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Elk Chili

Warm up with a bowl of homemade chili with ground elk. This hearty elk chili recipe makes for a healthy, one-pot meal to serve alongside cornbread and all your favorite fixings.  

A bowl of elk chili topped with onions, chilies, and cubed cheese with cilantro in the background.

Is Elk Good in Chili?

Ground elk is a tasty addition to chili recipes! Cooking ground elk in chili with warm, aromatic spices keeps the meat moist, and the mild, gamey flavor of the elk pairs nicely with the smoky flavors and acidity in the chili.

What You Need to Make this Recipe

  • Onion: Yellow or white onions work best in this recipe.
  • Garlic: I suggest using four cloves, but measure with your heart.
  • Tomato Paste: Adding a spoonful of tomato paste intensifies the flavor and deepens the color of the chili. The extra acidity also helps balance the gameness of the elk.
  • Spices: Finish our homemade elk chili recipe with warm, aromatic seasonings, like traditional chili powder, ground cumin, kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, and spicy cayenne.
  • Ground Elk: Elk, while slightly gamey, can taste surprisingly similar to ground beef – especially in chili.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Worcestershire improves the flavor of the other ingredients in the chili.
  • Kidney Beans: You can decide for yourself what the best beans for chili are. However, I love kidney beans in this recipe.
  • Tomatoes with Green Chilies: I like using canned tomatoes with green chilies for a little more flavor, but any canned diced tomatoes will work. You can also use freshly diced tomatoes, but you will want to simmer the ground elk chili longer so they soften and combine with the other ingredients.

How to Make Elk Chili

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: War olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they soften and become translucent, for about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.

Onions sautéing in a Dutch oven.

Step 2: Add the tomato paste, chili powder, ground cumin, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper; stir to combine.

Onions and seasonings in the pan.

Step 3: Next, add the ground elk and break it up with a meat chopper; cook until brown and heated through for about 10 minutes.

Ground elk added to the Dutch oven.

Step 4: Pour the chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans into the pot, and stir to combine.

Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

The chili cooking in a Dutch oven.

Step 5: Ladle the chili into bowls, and garnish with chopped fresh onion and shredded cheese.

A bowl of elk chili topped with onions, chilies, and cubed cheese.

Expert Tips

  • After adding all the ingredients to the pot, bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat and let all the flavors meld together by gently simmering over medium heat; this is the key to cooking elk meat chili.

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A bowl of elk chili topped with onions, chilies, and cubed cheese.

Serving Suggestions

Enjoy a comforting bowl of elk chili piled high with toppings like freshly chopped onions, jalapeños, diced avocado, sour cream, shredded or cubed cheese, scallions, and a squeeze of lime for extra flavor. Here are a few suggestions for what to serve with chili:

What to do With the Leftovers

  • Refrigerate  Like other stew and soup recipes, chili tastes even better the next day after the flavors have had a chance to combine. Store leftovers in an airtight container; it will keep for 3-4 days.
  • Freeze  Let the dish cool completely, then transfer it to a freezer-safe container or bag. Elk chili freezes for up to 3 months.
  • Thaw – Defrost the chili in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Reheat  Warm the leftovers on the stovetop or microwave, and enjoy!
  • Repurpose – Make walking nachos, chili and rice casserole, chili cheese fries, chili spaghetti squash casserole, chili dogs, chili and tater tot casserole, Frito chili pie, and chili cornbread casserole.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does elk meat taste like?

Elk meat has a mildly sweet, subtly gamey flavor similar to grass-fed beef but leaner, more tender, and crumbly.

What can you use ground elk for?

• Burgers: Ground elk makes for delicious, lean burgers. 

• Meatballs: Replace beef or pork in your favorite meatball recipe with ground elk; the texture will be slightly more delicate, so you should include more binder to keep the meatballs together. 

• Meatloaf: Combine the ground elk with onions, eggs, spices, and breadcrumbs to make meatloaf.

