Harvest Season: Bison Chili Recipe

 By Kristin Carden; Coffee and Woodsmoke


The morning sun rises behind a silver curtain of clouds. Brisk air rushes through the open door and the dog runs out gleefully. Sweet and cold, redolent with woodsmoke, this autumn morning. I wrap my robe more tightly around my waist and stand in the doorway, steam rising from coffee in hand. The leaves, newly crimson and gold, flutter breezily.

Seasons change quickly in the north country. Just this side of the equinox, already I feel winter hovering on the horizon. But for now, and for however briefly, the mountains shine in transitional splendor.

The glorious days lure us outside; the evening hearth, literal or metaphorical, draws us in. We gather, to whatever extent we can during these unprecedented times, around the table to break bread.


Sharing a meal during the season of harvest, in gratitude: true “thanks-giving”.


One dish that reappears on our table each fall and remains with us through the long, dark winter is chili. This cozy bowl is endlessly versatile, but this particular version offers our family a connection to landscape, to neighbors (both human and animal), and to friends.

We are fortunate to source our meat from friends who run a bison ranch to our north. The bison—native herbivores and American icons once hunted to near extinction across much of their historic range—restore native grasslands. In addition to the bison, the ranch provides habitat for countless wildlife species, from elk to sage grouse, pronghorn to wolves, waterfowl to bears. Sustainable food from a wild landscape.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Happy harvest season!

Smoky Sweet Potato & Bison Chili





  • 4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (approximately 1 cup)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, cut into 1/2" cubes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, diced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup (fresh or frozen) corn kernels
  • 1 lb ground bison**
  • 1 tsp ground chipotle chili pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 cup water
  • Optional garnishes: grated cheese, sliced jalapeño, avocado, cilantro, lime wedges

 **This dish, like many chilis, is versatile. If ground bison is not available, you can substitute ground beef, ground turkey, or ground chicken. For a vegetarian/vegan version, you can use a 16-oz package of firm or extra firm tofu, pressed, patted dry, and crumbled.

What You'll Need


  1. Heat a cast iron dutch oven over medium-low heat.
  2. Add 2 Tbsp olive oil, then the onion, and sauté until translucent (5-7 minutes).
  3. Add the sweet potato, red bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, carrots, and corn kernels and sauté for 5 more minutes.
  4. Remove the vegetables to a large bowl and set aside.
  5. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil to the dutch oven and increase the heat to medium.
  6. Brown the meat by adding it to the pot, breaking it into smaller pieces, and cooking thoroughly.
  7. Add the vegetables back to the pot, along with the chili powder, cumin, coriander, black pepper, sea salt, and garlic. Stir to coat the meat and vegetables with the spices and sauté for about one minute.
  8. Add the canned, diced tomatoes (with juices), black beans, and water to the pot. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil.
  9. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes (until sweet potatoes are soft).
  10. Serve and top with desired garnishes.






Kristin Carden currently resides in the indescribably beautiful Big Sky state of Montana. Her blog, coffeeandwoodsmoke, is her creative outlet. It is her inspiration, and allows her to share the things she loves—food, gardening, photography, art, music, yoga, meditation, nature, wildlife, wildflowers (and, of course, coffee and woodsmoke)—with others. Find more of her recipes here.


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