey, you may sacrifice a bit of flavor but at least it’s lean (which is an important criterion in the meat of this recipe). Hope you ♥ it!

Paleo Texas Steak & Chicken Chili | Suitcase Fitness May 15, 2015 - 12:18 pm

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Julie Walker December 10, 2015 - 2:26 am

Great recipe, loved it!

Grok Grub December 11, 2015 - 6:40 am

Awesome, so glad you tried it!

"Goes-with-Everything" Weeknight Curry (with Kettle & Fire) | Fresh Planet Flavor December 25, 2016 - 11:48 pm

[…] Being a healthy home-cooking blogger, I often get questions such as: “Dear Fresh Planet Flavor, what’s your favorite way to make bone broth?” Which is super awkward because… the truth is, I don’t. There, I said it. I don’t make my own bone broth, and I used crappy store-bought broth in some of my favorite recipes, such as my Easy Sunny-Side-Up Eggs in Chili Garlic Yogurt, Slow-Cooker Spiced Pork Ramen, and Wild Thing Texas Chili. […]

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