Recipe: Campfire Elk Chili with Jalapeno Cornbread & Honey

Without a doubt one of the most simple and recognizable wild game dishes on earth has to be red cowboy chili.

This Texas tradition came during cattle drives in the mid to late 19th century. It became a chuck wagon staple due to how many onions and peppers were growing along the trails. This made it easier and cheaper for the cattlemen to survive during a lengthy drive. When the prices of cattle began to skyrocket, the cattlemen decided to stop using beef in their chili.

These cowboys needed the protein for energy, so instead of beef, they started using… tofu.

I’m joking, don’t eat that garbage…

But they did need to find a substitute for protein, and something cheap, so they began to use beans instead. Pinto, kidney, black, great northern… whatever they could find.

Over the years, beef prices began to drop. And eventually, beef made its way back into chili. And since the cowboys grew to like them, the beans stayed as well… well, not so much in Texas.

Since then, several variations of this southwestern dish have become regular. But the fact remains, there aren’t many other dishes that will hit the spot on a cold day. If you can make this over a campfire and in a Dutch oven, you’re in heaven.

When I make my campfire chili, I don’t use measuring spoons or cups. I go by taste. The ingredients below are a literal guess. Just a starting point. But while you’re making this dish, keep tasting as you go.

Like anything else, if it’s lacking flavor, add salt, pepper, chili powder etc. Just remember, you can always add more… but you can’t take it back.

Cornbread Ingredients:

1 package of your favorite cornbread mix

1-2 finely chopped fresh jalapenos

1 cup of fresh corn (frozen works too)


Cornbread directions:

If you have a favorite homemade recipe, just go for it, but if you’re in a pinch, just follow the directions on the box.

Once all your cornbread mixture is in a mixing bowl, spruce it up by adding jalapenos and fresh corn. Then spread the mixture in a baking pan and follow the boxed cooking times.

See… it’s stupid easy… and everyone will think you made it from scratch.


Chili Ingredients:

2 lbs. of elk burger (or any ground meat)

2 tbsp. of chili powder

1-2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional) Some people like it HOT. Add this in slowly. Taste as you go.

1 large chopped onion

1 can of kidney beans (water included)

1 can of pinto beans (water included)

1 can of great northern beans (water included)

2-3 large cans of chipped tomatoes (start with two and add more if you want)

3-4 tbsp of tomato paste

1-3 cups of red wine

Salt and pepper

Cubes of sharp cheddar for topping

Chili Directions:

In a Dutch oven or soup pot, add ground meat and begin to brown. Once browned or cooked, add chopped onion, 1 tbsp chili powder, ½ teaspoon of cayenne, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Now add all the beans, tomatoes and wine. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste often. Add more chili powder and cayenne as desired.

Keep in mind that the longer you simmer, the chili powder and cayenne pepper’s heat will increase. You can also add more wine if desired.

After 30 minutes, add tomatoes paste to thicken chili. If your chili is not thick enough to your liking, just add more paste. Simmer for another 5 minutes and serve. Top with cubed cheese and cornbread, drizzled in honey.

Campfire Elk Chili with Jalapeno Cornbread and Honey? Sssstop…

Elk chili

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock