Inspired by The Varsity in Atlanta, this recipes trades in the standard beef for bison (not to be confused with buffalo). Bison is leaner and higher in iron content than beef, but is similar in flavor and texture. To make it into chili, fry onions and garlic with spices like cumin and chili powder, deglaze the pan with beer, add the ground bison and some tomatoes, and simmer for about an hour. Use the chili to smother hot dogs (or bison dogs if you want to go all-out bison), and set up a build-it-yourself hot dog bar of cheese, onion, and pepper toppings for your next party.

Check out our guide to bison to learn all the basics about this game animal, including other sourcing options and recipes.

What to buy: You can purchase ground bison meat at gourmet grocers or online.

This recipe was featured as part of our Game Meat Recipes for the Big Lisa Lavery

  • Yields: 8 servings
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Total: 1 hr 45 mins  

Ingredients (18)

For the chili:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup small-dice yellow onion (from about 1 medium onion)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup brown ale, such as Newcastle
  • 1 pound ground bison meat or lean ground beef
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with their juices

To assemble:

  • 8 cooked beef or bison hot dogs
  • 8 hot dog buns
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup small-dice yellow onion (from about 1/2 medium onion)
  • Coarsely chopped Pickled Jalapeños
  • Coarsely chopped pepperoncini


For the chili:

  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have softened and are just starting to brown, about 7 minutes.
  2. Add the chili powder, cumin, and paprika, stir to coat the onions, and cook until the spices are deep brown in color and fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and stir to coat the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato paste is no longer raw-tasting, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the beer and scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture has thickened and is deep red in color, about 3 to 4 minutes.
  3. Add the bison and measured salt and stir, breaking the meat into small pieces. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink and is well coated with the spice mixture, about 6 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes with their juices and stir to combine. Bring the chili to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 1 hour. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

To assemble:

  1. Place the hot dogs in the buns and divide the chili among them. Sprinkle the cheese over the chili. Serve the onions, pickled jalapeños, and pepperoncini on the side.