[Lindsey Bartosh]

One of my favorite dishes to make with any wild game, whether it be deer, elk, pronghorn, bear, or even turkey, is chili. Chili is such a versatile dish to play with. I’ve made versions with pumpkin ale, fruits like pineapple or peaches, and spicy chilis that literally almost damaged my tongue—I’ve even made a version of chili that I served over spaghetti noodles. 

I figured since I was messing around with different styles and ingredient mixes for my chili, I should try a traditional recipe. There isn’t more traditional chili than Real Texas Chili. Making the chili is incredibly easy, but learning about the rules and history of a “Big Bowl O’ Red” is the most enjoyable part of the chili. 

The number one rule of Texas chili is: No beans! Ever! If you add beans, you aren’t making chili. The first official chili contest was held on Oct. 4, 1952, at the Texas State Fair and the rules specifically stipulated that no beans were allowed. 

In 1977, Texas established chili, and more specifically a Big Bowl O’ Red, as the official food of Texas. Officially, this dish has no beans and no tomatoes.

I made sure to follow the rules when making my Real Texas Chili with deer meat, and it’s delicious. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson loved a good bowl of Real Texas Chili and was quoted as saying: “Chili concocted outside of Texas is usually a weak, apologetic imitation of the real thing. One of the first things I do when I get home to Texas is have a bowl of red.” 

I agree with Mr. Johnson—Texas makes a fine bowl of chili. 

Real Texas Chili 


Chili Paste Ingredients

  • 3 ounces whole dried chilis
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • Four chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons adobo sauce

Real Texas Chili Ingredients

  • 2 ½ pounds deer, elk, or pronghorn steak, cut into bite size chunks
  • 3 tablespoons fat (such as lard, bacon fat, butter, bear fat, or vegetable oil)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups bone broth
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons masa harina
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 teaspoons oregano


Chili Paste 

  1. Place whole dried chilis in a skillet over high heat and blister for about one minute per side, taking care not to burn the chilis.
  2. Place in a large bowl and cover with hot water. Allow chilis to rehydrate for 30 minutes.
  3. Drain chilis, snip off tops and bottoms, and shake to remove seeds.
  4. Place in a blender with the water, salt, chipotle peppers, and adobo sauce. Blend until smooth.

Real Texas Chili

  1. In a large dutch oven over high heat, melt two tablespoons of fat. 
  2. In small batches, brown the deer chunks for about two minutes per side. Set aside.
  3. Add another tablespoon of fat to dutch oven, reduce heat to medium, and add diced onion, jalapeno, and garlic cloves. Cook until onions are soft, about five minutes.
  4. Add bone broth, vegetable stock, and apple cider vinegar. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Whisk in the masa harina, stirring vigorously to dissolve.
  6. Add cocoa powder, brown sugar, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, allspice, and oregano. Return the browned deer to the pot.
  7. Stir in the chili paste, drop the heat to low, and cover the pot while leaving a small opening at the side of the dutch oven. Simmer for at least one hour, ideally two. 
  8. Enjoy topped with fresh diced onions, jalapeno slices, cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and Fritos chips!

Lindsey Bartosh, an eighth-generation Moab girl, loves hiking, hunting, fishing, cooking, writing, photography and working on her website www.huntingandcooking.com.