The main sources of animal protein I make at home are fish, chicken, and eggs, though I’ll go through phases where I’m really into turkey. Occasionally, I’ll make pork or beef or lamb.

Venison, however, was something I’d never made at home before—until I saw it on sale on Fresh Direct and thought, “What the heck?” I made this chili on Halloween, when I was home sick with a cold after having worked all day at the hospital. It was the perfect head-clearing, throat-soothing dinner.

venison chiliI made this with a jar of Trader Joe’s pumpkin salsa, but you could do a can of pumpkin, tomato paste, and extra diced pepper, plus some extra spices. Adding lots of veggies keeps the portions of the meat realistic while providing lots of fiber, plus a powerful punch of vitamins and minerals to keep those ghastly cold-weather germs away and scare off a low-grade fever.



  • 2-3 tablespoon oil, divided (sunflower, olive, etc)
  • 1 pound peeled & cubed butternut squash
  • 1 pound ground venison
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 shot Bourbon (optional)
  • 1 jar pumpkin salsa
  • 4-6 cups water (optional)
  • Red pepper flakes to taste
  • 2 cups mixed sliced bell pepper
  • 1 small can green chili peppers
  • 1 15-ounce can white beans
  • 5 ounces or 1 large head kale


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil and roast until tender and just beginning to brown. Shake pan a few times to prevent sticking. Set aside to cool.
  2. Meanwhile, heat about 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet. Add venison meat and cook until brown. Place on a paper towel on a plate and set aside to drain.
  3. Heat remaining oil in a large stockpot. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Stir until soft and garlic is fragrant. Add bourbon and raise heat. Bring to a boil and allow mixture to cook down.
  4. Lower heat and add salsa, water (optional), red pepper flakes, chili peppers, and white beans. Stir well.
  5. Allow to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir in cooked venison meat, and squash. Simmer another 5 minutes before adding kale, a little at a time. Cook another 5-10 minutes.

Serve hot.

(makes 6 servings)

What’s your favorite cold-weather dinner? 

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