Ground Venison Chili

Red-Hot-Sweetie Ground Venison Chili and Corn Dodgers

I love this chili because it has a serious sweet side paired against a seriously peppery side. It’s not just the jalapeños, but the white pepper, yellow mustard, hot smoked paprika and garlic powder.  Then there’s the chips, which add a touch of what the French call je ne sais quoi, which means I don’t know what they add, but holy moly we should add it too. As for the Mild Green Jalapeño jelly, my local store carries Fischer & Weiser Specialty foods brand (

These two recipes are from my newest cookbook, tentatively titled The Totally Wild Bowl: 100 venison, upland, waterfowl bear and pig soups stews and chilies. I know. It’s a mouthful, but it’s a mouthful of really, really good.  I took this ground venison chili to our friends Bob and Carol, parents of the German Girls, and they loved it as much as we did.  Bob and I agree that it’s a bit spicy, but couldn’t stop eating it; sugar is a great moderator of spicy.  Carol and John loved it as is.  Now Bob and Carol tell me that this is their new hunting camp chili and will be making it a lot this fall for their bird and big game hunting travels.

This chili and the corn dodgers recipe will be in the August 2021 Rifle Loony News, coming out in just a few days.  Not getting Rifle Loony News yet?   It’s only $10/year, 4x a year, and readers call it the best $10 they ever spent, with John’s handloading, firearms and hunting articles, and my game care & game cooking thoughts, as well as hunting stories.  If you need more ‘ammo’ for arguments around the hunting campfire, RLN is a great resource.

Red-Hot-Sweetie Ground Venison Chili Recipe

Makes 12 cups/3 quarts 



  • 2-4 tablespoons oil
  • 1½  pounds ground big game meat
  • 2 tablespoons Hungarian paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground yellow mustard
  • 1½ teaspoons white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon decaf coffee crystals
  • 2  14.5 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 2  15 ounce cans black beans
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2⅝ ounce bag Lay’s Barbecue flavored chips
  • 8 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons beef base (reduced sodium)*
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons mild green jalapeño jelly

*There are several brands of beef ‘base’ on the market, including BetterThanBouillon which is what I’ve used most lately because it’s everywhere and Costco sells big jars of the reduced sodium variety, at a good price.  It’s richer than broth or beef granules. And being reduced sodium gives me more options for ingredients–like wine and cheese, both of which can contain salt.  (Think grated Parmesan. And the potato chips in this recipe, which add flavor and texture.)


  1.  In a 5 quart Dutch oven, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium to medium-high heat. Brown the meat in batches, adding more of the oil as necessary.  As it browns, measure out the spice mix into a bowl and when the meat is browned, stir in the spices and diced tomatoes. While that cooks, reduce the Lay’s Barbecue chips to a powder in a mini-grinder (or your hands) and add them to the pot.
  2. Add everything else except the jalapeño jelly–that goes in just before serving.  Give the pot a good stir, bring it up to a simmer on high heat, then to low to keep simmering.  Simmer uncovered about 30 minutes to let the flavors develop.
  3. Add 1 cup of the jalapeño jelly to the simmering pot.  Stir it around. (It will melt fast.)  Then carefully taste the chile.  Add enough of the rest of the jalapeño jelly–probably all of it–so that you have a real taste of jalapeño but also a good dose of sweetness.  The sugar in the jelly will help quell the jalapeño fire for those, like me, who are not heat seekers naturally.

Cast Iron-Baked Corn Dodgers

Makes 10” round Corn Dodgers

There’s no magic to making corn dodgers, or Rooster Cogburn would not have carried a sackful on his search for Lucky Ned Pepper.  They’re simply corn bread without the leavening.  They don’t rise, which makes them less crumbly, and easy to carry in your pocket.  This recipe bakes them in the oven in a cast iron skillet, all at once, but traditionally they were fried, one at a time most often in bacon grease.  What is magical about corn dodgers is that by taking away one ingredient, they become very intense, very tasty little corn pies. And they go with a lot of different flavor profiles: from chili to Polish Sausage Soup.


  • 1⅓ cups corn meal
  • ⅔ cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚F, and place a 10” cast iron skillet in the oven as it preheats.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Combine the liquid ingredients in a second bowl and mix the milk, egg, butter and oil until well mixed. Toss the liquids into the dry ingredients and stir until the batter is pretty smooth, about 1 minute by hand.
  3. When the oven is at 425˚F, slide the skillet out carefully (assuming that shelf slides) and toss a tablespoon of butter into the skillet. Tip the pan carefully with oven mitts to coat the bottom, then pour the batter into the pan.  Scrape the bowl with a spatula to get all the batter.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, then check with a toothpick inserted in the center.  If it comes out clean, the dodger is done. Remove the skillet from the oven, and slide the dodger out onto a cookie cooling rack.  Let it cool enough to touch, then carefully turn it over so the browned side is up.  Slice into 8-10 servings, like a pizza.  Or if your skillet is square, into 1 to 2” squares.
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