• Tacos: Add taco seasoning to ground elk and use it as a filling for tacos, burritos, or quesadillas.

• Pasta sauce – Simmer the ground elk with the ingredients for a red pasta sauce as a leaner alternative to beef in Bolognese or ragu.

• Casseroles – Use the elk in casseroles like shepherd’s pie.

• Lasagna – Make a tasty elk lasagna using ground elk instead of ground beef in your favorite lasagna or zucchini lasagna recipe.

• Moussaka – A Greek moussaka with ground elk instead of lamb. 

And chili! – Ground elk can replace ground beef in chili recipes, but pair it with an acid like tomato paste, orange juice, or lime juice! 

Where do you buy ground elk?

I often find ground elk in mainstream grocery stores next to the beef, but if you don’t have any luck, I recommend butcher shops, direct from farms, or finding a hunter friend. Online meat retailers are another solid option.

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A bowl of elk chili topped with onions, chilies, and cubed cheese.

Elk Chili

Tressa Jamil
Warm up with a bowl of homemade elk chili. This hearty chili recipe is a healthy, one-pot meal you can serve with cornbread and all the fixings.
5 from 8 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Main Course, Soup, stew
Cuisine American
Servings 6 Servings
Calories 352 kcal
Ingredients
  
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound ground elk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 cans kidney beans 15-ounce, drained and rinsed
  • 2 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, 15-ounce
Instructions
 
  • Warm olive oil in a Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until they soften and become translucent, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute.
  • Add the tomato paste, chili powder, ground cumin, kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, ancho chili powder, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper; stir to combine.
  • Next, add the ground elk and break it up with a meat chopper; cook until brown and heated through for about 10 minutes.
  • Pour the chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, diced tomatoes, and kidney beans into the pot, and stir to combine.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  • Ladle the chili into bowls, and garnish with chopped fresh onion and shredded cheese.
Notes
Expert Tips: 
  • After adding all the ingredients to the pot, bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat and let all the flavors meld together by gently simmering over medium heat; this is the key to cooking elk meat chili.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Serving | Calories: 352 kcal | Carbohydrates: 37 g | Protein: 32 g | Fat: 8 g | Saturated Fat: 3 g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1 g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2 g | Cholesterol: 61 mg | Sodium: 786 mg | Potassium: 1105 mg | Fiber: 11 g | Sugar: 3 g | Vitamin A: 51 IU | Vitamin C: 17 mg | Calcium: 14 mg | Iron: 36 mg
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating




Hailey

Thursday 1st of February 2024

Wouldn’t change a thing! Lots of flavor, little bit of a kick and very filling. Will be saving and making again and again. Thank you! Paired great with homemade cornbread 🤗

Tressa Jamil

Thursday 1st of February 2024

So happy to hear the recipe was a hit - yay! And yes to the cornbread! Feedback like this keeps me excited to continue sharing new recipes, so I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

Brittany

Monday 15th of January 2024

I hadn’t cooked with elk before, so I was nervous of how this would taste! It came out fantastic! It was the perfect warm meal following a day of playing in the snow with my kiddos. Easy and delicious, and this is absolutely a keeper. I may have to tone down the heat a little next time for my littles, but the heat was on point for my taste. Thank you for this fantastic recipe! 💕

Tressa Jamil

Monday 15th of January 2024

Oh my goodness, yes! And good on you for trying something new. I am happy you enjoyed it, and for next time here is a little tip. I stir a small scoop of sour cream into my daughter's bowl when I make it. My son can tolerate the heat, but my sweet girl cannot hang.

Jomelyn

Thursday 16th of November 2023

Tressa, this elk chili is a hit in our house! My husband is a big fan of elk meat and he asked me to make this again! We love your recipes!!!

Tressa Jamil

Saturday 30th of December 2023

Thank you so much for sharing, Jomelyn. I am happy this recipe was a hit for your husband and for you!!